I am presently on an express intercity bus heading back to Busan. The bus is chalk full and I am tucked into the back corner seat. At least it offers extra leg room, and extra space around me for stowing my bags. This trip takes about four hours, and it goes to a terminal just two subway stops from my neighbourhood, which makes it more efficient than taking the rapid train since the train terminal is across town from my place.
I left a rally and march to remember the victims of the recent big ferry disaster that claimed 263 lives. Our picket signs put the main responsibility on the government for having deregularized industries and services to the point where grave accidents are more likely to happen. It is Children’s Day and the tragedy is all the more poignant because the passengers were high school students on a field trip organized and sanctioned by the Ministry of Education. We held the picket in busy Myeongdong, a shopping district where many young people like to shop and hang out. Many passers by stopped to watch us and read our signs. We stopped at a couple of places for speech making, which drew more attention and picture taking. I left halfway the event so that I could catch a bus at a reasonable hour.
YK tried to get me to stay longer, even clinging to my backpack in protest. It turned out that his main interest in me this weekend was having me edit some research papers. He is developing a research project to do his dissertation and it is about English language education and policy. He showed a draft questionnaire to me yesterday and I had a brief look and made brief comments. He wanted to meet me today for me to look through it in more detail and make more suggestions, which I did. We got part way through it and had to rush to pick up my bag and make it to the rally, so he was insisting that I stay to finish the job.
It turned out that the job he had in mind was having me edit and rewrite all 20 to 30 questions. That was more than a consultation, and I was not keen on editing it all. I was getting steamed because he wasted time in getting to the point today, and then tried to play me to get my full cooperation. I could see what he was up to when we got to a restaurant and he kept procrastinating about getting down to business. He wanted to have a special meal, he said, and he wanted more chat. I would have preferred just a quick bite and scanning more of the draft document, in order to leave time for a little sightseeing. After lunch, we got to a café and finally he brought out the paper. I asked him questions as to his purpose and strategy, and we cleared that up, then he kept pushing me to examine and edit each and every question. His grammar so faulty in places that the questions were incomprehensible, it took some discussion to sort out several of the questions. After changing and discussing ten of them, I had to put a stop to it and get moving.
I was not happy with the situation. He did not seem to mind that he was using up a lot of my free time on a holiday, and that he was making us late for the afternoon rally. He tagged along supposedly to help me take the subway train to go retrieve my bag and pay my bill, but he made it more complicated and he kept nattering the whole way. I learned just to disregard a lot of the nattering. I was also disappointed to learn that his main motivation may have been to get me to do the work for him. I like to think that he is sincere and committed to anti-war struggle. He did make an impression on others, however, and he is knowledgeable and politically inclined. The final thing that aggravated me was finding out that he is married after he insinuated that he might be interested in me as a woman and wanted to romance me. In this regard, he was manipulating me to draw me in and get me to do what he wanted. I also wondered whether he seeks affairs and I supposed that he probably did. He kept talking about future visits to Seoul, and told me I could stay at his place. At first he said "our" place, and I asked him who he lived with. He said that he lived alone. Today, however, he told me he is married and has two young children. It was an arranged marriage 12 years ago, though he has been living and studying abroad for most of that time. His wife has spent some time with him in Korea, but she has been living in his home country for a long time. He said she might come to visit him in a month. There is no him and me, and no future in regards to some close relationship with him. That is disappointing, and I found myself getting ticked off that he had a ploy and was trying to manipulate me in feeling obligated to help him with his academic work. Yeah, when they give me a doctoral degree!
I am all sweaty and gritty from having rushed through the crowded subway system, making several connections to intersecting lines and dashing to get the bag, find the rally location, meet S, then hurry to get here and prepared for the bus trip. At least I am comfortably seated in a quiet bus. Except for the old guy who keeps muttering to himself and elbowing me, I am okay. It is nice to have the opportunity to do this writing while traveling on the bus.
I don’t think I am going to do any editing for YK tomorrow, though. He will email me his document. It is very inconsiderate of him to think that I should give up more holiday time, and give his stuff priority, as if I don’t have my own stuff to do. In fact, I agreed to work on a translation tomorrow, which is paid work and under a deadline and therefore my priority. I also need to buy groceries and call Canada, and I want to get outside for a while if the weather is good. YK kind of ambushed me with the editing, and he never explained ahead of time that he wanted to finish the consultation and review in time for a meeting with his supervisor in two days. When I said I would prefer to work on his stuff later, he said, “But I have to meet my supervisor and show her it on Tuesday!” Well, tough beans.
Anyway, the morning rallies were carried out well and safely. Delegates met across from the US Embassy to hold our general banner and make speeches. Apparently, it is dangerous to shout slogans, for the police can be mobilized to suppress militant actions. Sheesh. One observer tried to incite a conflict with the police, but he was quashed. We moved on to the Japan Embassy. There are permanent tributes to the sex slaves and persecuted dissenters of the occupation era. There is a statue of a barefoot Korean girl, symbol of suffering sex slaves and oppressed Korean people under the fascist boot of the Japan empire. The police crowded us and tried to block us from public view and intimidate us as they had at the US Embassy. Most of us are experienced at protesting, and not so easily intimidated and aware of police tactics. I could see that some of the young officers were moved by the speeches and had to make a concentrated effort to maintain their self-discipline and requirements of the job.
Again, it has been another productive, rewarding, educational and beautiful day. I didn’t mind helping YK to a certain point, and I don’t mind being good friends with him, and I consider his progress with his research with my aid an accomplishment, as well as the time spent building our friendship. It was good to be together with S in political activity, as he is so keen and educated in it, and good to have that opportunity before he leaves the country for good in a month’s time. I am going to resist getting roped into being his adviser and editor through his research and dissertation writing phases.
Of course, it was great to share the experiences today with comrades from Korea, Japan, Philippines and elsewhere. I will be seeing them again in the summer, and corresponding by email and phone in the meantime. Yes, it was a good weekend with many achievements and learning experiences.