A morning mist settled over Busan, grey and crisp, but as the day wore on the mist refused to lift, cuddling its langorous tails around mountains and buildings until late in the evening, leaving a dusty, acrid stink. What had looked like a pleasant meterological phenomena was nothing of the sort. The mist was almost as much of politics as of percipitation: a wholly un-benign Chinese import: smog. When the wind blows right, Busan fills its lungs full of Chinese air. Elementary school children are given the day off school. It's too dangerous for them to go outside.
It was my first day at school - and I could think of it as one of the more awkward moments of my life, if I wanted to. Everything I do here, I do for the first time. Everything I do, I'm baffled. One of the only ways I have of drawing a line of sense through all the sensations that come my way is through complaining. Because when I complain--that the food is strange, that I cannot get anywhere by myself, that I feel overwhelmed--my life becomes arranged around the concept of some idealized life in which all the food was familiar, in which I could communicate easily with everyone around me, and in which I lived a life of ease. Instead, letting go of complaints, I have to admit my life for what it is: essentially meaningless; or rather, a life whose meaning has been closed off for me, obscured, rubbed out, confused. I get to school, I stand in the right places, I smile and I nod and I try to be helpful, but at this point I think I am more a symbol. I am a symbol that has not yet been reckoned, added, subtracted, divided, multiplied, or plumbed.
The taxi driver who took me to the school this morning didn't know where the school actually was so we drove around aimlessly for a little while before, a couple cel phone calls later, after asking random school-girls on the street, we made it to the big red-brick building that is the reason why I flew across an ocean to teach. The big bulk of my day was spent overcomign odd technical difficulties that I would at this point rather forget. But in the remainder of my day I was intorduced to the whole school through the school's CCTV, Iand to the other teachers, and I had a bunch of students come up to me to pracise their english and tell me I looked handsome. Aw shucks! If only the actual teaching part was that easy. But even though I didn't do too much, there was so much newness that I made it back to my apartment exausted, and, after a bit of a dining adventure I'll write about once I can get my photos up on Flickr, I settled into a thick, dreamless, half-day sleep.