So Ask The Expat got the ball rolling with this one, by suggesting that it was time for the fragmented mini-pockets of expat community (starting in Seoul, because he's in Seoul) start getting organized.
In an effort to get that going, here's the idea I had:
You know how everybody knows that the fourth Friday of every month is club night in Hongdae? You don't have to check local listings -- you just have to show up, and people begin to plan part of their weekends around it, and stuff, because it's sure a sight to see, and it's gonna happen -- every fourth Friday, like clockwork, it's there.
Well, in a similar way, why aren't expats planning out things, not just to get together and get trashed, but in order to establish a more integrated network of expats here in Korea, in order to provide opportunities for socializing with people other than my coworkers, at the neighborhood bar, and in order to take all the online connections we have, and get them into real life?
So here's the idea: I was going to call it "The Second Saturdays Project," until I found out that the Seoul Writers Club's upcoming project is called "Every Second Sunday" -- seems to be taken. So instead, I present to you:
2S2 -- it's symmetrical, it's memorable, hopefully somebody with some graphic design skill will make it into a simple, recognizable logo sometime, and it contains the information you need.
2S2 stands for "Second Saturdays at 2" or every second Saturday at 2pm. This 2S2 would be a regular get-together where people can meet, network, and then participate in other activities.
It's my dream that 2S2 grow to become a decentralized get-together where expats can meet up at agreed-upon places around Seoul and Korea, in order to build and strengthen connections, and in order to provide a context in which expats in Korea can help each other learn about Korea and integrate better with their host-country, as well as to provide a gathering of people ready to participate in a tangible community, and give something back to Korea. At this point, the people scapegoating foreigners and English teachers are well-mobilized and well-organized, but we English teachers and expats aren't doing a whole lot to provide a different image of ourselves than the dirty, unqualified, etcetera. Once it gains steam, 2S2 meetings could be an opportunity to get expats out in the community, picking up trash, volunteering at different places, taking part in cultural events, and who knows what else -- really, the imaginations of the organizers is the limit.
Here's the best thing about it: all it takes is a couple of people to organize a 2S2 Pocket. Basically, we already have the main info: 2S2 means every Second Saturday of the month, at 2pm. From there, all an organizer needs to do is send me a message and say "Hey. I'm going to start a 2S2 pocket at ___" and name a location. I'll publish the location, here, at The Hub of Sparkle, and if somebody has the web skills, we might even put it up on its own website. Well-known, or at least easy-to-find locations are probably best; I'd suggest coffee shops rather than bars, because part of the purpose of forming a more tangible community is to break OUT of the stereotype of English teachers in Korea to extend frat/sorority life, and from there, it's just a matter of showing up at that spot, every second Saturday at 2, and to meet whoever else is looking to connect, and to have an activity ready to go for whoever does show up. Hopefully, we'll start hearing from people with information like "Hey. I know an orphanage in this area where they'd love to have..." "I know a church that runs a Saturday soup kitchen..." or, for that matter, "why don't we all bring our used books to the meetup and pass them around?" and who knows what else, so that we can start reaching out to the community, and also connecting with each other. Bring your friends: it's an open invitation. Pick a different location every month if you're just attending -- but if you're an organizer, once you've named a location, be there every second Saturday, or find someone to fill the post in your absence. And that's it.
Like Club Night, it would take some time, I imagine, for the grassroots meetups to gain steam, and membership, but the nice thing about this is that it's decentralized, which means that each group can take ownership of their own pocket, and decide what their 2S2 Pocket is about, and how they're going to run things, and what kinds of activities they're going to do. If you volunteer to open a pocket, I'm gonna ask you to be patient, and be committed, during the beginning stages, when things never look very impressive. Maybe it's just you and your three coworkers for the first four months... well, OK. But this is something that could eventually build up to something a lot bigger, and meaningful for a lot of people, so, yeah, encourage people you meet to join, and stick with it, eh?
So I'm naming a location for the first, pilot 2S2 Pocket: The second floor of Twosome Place, at the top of Insa-dong street. If you want to find it, go to Anguk Station, exit 1, and turn right when you come out of the gate. Twosome Place will be on your right, just before the big intersection. Go there, and look for me, tomorrow at 2pm. Depending on who, and how many people show up, the activity's not going to be very ambitious this time: just a meet-and-greet, weather permitting, a stroll around, and possibly dinner, but if you want to talk to me more about 2S2, or if you have ideas, or if you have a spot where a few expats looking to give back to the community could add their energy, I'd love to hear about it, by e-mail, or in person.
This is not an exclusive effort -- the invitation's open to anyone, so bring your Korean, Brazilian, or Martian friend if you want, and let's try to get the expat community in Korea amounting to more than the sum of its parts, instead of significantly less, as it stands right now.