Saturday, October 31: My friend Jarrod comes to visit, searching for a change of scenery, a new place to explore. Though he’s been to Daegu probably too many times to count, he says he’s never been to my part of town near Keimyung University. He’s a 32-year-old Australian I met at the EPIK orientation, a very laid back and cool drummer who has found his groove in Korea. I liked him from the first moment I chatted with him at breakfast at Jeonju University on the cold & dark February when we arrived. He comes to my Daegu neighborhood solely as a friend, which I need sorely in Korea. I have no thoughts of anything romantic with him because of our huge age difference. But, I’m very happy he is taking time out of his busy schedule to come and visit me.
He arrives around noon on Halloween. I have been searching frantically in the dark recesses of my brain for something interesting to show him in west Daegu. I have only come up with a few lame options. The first is a walk around Keimyung University. The leaves are colored like pomegranates and summer squash and the air feels like a sliver carved from a pumpkin, cool and sharp. We walk around the university, up and down hills, panting a little at the effort. He tells me how he was seeing a girl named Virginia, how they went to Japan and it was difficult because one of them couldn’t access money so they stayed together a too much; Virginia said things were starting to feel too “couple-y” and then said she needed a break from him. He is a little sad about it, maybe even more than a little. He felt comfortable with her and truly enjoyed her company.
After our walk we eat lunch at Vince Burger, which has the best chili-cheese fries ever! We drink several 1,000 won beers… How can we resist at such a price? Jarrod talks about how he hangs out with the EPIK teachers but he feels he doesn’t really relate to them as most are in their 20s. I tell him my difficulties with being older than other teachers, how I don’t relate to them, and they seem to form their own little cliques and I’m on the outside. This really seems to be the story of my life. I’m always doing things in my life at the wrong times: having babies in my late 20s and late 30s, getting my Master’s degree much too late in life for it to benefit me in the job market, teaching English with a bunch of 20-somethings in Korea, interning at the State Department and MSI, when most people my age are in mid-level or senior positions in their jobs. This is my life, and this is what I’ve made of it. I don’t know how my time sequence has unfolded in such a confusing manner.
Jarrod and I talk and talk. He likes Korea and is working to save up for an extensive, maybe year-long, trip around Europe. He’s saved $10,000 already. I say I’m traveling as much as I can now; I never know how my health will hold up and it’s already late in life for me. So, instead of saving, I spend now, immediate gratification through travel.
He has been studying Korean, something I’ve never made any effort at since I’ve been here. He has a number of close Korean friends. He thinks Korean girls are too whiny and prissy, little princesses, and says he can’t see realistically having one as a girlfriend. He lives in a small Korean town and he actually likes it. He plans to re-sign here for another year.
After lingering over lunch and our beers, we play billiards at a billiard bang; I tell him I’m terrible and that truth plays out. The only time I win is when he accidentally hits in the eight ball too early. We drink beer the whole time; I feel like we are a spectacle in the midst of these young Koreans, the young hearty bearded Australian and the white-haired woman almost old enough to be his mother.
We go back to my apartment and we show each other YouTube videos; I introduce him to Turkish bands I like and he shows me the kind of music he likes, none of which I now remember. I show him the “I’m on a Boat” rap song, “Jizz in my Pants,” and the “What is Love?” video done by the Oakton Otters swim team coaches, just so he can see the neighborhood where I live.
We eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant near my apartment, very mediocre. We have been drinking beer all day and I’m really tired; I could use a nap. Jarrod talks about his parents, who are divorced, and the difficult relationships he has with his family. His father asked him once if he is gay, because he doesn’t seem to have many girlfriends, and he told his father, What if I am gay? What difference would it make? He wishes his parents would just accept him as he is. We talk a lot about dysfunctionalities in families. Later we go to Sydney Street Cafe. I think he might like it because the owner, Mark, is Australian. When we go we happen to meet one of Mark’s friends, also Australian, who is just visiting Korea. Jarrod and I talk to them, and to each other. At one point, I ask Jarrod if he needs or wants to get going as he had signed up online to attend a Halloween party in Daegu and I figure he will want to get going to that. He said he really doesn’t care about going. Later he tells me that if he were in Australia, he would probably never talk to those two guys. The one was too much into “footie” and Mark hails from an area that doesn’t really mix with Melbournites.
Ben and Lilly come in to Sydney Street all decked out in skimpy Halloween costumes; Lilly is a bikini-bottom clad Superwoman. Ben is the Owen Wilson Hansel character from Zoolander. I’ve never seen Zoolander before, so when Jarrod wants to leave Sydney Street, we decide to watch a movie at a DVD bang. We happen to find Zoolander, which we watch but I don’t particularly like.
After the movie, we go back to my apartment where I invite Jarrod to sleep on my mat on the floor of my apartment. I have to put on my pajamas because I cannot sleep in my clothes. Jarrod has on layers and layers of clothes and says he will sleep in them. He lies on the floor and me in my bed and we talk & talk until an ungodly hour, chattering away like two girls at a slumber party.
Never has Jarrod shown any attraction for me. I feel like he’s a good friend, easy and fun to hang out with. In the morning I offer to make him some scrambled eggs; he turns me down so I make some for myself and he drinks coffee and we chat at my small kitchen table. He lingers quite a while, until about 12:30, at which time he says he should go. As we stand to say goodbye, he looks me directly in the eyes and then we hug each other. I wonder if it’s a sympathy hug. Maybe he feels sorry for me that I’m here in Korea at such a late stage in my life, friendless and utterly alone. He leaves and I know in my heart he will not be hanging out with me again. I think it is awkward for him, hanging out with someone so much older. If I were a man, it wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure, because we have such a nice rapport. But since I’m a woman, it must be uncomfortable.
After he leaves, I go alone to Kyobo Books in downtown Daegu. This bookstore has a small English selection, but I decide the prices are just too high. I then visit Daegu Hyanggyo, or Daegu Confucian Academy. This was established as a local educational institution for Confucian scholars in the 7th year (1398) of King Taejo of the Joseon Dynasty. I take some pictures and then head home on metro. I go that evening to Bible study at Anna and Seth’s, where we also play a fun game of Bullshit! and eat pizza.
I feel particularly sad tonight because I truly enjoyed Jarrod’s company, but seriously doubt we will ever hang out together again. Sad. 😦