The Simple Pleasures in Life…

One of the most important human capacities we enjoy is the ability to choose, and the older we get the more adept we get at choosing. I appreciate this more and more the longer I spend with other people, in both a good and bad way. Being able to choose what it is you want to do and when you want to do it makes life a little bit more enjoyable, and also livable. It’s what sets us apart and makes people interesting. I’m not going to be immature and suggest that we should try to do whatever we want, whenever we want, because that’s just not how the world works at all, but we can choose to go about doing things our own way to achieve our own level of satisfaction.

It goes without saying that I really enjoy eating out regularly, traveling abroad twice a year, and many other things which I optimistically look forward to before the credit card bill returns for its monthly haunt. But what makes life that little bit more enjoyable for me are the simple day-to-day pleasures which give me more of a reason to smile to myself. These aren’t hobbies, activities, or even anything necessary to insure that life is successful or more fulfilled, they are just ways that I have chosen to live my life. I feel better for it.

Walking to Work

Every morning I walk to work. I get up about forty-five minutes earlier than necessary, shower, dress, eat breakfast, kiss Herself goodbye, and make my way into work by foot. It only takes about twenty five minutes, but I don’t think I can start the day appropriately without doing it.

I’ve been doing it for years. I used to work in Dublin and I would take the bus to Hanlon’s Corner (a corner named after a pub for those unfamiliar with the giving of directions in Dublin), and I’d get off and walk down through Stoneybatter, Smithfield, and down onto the quays near the Four Courts. I would take the bus with friends and they used to give me the strangest looks when I got off the bus. For me it was just a way to shake a few cobwebs from me before I started whatever it was I was doing to get paid.

On the walk into work yesterday morning.

I did the same when I lived in Itaewon. Even though I worked in Gwanak, I soon tired of the two or three bus ride into work every morning, so I started walking in extra early, down the long and wide road that splits Yongsan Post in two and under the big broad leafed trees that line the avenue, passing by the Korean War memorial and then taking a right at the always busy Samgakji junction where I’d stroll a little further down and take the bus from outside Yongsan Station.

These days, the walk to work is a mild-paced stroll that starts off with Cheongmyeongsan (a local ‘mountain’) on one side, and twenty storey aparmtent buildings on the other side. The street is lined with trees and there’s a healthy bustle of local school kids darting back and forth on their way about their morning. As I walk along I pass a high school and an elementary school, which is where I cross the street. On the other side I walk a little further and take a left just at the outskirts of the main Yeongtong area where most of the restaurants and shops are situated. There’s a Dominos Pizza place which I’ve never ordered from, and a fantastic haemul calguksu place which I can’t get enough of!

Cheongmyeongsan in the Autumn

Walking along this street, I’m flanked again by the mountain on my left and buildings on my right. These buildings are mostly small apartment buildings, but with the added benefit of what can only describe ubiquitously as ‘coffee shops’ on the ground floor. They’re obviously not coffee shops, but room salons – if you don’t know what these are, use your imagination. Slowly this area starts to stretch out and surround both sides of the road, but after a while I take an underground passage that leads me under a busy road and out right in front of the main gate into the university where I work. From here its a short, idyllic stroll down a cherry blossom tree lined road until I get to my building where I take the lift to the ninth floor, and with my heart beating and sweat forming on my brow and on the back of my neck, I enter my office where I automatically set upon preparing a pot of coffee for myself.

That lovely row of room salons…

When the sun shines or even if it rains, I take this walk every morning on the way to work. Perhaps I gloat a little to people who drive or take the bus, but in fairness they usually give me a strange look when I mention that I walk, so I suppose everyone is happy to do their own thing.

Eating my Lunch

Working in a university in Korea allows me plenty of culinary options for lunch. Not only are there a plethora of restaurants on campus and around campus, my lunch usually provides enough time for me to take my time. However, living walking distance from work also allows me the chance to either go home for my lunch, something my own father did for most of his working life, or to meat Herself for a lunch special in one of the many restaurants that Yeongtong provides.

Even on a hectic day, I can rely on having an hour during the day to go and meet Herself, chat, hear what’s going on with her, and allow all the nonsense that has been building up around me to evaporate to the point that I recognise that complaining and stewing over whatever it is won’t make things any better. She’s a good woman for that.

Calguksu (albeit bajirak and haemul) with Herself

On days when I can’t do this, it fails to disappoint also. Herself prepares me sandwiches. Yes, she gets up and makes me nice big sandwiches full of big cheddar doorsteps, and recently we’ve been able to find the most delicious and perfectly ripe tomatoes, as well as lots of cucumber, lettuce, dijon mustard, ham, and sometimes some pastrami. The best part about this is I can lock myself into my office, pour myself a mug of coffee, open up the newspaper (website), and enjoy my lunch, all on my own without having to be bothered by conversation. Again, this is my kind of luxury. When I explained this to Herself she was nearly heartbroken that I was having lunch, hidden away from everyone. But I love it. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

Getting my Magazines

I subscribe to a few magazines. I mean the print versions. I know it’s very old fashioned of me, but I dig it. I like the feel of the magazine in my hands, and I like browsing through the pages, reading the adds and the small contents talking about this and that which is relevant to the magazine’s mission. I don’t think you can do that with online media, because when you are looking at a website there are so many links and images, slideshows, and flashing adds to name a few, you only want to focus on the written text. There’s no real incentive to rest your eyes and flick through the short snippets of detail about, as I said, this and that which is relevant to the magazine’s mission. Your eye doesn’t wander to a story by accident and then stay enthralled by the contents, because all too often there’s a link with an abstract which often isn’t enough to get your attention. Online magazines really take headline browsing to a newer and less informed level.

Sometimes they arrive all at once…

But, aside from actually reading the touching the magazine, actually getting the magazine is a kick. Usually when I come home from work I glance over at the letter box. Sometimes the flap is sticking out a little, and I wander over to see what’s there. You can tell when a magazine has arrived before you even reach it, and from then it’s a guess as to which magazine it is – is it a monthly, like The Writer or 10 Magazine – or is The New Yorker which I’ve been getting for over a year now (I’d really recommend this to anyone – it’s a great read and is a really fantastic display of quality – but not without its faults – writing)

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That’s probably it. These three things are three simple things that I do regularly that are so simple and so everyday that they often wouldn’t warrant a comment, but that’s probably why they do deserve a mention. I’m not going to suggest that you go out and try these, but by all means do if you wish, but perhaps take into consideration what are your simple pleasures in life? I suppose it’s worth asking what are these simple pleasures of yours?
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For those you interested, I used the instagram app on my iphone to take most of these photos. You can find more of my pictures taken with Instagram by me here.
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