Right now I'm at a PC Bang in Hongdae in Seoul, surrounded by the shrieks of gamers, the sound of "head-shots", clashing steel and the twinkle of collected gold.
Under a blue light in a basement, on this beautiful, sunny Saturday it's a little surreal.
I'm just killing time, as those around me do instead with trolls, waiting to meet up with an old university friend (like I'm allowed to say that 2 years out of an undergrad...) for a night on the town. It never ceases to amaze me who I discover is in Korea as well.
Case in point: for those who don't know me, I grew up in small town Mahone Bay on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Before you get any romantic Twin Peaks notions of small town mystique, I'll clarify that though everybody knew everybody. everything was in fact EXACTLY how it seemed.
But it was nice.
Then I went to university in Halifax, surrounded still by family, friends, family-friends, and people I had gone to pre-school with.
Still, it was nice. Community, blah-blah.
When I left for Korea, I only did so knowing that Shane was already here, and spoke enthusiastically about his experience. I accepted that I would be alone but for one friend, in a strange foreign land. Once I arrived though I started finding others. I wrote in my first column for Halifax Magazine about a surreal experience at the Lucy Pie Kitchen in Ichon, sitting with 3 other King's alums from Truro, Trenton and Sydney respectively. All under the watchful eye of Lucille Ball.
"It's a small world" is the truest of the great cliches, because once you understand it to be true, the world just keeps getting smaller to hammer the point home.
I've since discovered a couple from NS in Ulsan, half of which I went to pre-school with, the other half being a friend from high school and former roomate of another South Shore friend.
Then I found another South Shore gal, high-school chum, and good friend of an ex living way down South.
Then there was the Lotus Lantern Festival.
I was on the street in Jongno-ga at about 6, killing time (as those around me are still doing with trolls) before dusk and the parade.
I was taking a photo of a story-high mural of Buddha suspended by a crane, lit up with spot-lights and looking grand.
I got my shot, turned my head to the left and saw, here in a city of around 20 million Koreans, a Chester, NS native and high school friend taking the same picture as me, and turning his head at exactly the same time... only to the right.
It's just amazing.
I return now, to the light of day.
A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.