Back to College or What Was I Thinking?

   I really didn't think I could do this, nor had I any real desire to either, but here I am. It's dormitory life for this 7th decade adventurer. WHY?????

   The last time I lived in a dorm was in 1973-4. I went to college for one year, decided it was not my style and that was the end of that. I only had one roommate but she was a holy nightmare. Anti-social, early-to-bed/early-riser, unaccommodating and essentially a you-know-what. Basically a spoiled little girl.

   It wasn't the roommate who turned me off. I just didn't like college life. So I quit and moved to Boston with another friend. I got a job driving a cab. Loved it. A story for another day. Soon enough I moved into a shared house with a few friends. We each had our own rooms. We also had too many freeloading "guests"!

   As we get older we, and our lives change. In my case I went from students & friends to being single; from single to married; from married with children to divorced with children, and then BOOM, as if no years had passed, I'm an empty-nester with cat. I was once as busy as a bee and then suddenly I find I have all the time in the world. After four years in the empty nest, my independent grown-up "kids" were urging me to move on with my life. I think I was in shock that it had all happened so quickly. Forty years just passed by without me even noticing? When did I get so old??? Wait. Am I really this old???

    Moving off the couch and on to something new seemed so overwhelming. It took some time but I finally did it. It's been a blast. Six months into it and I'm still loving riding solo on this adventure.

   Before setting out I had certain worries and concerns. I imagine anyone at my age, or at any age in fact, would. Heck, I'd been living comfortably alone, or with my own kids, for a long time. After the kids left I had actually considered renting a room out but didn't want to share my space! What would I do when I have to pee in the middle of the night? What do I do about my snoring? I'm told I snore like a train.

   It's been a slow-paced journey leading up to my present situation. This adventure started with a temporary move back to my childhood home in Lexington, Massachusetts, back with dad who was now 92 years young with a girlfriend no less. My son was/is also living there. The good news is that there was a positive outcome. I was able to dispel some old childhood baggage, my son learned I wasn't a monster and we all turned out okay. It was a blessing in disguise.

   I shared the six-weeks alternating between my dad's house and my sister & brother-in-law in New Hampshire (NH). I was still working very part-time in NH after all.

   Next stop, my daughter's home in Israel with her fiancee (now husband). They kindly gave me my own room and I made an effort to give them their space too.

   I experimented with a work exchange in Jerusalem which was not very pleasant although the physical space and surroundings were quite beautiful.

   Next stop, I spent a week with a good friend and her husband. They are very kind and hospitable and made me feel right at home. I was fortunate then to become their house/cat sitter for five weeks while they took an extended vacation. Their home is a paradise. I had to be careful not to make it MY paradise!!

   Next stop, South Korea, Airbnb; renting a room in someone's house or apartment. I was concerned. This time it would be with strangers. However, the hosts are vetted and are very accommodating. They allow you your space within their homes and are available should you need or want them. For a solo traveler it's actually very nice. I'm quite enjoying the company.

What would come next?

   Dormitory life?????!!!! What was I thinking? Or was I even thinking at all? The answer to that would be NO. I had not thought this one through to the end. In fact, as much as I have prepared for traveling there is soooooooo much that I had not put my brain to at all. This was one of them. Okay, I knew that dorm life was in the cards when I signed up for volunteering at the Language Cafe  in Busan, South Korea. My brain took note but chose not to register what that would entail. I simply focused on the language exchange which took precedence for this adventure. So let me fill you in.


   I left the dorm life back in the 1970's. Back then dorms were lively and noisy. Stereo systems with huge floor-to-ceiling speakers were the mode. "Live" music where and whenever possible. Party. Party. Party. Drugs and alcohol. That's actually why I left. I was a serious thinker and couldn't stand the frivolous revelry. I was the party-pooper. I am sure not much has changed since then.

    My current situation is not a college dorm however many of the volunteers are students on summer break. Many are studying Korean. I'm guessing that most are in their 20's. Some are drifting and enjoying the quest.This particular venue is home to a multi-national, multi-cultural clientele. The shared language is English as that is what we are here for. Currently the volunteers whom I've met are from: France, Hungary, Germany, Taiwan, Philippines, Hawaii, Malaysia, Korea, and there's me, USA/Israel.

