Monday, April 23, 2012

Busking on a Blustery Day

I wish I had a screenshot of what the weather forecast was for this past week. I also wish I had set my netbook to take a picture of my face when I discovered that both Saturday and Sunday had a 90% chance of rain all day. I imagine it was something like this:

Soggy is not my idea of a good time, so after Saturday morning soccer my weekend plans resembled nothing so much as a cuddlefest of warmth in my snug, little apartment. But as we all know from our Scottish friend Burns—even if I’m no “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie . . . the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft aglee.”

And so it was that, after a sopping soccer session, I found myself playing Green Day’s Time of Your Life on my violin with two couch-surfers and my ukulele-playing coworker, Lee, for a crowd of Koreans transferring subway lines in Seomyeon.

Two years ago I did an internship with Zondervan. It was a long semester of no sweatpants. I learned a lot about editing and the publishing industry, but perhaps the most memorable lesson was given by my supervisor, Bob Hudson. I’ve forgotten the context for the conversation, but we were probably in his cubicle and I was probably wearing my It’s-Time-To-Be-An-Adult work clothes when he encouraged me not to be too serious about a career until I was 30 or so. This is one of the top editors at Zondervan Publishing, mind you.

Go play your violin in the subways or something, he told me. Work at random jobs. Travel. Write. Do the crazy things and wait for the serious things.

I derive enormous amounts of pleasure from daily work and study and the everyday banalities. I’m a homebody at heart, so it’s easy for me to get into a pleasant but unremarkable pattern of life. Thank goodness there are couch-surfers and ukulele-ists to jog me out of it!
The two hours of busking were remarkably pleasant. I’m still learning how to improvise, but fiddling comes naturally to me even if it is harder while bowing and saying kamsahmnida. Asians are stereotyped as a Too Busy to Enjoy Life society so I was shocked at subwaygoers’ reactions to us. We had only strummed around when a woman came up to us and told us how happy we made her. Crowds of people stopped to stare and clapped along with us. People were extremely generous—someone even gave us a coupon for a movie—and took pictures and videos of us. I’m happy to have served as amusement, and even happier to have crossed something off my half-formed mental bucket list.

It didn’t rain on Sunday after all. In fact, it was downright sunny and breezy and a b-e-a-u-tiful spring day. So I joined some friends for a jaunt out to the end of the blue subway line. There we found . . . nothing. Just as we suspected, the blue line ended in unremarkable countryside—green and as grassy as Korea gets with a fresh breeze. I noticed for the first time that Yeongdo sea winds taste and feel vastly different than inland “tree” breezes—which have a hint of green life hidden in them and a freshness that the ocean cannot match with its impersonal blusterings.

So that’s springtime in Korea for me so far. I call it adventure.


  1. By posting that first picture, you're giving your readers the impression that I still have my beard ;) Also, you forgot to mention my singing and photography skills ㅋㅋㅋ

    1. also forgot to mention that many photos were harmed in the making of this blog post. I had a great self-deprecating phrase that i can't remember any more, too. So, for those of you who read the comments: Elijah no longer has a beard and his students tell him he looks like a child. He was our cameraman and skilled singer at said busking and also saved the end of my day by reminding me and Lee not to get on the wrong train. Oppa is awesome! ^^

  2. Have I mentioned to you how much your blog posts make me smile?!?! I love them and I think I love this one the most! Nothing like crossing something off your half-formed mental bucket list!!

  3. A wonderful gift of spontaneous music. Good to let loose. Thanks for sharing.