About halfway through my alcohol-free month of Project Pull Self Together, I am pleased to report that I am a much happier Hails. No doubt this is partially to do with the relief being experienced by my body, particularly my poor liver and sleep-deprived brain, but I have also been making a conscious effort to do more with my free time than grow roots in a bar or fritter away the evenings on Facebook.
I have rediscovered the joy of going walking in a foreign land. This may sound a little strange given that I am now well into my third year in Korea, but after my first action-packed year of exploration which saw me zipping up and down the country on trains and buses with my backpack like there was no tomorrow, I fell out of travel mode and gradually settled into my comfort zone. There are a few small, specific areas of Daejeon in which I live my life, and I no longer visit anything beyond them. I have my home, my workplace, my neighbourhood, my bar, my restaurants, my friends’ places, my market. I live in a little bubble of dull but comfortable familiarity.
So, in keeping with Project Pull Self Together, I decided that this was a waste of being lucky enough to be living in an exciting foreign country, and have been getting my promised daily (well, almost daily) exercise by pulling on my trainers after work and going for a brisk walk with some upbeat music for company. I just pick a road and start walking, and see where I end up, taking pictures of interesting things I see along the way. Like this restaurant’s front door, for example, which I found amusing on so many levels.
(If you think maybe understanding the Korean writing would help things make more sense, it doesn’t – it just says “Thanks for visiting”. Sorry.)
Tonight, I decided to return to the walk that is by far my favourite so far, along the river that I only realised last week is a mere ten minute walk down the road from my apartment. By the time I get there after work, it’s my favourite time of day: dusk. There’s something so peaceful and pretty about that brief interlude between day and night, when it’s neither light nor dark. The reflections of the city lights on the semi-frozen water are just beautiful.
I love water. I always have – I was the child who would get told off for swimming out too far in the sea, and who had a near-drowning incident thanks to some reckless jumping and diving in a resort pool, and who was always the first to suggest a water fight in the summer. I go walking in the rain, and even dancing in it. And failing all that, there’s nothing that makes me feel calmer and more content than walking beside seas, rivers, or lakes.
When darkness falls, you’ve got all those beautiful shimmering lights to look at, too.
As I was taking pictures, some teenagers approached me to practice their English and ask me what I was doing. They couldn’t understand why I was photographing scenes with no people in them. They asked if I would take a picture of them, which I did, but I much prefer the one I took after they politely said goodbye and began to make their way across the stepping stone bridge towards the bright lights on the other side.
When my feet started to get tired, I left the river path to begin my walk home, snapping some shots along the way of things that are so common to me nowadays that I would never usually think to take pictures of them. It has occurred to me that when I leave Korea, I might regret not having taken pictures of these familiar, everyday sights, so I have resolved to start doing so!
Almost home, I called into the supermarket to pick up some ingredients for the spaghetti dinner I was suddenly craving, and bumped into a friend who lives in my neighbourhood. We walked home, chatting, and decided against our planned separate dinners-for-one. Instead, we went to her cosy apartment and made dinner with the food I’d bought, finishing off the meal with some of the fabulous cheese that is somehow always present at her place (she’s French… I think they need it for survival).
Day by day, I am rediscovering the little things I loved about life before I got swamped by the scary waves of inexplicable sadness and despair.
Life is still good. I was just too hungover to see it. ;)