Friday, December 12, 2008

Grown-ups vs. 6 year old kids or le rendez-vous francais

It's midnight on a Friday night, every single teacher I know is out for a night on the town. However, I get the feeling if I talk another minute I won't be able to talk at all tomorrow and with a packed schedule it's necessary.

After work I scurried north to Insadong, a neighborhood in northern Seoul, for my first French meet-up. (For those of you who are less familiar with internet culture: meet-ups are groups of like minded people that coordinate online to get people in similar geographic areas together to share interests who might not ordinarily meet. In this case, French speaking people in Seoul got together but meet-ups exist for any hobby or interest you can imagine. If you want to look for an interest group in your area: Of course it was the one day I could not get out of school ontime and ended up being half an hour late for dinner. There were only a few people who were from France, including the ambassador for Korea from France and some engineers. The rest were people like me who had studied or lived in France or a French speaking country at some point in their lives and wanted to keep their French up. However, my Parisian accent fooled them! For a few minutes anyways until we did more detailed intros of 'where you are from' and so forth. Despite the fact that I'm very self-conscious every time I make a tiny error my French is quite good and I tend to forget that fact. I spoke on the level of the actual French people which was a lot of fun. It was weird to here French spoken with a Chinese, Australian, Korean or Vietnamese accent. I had to focus a little harder to understand them but it got easier as the night went on.

That's the boring background info. What did I actually think of the meet-up:

1. Despite the fact that it was thrilling to speak and think exclusively in French for a few hours I was really bored.
2. I realized that I'm really young to be out and across the globe on my own and most people are a bit startled by my ability to pick up and just go.
3. Just because you have a good job and are an expat (good grounds for interesting conversation, right?) doens't mean you are well read or have anything particularly interesting to say about politics, current events, art, literature or life.
4. I had more fun with my 6 year olds at school today than I did at the meet-up. They have interesting world views on poverty! (Poverty was my lesson today. They had NO IDEA that some people don't get to eat everyday or worse, don't get a single present on Christmas.)

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the meet-up. Since these are only once a month I'll probably never run out of small talk. However, I'm the youngest by 7 years surrounded by people dominated by technical professions who while interesting, don't share my interests. The ambassador was interesting enough and we ended up talking about early 20th century French art which was a golden topic for a good 20 minutes. The thing is, other than the fact that everyone at the table spoke French, there was no unifying interest, cause or topic to spur truly stimulating conversation. Aside from some brief, superficial chats about politics and art I felt like I had nothing in common with anyone there. Most of the people where in their forties or late thirties and while I communicate well with my elders, socially, these people are at a different point in their life. A good deal of them were married--and their with their spouses.

When I come home from a social event, I am usually buzzing with happy energy. I thrive off of being social and finding common grounds for conversation or debate. But here I am, in bed on a Friday night (still early by my peers standards) exhausted from making small talk for hours. The French part was easy, finding something to talk about in French was more challenging.

I liked everyone there, it was just flat. I am starting to miss school or rather, the intellectual challenges it posed me. I miss having fiery debates about developmental economics theory, the public sphere and politics, or anything really. I just need to make up my mind on what I want to study for grad school and that may take awhile.

I feel discombobulated. More on Sunday, pictures will be posted though not from the meet-up. Predictably, I forgot my camera. I did remember my umbrella though it didn't rain. The one time I only bring 1 book with me, I finish the last 100 pages (freakishly) on the way to my trip and had NOTHING TO READ ON THE WAY HOME. I wrote in my journal instead but it's not the same. The subway is for reading on, not writing. This is why I should carry 2 books at all times. Or 3.

One of these days I may invest in one of those electronic book thingies so I can carry around 10 books and never have it be more than a pound in my purse.


Nancy K said...

I think that you are referring to a Kendle. This is probably a good idea for your birthday. Do they sell them in Korea?
I was wondering when you were going to get bored without intellectual stimulation. The thing is, outside of a university setting what job would get you that kind of fiery debate?

Alex said...

It took me a minute to figure out what you meant by Kendle because I've never heard of that one. There are plenty of options out there. To be honest though, I really enjoy paper books. I just get bitter when I have nothing to read on the subway.

As to a job setting with interesting debate, maybe politics? I don't know. Maybe I just need more fiery friends in Korea.

Anonymous said...



Alex said...

True enough Dad. In retrospect, it is pretty cool that we gushed about the same artists. I mean, how often to you get to casually chat with an ambassador when you are a 22 year old English teacher?

Did Mom call you again to let you know I updated my blog because you posted like 2 seconds after she did...

It's cool that you guys do that but also weird. In a fantastic, over the top Jewish parent sort of way of course.

Josh said...

Our parents weird??? no way...... sorry your frenchies were so boring! maybe one of these days your voice will actually feel good when i catch up with you online

Rachel said...

It is a Kindle and it is sold on I actually got to experience one on a plane ride with someone recently. Wow! Looks just like a novel. You can down load from just about anywheres using the same technology as a cell phone, and you can read the first 30 pages and if you don't like, you don't pay. Check it out, it is much better than you think it would be, and the books are about 1/2 price of a hard cover. And, I could go on and on... I was so impressed that I bought one for Dana (Shhhh.....) because he buys a book, reads it once, and then I either sell it, or give it to good will. So, this seems like a much more ecological solution. Etc Etc.
And, you can get newspaper subscriptions.
Missed reading your blog for a few weeks, I was so busy, and going away for a short trip tomorrow. But, I did catch up...
Take care

Alex said...

...Aunt Rachel you may have convinced me. Newspaper subscriptions too! That's so exciting. I could get the New York Times! At least Uncle Dana lets you sell the books...I hoard mine. Mom keeps warning me that I can't bring them all back from Korea but I told her there is over seas slow mo freight options that don't cost as much. The only problem with a Kindle here might be download laws. I already can't use sights like Amazon, Pandora and Netflix instant play because everyone is terrified about Asian copyright law infringements. It's really annoying.

Anonymous said...

Most Korean cell phones have e-book capability, it's not even considered tech toy....

Alex said...

...I just realized today after your comment that my phone definitely has ebook capacity. I'm not entirely sure how to get the ebook onto my phone though but I imagine one of my Korean friends would be kind enough to look at my Korean only phone manual. Thanks for the tip anonymous!

Steve said...

Ca roule, ma poule ? Je suis arrivé de Paris hier soir, et en lisant le tas de courrier que mes parents ont gardé pour moi, j'ai lu dans "The Eagle" que tu étais en Corée et que tu avais un blog. Tu vas bien? Ca fait un bail... Moi, ça va. Je suis dans un Master de sociologie et philosophie politique à Paris VII et j'enseigne l'anglais à un lycée pour les étudiants de danse et de musique étudiant aux conservatoires de Paris. Je savais que tu as passé un moment en France, mais je ne savais pas que tu parlais aussi bien le français. Si jamais tu te trouves à Paris en rentrant du Corée, ça me fera plaisir de te revoir. Je serai à Paris au moins jusqu'à septembre 2009. Bonne fête de Hannouka, Joyeux Noel, et Bonne Année.

A un de ces quatre,