I’m lying on a bunk-bed on the 4th floor of a guesthouse in a a grungy back-alley of Seoul. Is it a good time to post an update? I think so.
From just the first 9 days, I’ve had setbacks almost daily. This isn’t to say the experience has been terrible, or even that these minor glitches darken the whole journey. I see them as surmountable roadblocks that help prove the challenge is worth it.
A few days ago, I was in Busan. My guesthouse was near Haeundae beach, so I went out each day to capture some footage and visit the chijimi lady. This lady had a small stand where she sold chijimi (jijim, I believe is the correct word in Korean). Chijimi is a delicious green onion pancake I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Anyway, my chijimi lady couldn’t speak any English and my Korean was limited to the words ’30 minutes’ and ‘thank you’.
Well, on my second-to-last day, I told her I was going to Seoul and she got quite upset and started scolding me. From her gestures, I realized she was yelling at me regarding my lack of jacket. She jumped from her chair, put 3 chijimi in a bag, refused to take any money and then scooted me into a nearby store to look for a jacket. I couldn’t find one that I wanted, so when I sheepishly exited the store empty-handed, she took my hands and made me promise I would buy one in Seoul. The only reason I knew this was because she knew this one word ‘promise’ in English. She let go, and I made sure to buy a jacket soon. I’m glad I took her advice because the temperature in Seoul can reach -15 degrees C (5 degrees Fahrenheit).
This story stands out in my memory as one I won’t forget, but I have been bothered by it since I arrived in Seoul. Honestly, I have been upset with myself for not knowing more Korean, not being able to read the entire hangul alphabet (which I’m told is the easiest in the world), not having planned my time in Busan better, not having the energy to argue with travel agents about my entry into China…
The truth is, I should be upset with myself for losing my jacket. Yeah, in Osaka I lost my jacket. I lost it while traveling home to surprise my family. Really, I should be upset with being so careless with such an expensive jacket.
No. The welling of compassion in that woman’s eyes erased all of that. Maybe it’s best to use past mishaps and worries as reasoning to push forward and experience new things. That’s a big leap from such a small incident, but I’m willing to go for it. Realizing she had taught me this lesson, I went back to get a picture with her. Sadly she was gone, quite possibly because the daylight was slowly fading away. So, I went back to the guesthouse and started to write.