I'm not sure what's changed, but lately it seems like several times a week, walking to or from work, I pass or run into someone I know, in the neighborhood where I have worked for 7 years, called Hugok. Former students, mostly, or in a few cases former coworkers or parents of students with whom I developed a nodding acquaintance at some point.
Last week, for example, I ran into a former student, now a senior in high school, and it was a pleasing and gratifying conversation for both of us – I remembered him well enough to immediately speak to him by name (which I know pleases students and is not always something I can pull off well – my memory is porous with names), and we made small talk about his post-high-school plans (still vague, but he wants to study economics).
One afternoon, walking to work, I saw a former fellow teacher on a bike, and we nodded and waved. Last night, I saw another former coworker standing at a bus stop. We had not interacted much, but there was the same nod-of-acquaintance.
Today while I walked home, I saw a young 2nd grade elementary student riding her bike. She likes to come and play with my alligator puppets in the teacher's room, and she's very verbal, in Korean, but trying to speak English makes her shy. I called her name and she was surprised but said hi, and then I realized she was next to her dad. He introduced himself and, half in Korean half in English, we talked for a while. He wanted to know what to do about his other daughter, who I taught a few months ago. She apparently doesn't like to study – the eternal Korean parent's lament.
These do not seem to be exceptions.
It's as if the number of people I know in Hugok has recently reached some critical mass, due to my having been here for so long. It's weird. I'm not used to being "known" in a neighborhood – I've moved far too frequently in my life, and I'm not very social, anyway, so it's not like I go out of my way to be known.
Nevertheless, there is something gratifying in all these chance encounters. They have a mostly fairly positive feeling.
[daily log: walking, 6.5km]