Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Travelogue #41: "Just Doing It for the Experience..." / What Does That Really Mean?

<---Travelogue #40: 40,000 Koreans on the Street (Is It Really Just About Beef?)
--->Travelogue #42: Your Teacher is a Gorilla.

"Hey Alex, are you going to the soccer game?" she asked. Janet wanted to know if I'd be joining a group of co-workers for the North Korea-South Korea World Cup Qualifying showdown later this June.

"Who all's going?"

She cringed. "Why is that important?"

"I don't know," I said off-handedly. "I was thinking I may have already done the Korea soccer experience..."

She looked annoyed at my answer. Even pissed-off. I re-traced my words and contemplated aloud, "Did that sound snooty?"

"Yeah, it did," she said. "So you're only going to do something if it's an experience? So that's the reason you dated a 37-year-old, for the 'experience'? Is that the only reason you do anything?"

The conversation had become about more than just soccer. I quickly justified myself, explaining to her that when I really do enjoy something, I don't care whether or not it's an "experience". Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that Janet had a point.

"Just doing it for the experience" is a rationalization I have often used in Korea to try things I would have never imagined trying a year or two ago. With every step I take across the streets of Seoul there lies an indelible sense that this lifestyle is fleeting, that I' d be remiss not to seize any chance moment that toes the line between peculiar and plain bizarre. When again could I, in good conscience, meet an older Korean woman in a shadowy nightclub and pull her close to me like it ain't no thang but a chicken wing? When again could I buy a ridiculous hat and wear it proudly, even though it'd make me look like a cross between Justin Timberlake and a Las Vegas cardshark?

When again will I be twenty-three, single, sans mortgage and any responsibility more time-consuming than SAT teaching?

"Just doing it for the experience," I say. It's the motivation that pushes me towards blowfish. And live squid. And spending New Year's Eve with a pair of Korean high school girls who don't speak English.

But what do these "experiences" mean? I like to say that I'm growing up here, I mean, I think I am, anyway. But perhaps I won't know how much I've changed until I return to my American life and discover whether my rolodex of memories can survive the cross-continental translation.

Until then I'm going to the game.

<---Travelogue #40: 40,000 Koreans on the Street (Is It Really Just About Beef?)
--->Travelogue #42: Your Teacher is a Gorilla.


Anonymous said...

Matt Drudge called and he wants his hat back.


Anonymous said...

Don't let Janet put you on a guilt trip. Do what YOU want to do.


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