Nomads Gotta Nomad

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Well, that’s a good question. As I write this, we’re on our way to the airport. We’re planning to go to Scotland. The following essay will hopefully shed a little light on why. If you’re reading in the news about a new Covid outbreak in Seoul, well, it’s true, but it’s only a small piece of our decision—we are aware enough, and data-conscious enough, to understand that this is still a city of twenty-five million people, and the current case numbers are barely a drop in the bucket. I’ll update more next week—hopefully from somewhere cool and green and familiar.

Nomads gotta nomad

I don’t have anything interesting to write about at the moment. I go out for a long walk every day (well, every day that it’s not raining, or a bazillion degrees, or raining AND a bazillion degrees), and I look around and rack my brain, trying to think of something stimulating to say about this moment, this place. I’ve got nothing. Everything is slightly different from the life I used to live, but not so different as to be unrecognizable.

It’s like the ‘donut’ shop we found last week. They had four flavors: Nutella, sweet potato, matcha, and peanut. Those are more-or-less familiar donut flavors, right? Perhaps not exactly what you (or I) would choose, but close enough. The dough was made of rice flour, so again, it’s not quite what I think of when I think of Krispy Kreme, but overall, the effect was more-or-less donut. A little heavier, a little chewier, but still a stuffed, deep-fried ball of sugary overindulgence. A donut-ish.

So in my efforts to scrounge up some kind of interesting material, or perhaps shake loose a brain that has been lulled to sleep by the pit-a-pat rhythm of rainy season, I went way back in my files & looked at some of the things I posted on Facebook when we were in Cambodia in 2016. I was sort of surprised by how good some of those posts were, and then I got very sad, thinking that maybe menopause used up all my best brain cells, or maybe I’m losing my writing skills as I age, or maybe my muse has just abandoned me. 

Then I realized—no. It’s the damn pandemic. There’s a whole industry of travel bloggers out there, all of whom have been stuck in one place for four or five months now, and I’ve been feeling really bad for them, and grateful that I’m not one of them. But it turns out—I am. Travel writing is not my income, thank goodness, but it’s part of my identity at this point, and without it, I’m feeling a bit off-kilter. 

I’m accustomed to finding creative fulfillment in the challenge of constant change and personal growth. Travel forces me to think about who I am and what kind of person I want to be. It forces me outside of my comfort zone. That constant push-pull of new experiences is an essential piece of my identity, and without it, I am at a bit of a loss.

But at the moment, the newest new experience I’m having is that not-quite-a-donut donut. All I can think to write about here and now is coffee shops and the mall.

I realize that for a lot of folks right now, coffee shops and the mall are a far distant dream. I shouldn’t complain—we can go into a coffee shop and sit down with our mochas and not feel as if we’re taking a huge risk (unless someone coughs, at which point we’re both scrambling to get our masks back on in a hurry). But I don’t take my computer and sit for hours, writing and processing and thinking about the extraordinary contrasts that make the world so vivid. I miss that life—the color and noise and chaos of change, and how alive it made me feel.

I’m not bored, exactly, because I like Seoul very much, and if it weren’t so hot and muggy, I’d be enjoying long walks, meandering around the city. Instead, we walk to lunch and I get so overheated I start feeling nauseated. Maybe instead of bored I’m restless, and hot.

I’m having to learn new ways of appreciating our time here, finding pleasure in the small, mundane things that unfortunately don’t seem like they’d be good essay material. Yesterday I had a bowl of noodles that were so spicy they gave me the hiccups. The cicadas here buzz just as loudly as the cicadas of my childhood. After weeks of studying grocery store shelves, I realized that the epic salt selection (seriously, you’ve never seen so many varieties of salt) must have something to do with kimchi. The Korean pickle game is strong. And after four months, I’ve finally learned to say hello with a passably good accent—at least, good enough that people respond in Korean, instead of in English. It’s the only thing I know how to say, though, so then I have to go through the whole oh-no-sorry-I-don’t-understand rigamarole. My bad.

From my writer’s notebook: I have two unrelated things today, both of which are kind of random.

First of all, I just binged a podcast by Jon Meacham, who is the editor of Newsweek and a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has written a whole stack of books about American history. His podcast is called Hope, Through History. It’s really interesting, and quite wonderful. I literally listened to every episode, one right after another, in an afternoon.

Secondly, several people have asked how they can read some of my earlier newsletters. They’re at this link: https://lisarosen.substack.com

Take care,

Lisa

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