That night, when I finished work I did not walk home. Instead I got on the special service bus and went to find the Korean restaurant. It seemed straightforward enough. The SBS bus was what I was looking for and lucky for me it was practically waiting there for me when I got off the train. I did a mild jog to get to the bus before it would disappear.
On the bus I took a moment to be terribly confused as to where to put my metro card.
But there was nowhere. Finally the driver indicated to me to sit down and I did. The rather packed bus took off and I sat there trying to figure out exactly what was happening. It dawned on me a few stops later that I was supposed to buy a special ticket for this particular bus. In the end, I had a free bus ride to the jjigae.
I got off the bus and started walking where my phone told me I should.
As I walked, I started to panic about where I was, trying to figure out if I had the right directions. Maybe this place was closed. Maybe there was not going to be any jjigae. But the ajjuma in my dream was very insistent. The walk was about three blocks, and I knew I had to be in something like the right neighborhood as I passed a lot of Asians speaking Korea, several Asian marts that looked like they were set up specifically to sell kimchi and other Asian foods, and finally, after about five minutes of walking I say the sign that said “The Mill” in Korean.
In my brain was saying sweet thanks to dream ajjuma for bringing me to the restaurant.
I sat down, surrounded mostly by foreigners and groups of Chinese students on the sidewalk outside. Inside it was packed and I didn’t want to wait. I was happy to sit outside on the chily night. An ahjussi walked over to take my order and I looked at him and asked “Hangulma kinchaneyo?”
He just stopped and stared at me for a moment.
“Excuse me, what you say?”
I repeated my question in Korean. “Is it okay if I speak Korean?”
“Nay, nay, okay.”
And launched into my entire order in perfect rapid-fire Korean (granted with my Daegu accent). But he managed to follow along, only asking me to repeat once or twice.
I got hamul paejon, hamul jjigae, and a diet cola. The jjigae without egg, of course.
The official server for the rest of my meal was very impressed with my Korean and we exchanged several pleasantries over my meal. The food was like I dreamed it.
For a moment I almost cried over my soup, something so overwhelming, so homecoming about being able to sit and eat this food of my dream with so little fuss. I ate, burning the roof of my mouth on the insanely hot soup, but it was what I needed. I ate, I thought about Korea, about my favorite jjigae restaurant in Daegu. I thought as I ate that the soup tasted like it was made by a chef from Seoul, slightly more bitter without the extra sweetness that tends to come with food made in Daegu. I even asked before I left if the chef was from Seoul, which was confirmed.
I was amused.
Sleep was long and undisturbed that night. My body and mind were happy having had what they needed. When I woke the next morning my sore throat was gone.