   The volunteers have been warned that there would be no partying on the rooftop porch. The police are watching! So I'm guessing that drinking and drugs are not happening here either! They do congregate briefly when preparing (individual) meals and eating and there is some light chatting that goes with that. Smoking is only allowed outside of the building. Some volunteers seem to have become friends while others do their own thing.

  In spite of my age, I am meeting some very wonderful people - old and young - with whom I am currently keeping in contact! Oddly the people I am living with are not those people. They spend most of their time glued to their smartphones or sleeping.


   The women I am currently sharing a room with are from Germany, Taiwan, Hawaii and Malaysia. They are quiet and clean. Three were already "friends" and have formed some sort of a clique. Of course I'm sure they would not be eager to think of this 7th decade roommate as a "friend". However, they are not reaching out to the new girl either.

   I had considered myself a night-owl and late sleeper. However, EVERYONE in this entire cafe seems to stay up very late and sleep all day long. So we are very quiet in our rooms because it seems there is always someone sleeping. When they're not sleeping they are either on the smartphone or the computer. I wondered what they are looking at? I took a peek and noticed one roomie watching "Friends". Yes, they're watching stuff. I find this attachment to electronics and cyberspace very unfortunate (even though I am a also guilty of the same). Imagine the world as it once was. There was no choice but to socialize, interact and get to know your roomies, for better and for worse. It seems that, with such a diverse population, we are missing a unique opportunity to learn about the world first-hand and to gain new and special friendships.


   I am ashamed to say it but I am the guilty one here. I have a snoring problem. I mention it to everyone prior to moving into a place. Most people say it's not a problem. I have to warn them that yes, it IS a problem. I usually request my own room. This was not possible at the Cafe.

   I believe that for the first 3-4 nights none of us were sleeping well. I was told that the girls in my dorm room would simply put in their earphones to blot out my snoring. I, too, was so worried that I tried not to end up in a deep sleep. I was trying to consciously control my snoring. Nothing helped. We ALL ended up being tired.

   The Cafe staff offered me some nasal strip/tape to use and suggested I put it on my nose and also tape it to my mouth to keep it from opening! I agreed, of course. I can't vouch for the girls but I can confirm that at least *I* am actually getting a better sleep! The Cafe staff has also supplied us all with ear plugs! I don't need them but I hope the girls are using them if need be. There is simply no option for a private room here. However, it's nice the staff is accommodating and working on solutions.

   PS - I was very relieved when the newbie turned out also to be a snorer! She uses the nose strips too. Her snoring is light compared to mine!


   A definite concern pre-traveling. I offer many compliments to the Koreans. They are very conscious of keeping things sparkling clean. Maybe it's the close quarters everyone lives in? Maybe it's the culture? In any case there are strict rules about cleanliness here at the Cafe. Even so, I am trying to be careful about cleaning a toilet seat prior to sitting, washing my hands, wearing my flip-flops in the toilet and showers (hair removal after showers is a mandatory rule!), and having wet-wipes with me at all times which are available in abundance here in South Korea.

   Washing machines and laundry detergent are readily available and everyone seems to be making good use of them. Washing dishes after using them is also mandatory. A young man living here also keeps the kitchen sparkling clean on a daily basis.

   If someone gets ill the staff tends to them. They offer first-aid and basic medicine. I'm sure if there was a greater need the staff would be sure to help out.


   I am probably the most un-trusting of the lot! I suppose it's because of the long-term traveling on a budget. I don't want to have to replace anything. It goes without saying that personal ID etc. needs to be protected as well. The youth here seem to be generally unconcerned about all that. I seem to be the only one, save one other person, to be using a provided locker with a lock!

   In conclusion dormitory life in the 7th decade has been an interesting experiment. There are certainly pros and cons to it. Bottom line is that it IS bearable however, even though I may have to choose this lifestyle now and then, I will be looking forward to that private room again for my future dwelling choices!


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