Group Dynamics: Psych Majors Rock
A family of foreign teachers boarded a rented bus like vehicle at roughly 8:45 am on Friday morning. Destination Chunchon, South Korea. The family consisted firstly of Mikka and John, our Korean ambassadors. The population of foreigners included Sara and Dan (Brits), Marsella Shon and Armen (Canucks), Hillary (Irish), and Keith, Alicia and myself representing the red, white and blue. Chunchon is about a couple hours drive (depending on traffic) directly east of Seoul, and is apparently the equivalent of a major spring break destination for college students looking to blow off a little steam. I unfortunately did not see any Koreans gone or going wild. As always though, I was able to provide ample entertainment for myself.
So what we thought was going to be a 2-3 hour road trip to this city of dreams turned into a 6 hour endeavor aboard a chariot of pain. Koreans travel on the weekends in a pattern not unlike the tides of the Pacific Ocean: they leave all at once, and return all at once, in one massive rush. We got caught in the middle of this Korean rip tide, a tiny group of foreigners packed in this midget bus. Funny to remember how much it felt like we were the exhibit at a zoo, as the Korean drivers and passengers all around us would just stare at us, some unfriendly stares too, I might add. Getting back on track, the main goal of the trip was getting to Chunchon, eat some famous dakgalbi (sp?, spicy chicken), and then go on a hike to a Buddhist temple in one of the
small mountains there. As that goal was more than accomplished, in my thoughts, the focus of the trip really evolved into group social dynamics and being absolutely immersed into one another's lives without personal space or boundaries for the duration of 36 hours. I found myslef thinking on more than one occasion what the hell am I doing here and who are these people I am with. The person I have known the longest is Alicia, who I met within my first 120 minutes in SK. Considering that, I have known her for a mere five weeks; so its safe to say that for a few of us, it was a trip full of strangers and barely knowns.
At the same time as I was having these WTF thoughts, I was also experiencing waves of excitement and euphoria, as I could not have been more proud of where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with. Its pretty amazing to think about how 6 weeks ago I was working in a banquet hall wearing a tuxedo in Seattle with a college degree. Fast forward 6 weeks and I am in Korea on a bus full of people whose only bond is our native English language, and together we are going on a hike to a Buddhist temple. Its also strange yet beautiful how these experiences give you friends that you would not have in any way shape or form back at home in your usual routine. It is perhaps one of the more overlooked and priceless gifts of this journey, the relationships that are forged.
The hike was short and wonderful. I did my mind, heart and soul wonders to be in a temperate forest exploding with green color. I can only handle urban city sprawl and enormous apartment buildings with numbers instead of names for so long. After a brief hike, we came to the temple which was beautiful but dare I say a little anti-climactic, (there were priests on cell phones). I know that I will be able to find more spiritually touching and awe inspiring centers of Buddhist worship.
As daylight was burning quickly, we high tailed it to an E-mart, which is basically a Target, Bestbuy, and QFC rolled into one fantastic ball of Korean capitalism. We purchased provisions fit for a kingly feast and enough alcohol to feel comfortably numb and wash away the strain of lengthy, close quartered travel. We all spent the night conversing on fun topics like whose celebrity looks demand the most admiration, cooking meat in the dark, challenging each other to soju pounding contests, chasing giant bullfrogs, and then retiring to sleep in communal rooms on the floor. I am leaving out some key details like how stairs ended up taking a few of us out because of the rain (myself included), and a noray bong full of carnage and flying projectile
tambourines. Because of my little run in with these oil slick stairs, I developed the (hopefully shortlived) nickname "shirtless shoeless Joe," which was given for concretely obvious items of clothing I was missing. Are you proud yet Mom? You could just feel the greatness of the night the morning after where we were all still in this haze, telling stories and laughing our asses off at absolutely anything and everything. More specifically laughing at anything Korean John "the manchild" did. The kid is comic gold. In my 23 years I have never seen a group of people come to know one another so closely over such a fiercely short span of time. I am happy to know these people and call them my friends.