So, Lindsay’s fallen off the wagon. And, sorry to admit it, but I have too. No, I didn’t violate the rules of my expensive rehab program and get caught driving drunk with a gram of cocaine in my pocket (yet!), but when I walked into work this afternoon, I’m ashamed to say that I had with me a bag, and in it there were three new books.
Yes, I admit it, I have developed a new addiction here – buying books. Well, technically, it’s something I’ve always had a problem with, but here it has gotten exponentially worse. Some mornings I wake up with an uncontrollable craving to stand at a shelf full of new books, leisurely browsing and reading the backs. And when I look at my guidebook to see where I want to go, I find myself checking to see if there’s a English-language bookstore in the neighbourhood that I can go to. (of the seven major English bookstores in Seoul, I have been to six, missing the last only because I couldn’t find it. I have since printed out a map) If I happen to pass one, I get that jittery excited rush, and there is no way that I cannot go in. And then things go blurry and euphoric, and before I know it I am blinking in the light of the street with a bag full of literature, and, more often than not, a $15.00 American Vogue.*
I’ve tried to cut it down, I swear, telling myself I have plenty already, that I can do without a trip to Kyobo this week, that I am in control and can stop anytime. And yet, my room is filled with the spoils of my trips, plus dirty dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor because I have to drop all else to just see if Ron comes back to join Harry and Hermione. My social life has suffered, I stay up late and sleep in, my per diems are depleted. My name is Anika, and I’m an addict.
In my own defense, I think part of the problem is the hoarding mentaility bred into humans DNA. Just as our ancient forefathers learned to collect as much as they could of a scarce commodity when it was available so they would have some when it no longer was, I am biologically conditioned to see books written in English amongst a see of Hangeul and think ‘Must grab! When will I get the chance to buy Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series** again? What if I desperately want it in Daejeon? I’ll NEVER BE ABLE TO FIND IT!!’ You could also say that the purchasing and reading of books is never really a bad thing. But you haven’t seen my small studio apartment here, which is now littered with the evidence of my habit. I now have more books than I could probably read while I’m in Korea, certainly while I’m Seoul. I also have the problem that if I want to keep these books, I will either have to bring them in my already-over-taxed suitcase, or ship them at what is probably not a small cost back to the states.***
And yet, I cannot stop. Lindsay checked herself into rehab, and I’m thinking I might have to follow suit. Actually, it doesn’t sound too bad – that’d be a great place to read.
*My obsession with American Vogue is actually a bit of a funny thing. Having it has become one of my touchstones of home, like talking to my family and still checking broadway.com all the time, and I get very upset when I can’t find it (especially when they have stacks of Vogue Italia and Dutch Vogue and no American ones!! Geez. Did THOSE versions of Vogue have thinly veiled books and movies written about THEM?? I think not.) I have managed for all the months I’ve been away from the states to miss only one issue. Interestingly enough, it was the month I was home.
** Just kidding. I won’t ever want to read these books.
*** Actually, there’s a third option – one of our crew guys, Bob (called Bob the Builder), started a library in ‘Mechtopia’, the domain of the Mechanists on the show. When he did, he came around asking if anyone had books they were done with and wanted to contribute, which led to the following exchange:
ME: I have a book! I just finished it.
BOB: Great! I’m desperate for something to read. Is it Science Fiction?
ME: Um, no.
BOB: Set in the future maybe?
ME: No, sorry.
BOB: At least tell me there’s a robot or something.
ME: Not really.
BOB: Oh. Well, what is it then?
ME: It’s the heartwarming story of a young girl growing up poor in the slums of Brooklyn in the early 20th century, and how, despite her father’s alcoholism and their poverty, her family’s love and her imagination see her through.