Archive for October, 2016


I found myself becoming increasingly perturbed with a particular man at the gym. Despite his ritzy fitness getup, he was sluggish with the equipment and in the limited space of my community-center gym, he always seemed to be in the way. As closing time neared, it was just the two of us left. Feeling accomplished in my workout, I made to leave only to be followed by the putzy man.

To my quiet dismay, he stopped me in the hall; asking where I was from. Feeling hungry, tired, and angsty, I tired to move the conversation along. Yet,  after a bit of chatting, I learned that his wife had taught math at my middle school but went off on pregnancy leave just before I arrived. Soon we were exchanging phone numbers, and he was extending future dinner invitations.

As we parted ways, I found myself repleted with guilt.

After dinner and a shower, I had plans to meet a Korean fella from Facebook. He had agreed to buy a sweatshirt of mine (I am in the process of parting with all my things). Although I was tired out from my busy weekend, I had agreed to meet him at 10PM. While I was getting dressed and just a  few minutes before our agreed rendezvous, I got a message asking where I was. I sent a hurried response that I was on my way and headed out the door.  Arriving at Starbucks right at 10PM, I looked around for a man that matched the Facebook photos. With no luck, I sent a message only to learn that he was at a nearby bar but would be on his way.

Feeling perturbed that I would go through this inconvenience all for five bucks, and feeling out of place on the busy street with my wet hair, hoody and adjumma pants,  I took a seat and browsed Instagram. Not long after, I was confronted by a merrily buzzed younger Korean gentleman, asking if I was Mark. After exchanging pleasantries,  I handed him the bag with the sweatshirt and he handed me a small wad of cash, saying that he knew I had asked for $5 but he decided to give me $8.

As I walked back home through the busy streets, I could not help but think how funny it was that all these people were out for a social night and here I was headed to bed. As I waited at the crosswalk leading into my neighborhood, I heard a “Hello teacher”. I turned around to find one of my higher level grade 3 boys. I asked where he was headed, and he said that he was going to English academy. I was incredulous. “you mean academy finished at 10 or is just starting?” I asked. Class is from 10PM till midnight was the response. Now instead of finding the busy Tuesday night novel, I felt a bit of guilt.

These were small outrospectives  indeed but being that they dominated my entire evening, they brought to light a recent lapse in empathy. It was a stark reminder that life is tough as much for you if not moreso for someone else (especially here in Korea with its notoriously long work weeks for adults and rigorous study regiments for youth). Be kind, be considerate, smile.