I Work At A University

Gong—the clanging of the evening gong throbs through the afternoon and the sunset glows on beds of auburn pine needles—gong—and never in my life did I think that college students would look younger than me, but here the typical daehaksaeng is a bony gangly youth who jiggles from place to place like an amoeba, wholly unaware of how closely he resembles the children I used to corral back in Busan, I mean really, he’s just a child who’s lengthened out a bit—gong—and they astound me when they say they are reading Kafka or that they like Tarantino movies or that borders are merely subjective human ideas or that they are reading philosophy and psychology because those fields provide a better grounding for their study of Buddhism, because no Koreans have ever said such things to me before, and if I were to speak of such things to them, I would be met with silence and blankness—and then a deep blue gong comes resounding over the parking lots where the laughing students walk—the sun goes down beneath the boxy haze of Gyeongju, over the Elder Brother River where you can look down over the bridge and see blocks of ancient stone lying broken in the brown silt, and the ruins that are everywhere because unlike the rest of the country it is here in this place where the bones leftover from thousands of years of history may still be seen wherever you go—and the next gong reminds you that things were not always the way they are now—the hairless monks in loose gray robes walk beside bimbos in miniskirts and golden stilettos, their black manes swaying around their milkwhite necks, their marble shoulders, and everyone is smiling, but one of the professors was fired for making out with a student on campus, and that does indeed strike me as abusive (the making out, not the firing) because these college students still have one foot in their high schools and many of them seem like children playing dressup—here in this small town you can run into people you know and chat with them, unlike in Busan, that massive hive of nothingness—and at the final gong which vibrates the air for miles around, the time has come to pack up and go.

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