I like to keep myself at a high level of stimulation. Usually this means multitasking – listening to music or spoken word or a tv show in the background while I browse the internet or cook or tidy my room. I get around by walking and public transit and you’ll never find me out and about without headphones in. I’m likely to be listening to something at nearly any given point in time, unless I’m socializing or sleeping or showering. Most of the time what I listen to is podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve been an avid reader since childhood but over the last few years I’ve started favoring audio-based media consumption over text – not that I don’t read a lot online, but I rarely read fiction for pleasure when I can get my hands on an audiobook version instead.
Among my roster of favorite podcasts subscriptions is No Such Thing As A Fish which is, as they say on their website, “a weekly podcast in which the QI researchers share their most interesting recent discoveries”. I’ve been listening to this podcast for several years now, but somehow I’ve come to firmly associate their theme music and especially the little clip they use as to transition between sections with one particular sense memory.
Two years ago I was beginning a semester as an exchange student at a university in Seoul, South Korea.
At the end of that semester, I stayed on in Seoul by myself for another month. I packed up and moved all my belongings from my tiny shared double dorm room on campus to a tiny single room in a hostel one neighborhood over.
It rained a lot that day. Summer in Seoul is hot, when it rains it pours, and that week was especially muggy.
That May I’d come down with a nasty illness that left me incredibly weak and debilitated for some time, but by the end of June when I made the switch from dorm to hostel I was thankfully able to get around on my own again, albeit at a slower pace than I was used to.
Throughout the semester I’d formed habits of visiting favorite haunts, and especially during my illness when I could barely muster the energy to walk over the hill from my dorm to the main street at the front gates of campus, I used to get most of my food from the restaurants and cafes closest to the dorm.
I must have listened to so many podcasts and audiobooks during those walks, but for some reason it’s the No Such Thing As A Fish jingle that brings me back to that time. Every time I listen to a new episode, I hear that tune, and I think about walking down the street in the humidity, holding my umbrella against the rain, carrying my bag of kimbap from my favorite food place near campus. If I close my eyes, I can see it. I did that walk almost every day for almost five months. I’d go back if I could.