Monday, February 23, 2009

Back to Reality

Day 158

Nona drops me off at the NOLA airport at 5am for my 7am flight. We hug and a taxi driver grumbles past us, muttering in Spanish. We laugh at the oddness of the moment and hug again. She drives away in the Econoline, I go inside. I check in and have a painless airport experience; no search at security.

I buy orange juice from a vending machine and watch other groggy passengers make their way into the waiting area. My seatmate on the plane from NOLA to Atlanta tells me to invest in gold. The other tells me that I, too, can own land one day. They both wish me luck.

I eat cough drops and nyquil capsules once I board the plane going from Atlanta to Seoul. Not that they help much with my sleeping in transit problem.

Day 159

The plane lands at Incheon Int'l Airport at 4:51pm. After going through customs and collecting my baggage, I buy a ticket for the Airport Limousine 6:40 bus to Gumi. With an hour to spare, I decide to try the triangle gimbap Young Mi's told me about time and again.

The bus arrives in Gumi after 10pm and I am able to catch an 11:19 train to Gimcheon. The taxi drops me off at my locked door and I break into my apartment at midnight. I haven't paid my apartment fee for February. This is my punishment. I make buckwheat tea and get to bed.

Day 160

I wake up at 8am, make some tea, and decide that it wouldn't hurt to sleep another couple hours. The alarm is set for noon. That'll give me plenty of time to get ready for work.

The clock says 10:30. It is dark. I have slept through the day.

I text an apology to my boss, she replies by telling me I do not have to teach tomorrow. Great! I may as well go back to bed.

Day 161

I wake and sleep and wake and sleep from 4am until 9am, when I finally decide that yes, I can get up now. Again, with the puttering around the house, not accomplishing much... kind of putting away suitcase-wrinkled clothing. I call a high school friend I haven't talked to in years. It's a nice morning.

I shower and boil some water. Tuna and rice are all I have in the house, so I make a variation of tuna and can guess the variable. I gather my overdue bills and a packet to mail my mother, and out of the house I go. I'm heading to Prime Hagwon, despite my boss's assurance that I do not need to work today. I want to go in and collect my mail, say hello to my coworkers.

When my face appears in the doorway, "Angie" squeals.
"CANDIDA!!! HI! Candida I miss You! Long time no see." She is delightful, and I have missed her as well. Alas, she informs me that she and another teacher will be leaving at the end of the month, and yet another at the end of March.
"Candida," she whispers, "Prime go. Seoul come," and nods her head emphatically. She hands me a stack of mail and goes off to clean the Hagwon before others arrive.

I greet the other teachers as they come in, and finally my boss. I give her the Americana Chocolate Tin, which holds 13 pieces of chocolate molded in moments of America...a last minute pick-up at the duty-free shop in the Atlanta airport, as I remembered that I was going back to Korea empty handed. A piece of chocolate each and a commemorative tin will have to suffice, until the package of Mardi Gras beads shows up. With this thought, I realize that it is Mardi Gras.

I leave to run some errands and stop by the grocery store before I come home to my first responsibility-free day back in Korea.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Where In the World is Carmen San..I mean..Candida Pagan???

Well, to answer that question, I am in The Bywater, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The past week has been spent here and there running errands, making phone calls, sending messages. Previously, I was in the suburbs: family emergency time. A pretty wild time.


Sitting with "The Nose Knows (TNK)" girls at a meeting spot in the Treme, we order beer and each receive a free styrofoam box of crawdads with a corn cob and a turkey neck. While attempting to unlock the mystery of "the mudbug", I try to:
1.) figure out an order of protocol for errands I must do tomorrow
2.) absorb this new atmosphere

By the time I finish, the ladies of TNK have finished their pages for the weekly zine. It is good fun. Good fun, indeed. For a copy of TNK, email or write
The Nose Knows, PO Box 19483, New Orleans LA 70179

So many things are different than they have been over the first week in Louisiana. First of all, my general environment feels secure and caring rather than intimidating or threatening. That's a plus. My father's close friends are back in Texas and I took my mother to the airport this morning. I was very sad to see them go, but I am among other friends now. I also have clean clothes again. I have been so busy and under so much stress, that I adopted the "cycle the dirty clothes you're wearing, and no one will notice" policy. Of course, that's not totally true. People notice. Even I notice, but let's just pretend, shall we? I did laundry today, anyway. Those days are over now. AND, no more rental car, which may be a good thing, as I did slightly damage the car I had. Slightly. It's back to a bicycle and a borrowed truck, for me.


"Candida! What is going on?!? Why do you have so many errands?? Why are you being so cryptic??"
Well, sweet readers, if I seem more cryptic and less accessible than usual, it is because a very painful event has happened. I encourage you all to make advance directives, make a legal will, and although it may seem morbid or uncomfortable, share these wishes* with your loved ones.

Soon I shall return to Korea to resume teaching my loose-toothed students, and making my special tea, and climbing my mountain. In the meantime, I am here, running into friends I haven't seen for years and waiting for the mail. Attempting to navigate the weird world of those who survive their loved ones... blocks from the Mardi Gras Zone.

*The 5-Wishes Booklet is a simple living will document that you can fill out at home and with signatures of two witnesses, is legally valid in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Just so you know.