Monday, December 15, 2014

Where to and fro...

The train back to her place was very Korean. After a year away it felt like I had never left at all. There were a dozen ajjumas with stacks upon stacks of umbrellas to give as gifts to someone. The announcements in Korean with gentle bird-song to wake one up just before arrival. All so shiny and new.

Her hand warm in mine.

We got back to her little neck of the woods and hopped into a cab and off to her place to say hello to a dog, her boy, and her vodka. Mostly in that order. All had stayed up too late, while I oriented my phone to working on the floating-about networks so I could stay connected with the world.

“What do you want to do while you are here?”

“Honestly I’m really flexible.”

The things on the list to do included dinner with the Editor, at least one thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of people at her place, at least one day shopping for fabric and sundries out in the markets, at least one pool party, and at least one gathering of second thanksgiving with a different set of people. And (to the annoyance of most everyone) I would not have minded seeing the Irish, but I also knew that would not happen.

Some bridges just burn too long and too bright, and in the end all you have is ashes and memories.

We stayed up late drinking and I woke with her the next morning to send her off and out the door and to work at five a.m., which really seems like the cruelest hour. I went back to bed and chatted with America for a few minutes until I could finally get a shower and figure out my morning. Up first, coffee, toast, and a workout. Her building has a gym, which was mostly adequate for my needs. Considering how jetlagged I was, the workout went well. From there it was all about the coffee.

Her place is what I like to refer to as foriegnerville. It is a serviced apartment for foreigners, but the experience puts you outside of Korea a bit. I wanted to get into Korea a bit and this was my goal, to go and find the local place to get coffee and see Korea. In this I was only moderately successful. I knew I would be happy to find a Starbucks or a Tous Les Jours, but after a few minutes of walking I discovered I was going in the wrong direction, or at least I was pretty sure I was. So I walked over to a group of ahjussis that had been smoking and watching me walk up the street for at least two minutes.

In Korea, it's normal to be constantly monitored, check out, watched, espied. They caught me as soon as I started up the street and they stayed on me as I walked by clearly lost.

“Yeah, ahjussi, MBC building odigeseyo?”


“MBC building-yo.”

“Oh, ya, yoginin jig-jin, daum-mae oowayjan.”

“Ah, oowayjan, arieyo! Kumupsumnida.”

I took off in the direction he had pointed, go straight, turn right and ended up back on the mainstreet. Before leaving that morning my lady love had indicated that coffee could be found in the direction of the MBC building. What I did not find was the coffee shop she was sending me to, but I did find a small little café run by a nice ajjuma with free toast.

From the minute I left her apartment my entire mind shifted into Korean. How quickly I fell into the language, getting my coffee with “shot-jjuga” asking for the wifi code, figuring out “toast otokay?” and finding out it was free. My brain was thrumming a mile a minute with a thousand little Korean conversations, picking up the chatter on the Korean radio, listening in on the conversations around me. I was suddenly so grounded in Korean.

More so than on the train ride. More so than the flight. These thousands of tiny interactions were the Korean in my coffee and I was all right with that. I may have left some of my life in Korean in a napalmed fury, but there was still much intact. Life had gone on. I’d changed. It was okay.

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