Thursday, 12 April 2012

Kieran and Naoko Visit Korea

I feel like my previous entries have been overly descriptive and akin to the rear end of a postcard. I have, after all, just been describing the things I’ve been doing with my various guests. Well, this will be the last of those, until May at least.

Kieran and Naoko visited this week. They actually arrived the same day that my parents left and coincidently they bumped into my mother and father at the bus terminal in Seoul. As much as I loathe the mantra, ‘It’s a small world’ I suppose this would be the appropriate place to voice it.

Kieran and I have been friends for coming on nine years. As it happens, (having distanced myself from several of my friends in previous years) Kieran is probably my oldest friend. Nine years is a long time and we’ve certainly both come a long way since we became properly acquainted in college. Kieran’s girlfriend, Naoko is from Japan and their main reason for coming to Asia was to visit Naoko’s family in Japan, however, Korea is an obvious stop off and Kieran had decided before I even came to Korea that he and Naoko would be visiting.

On Monday evening I got home from school, opened my front door and was greeted by Kieran and Naoko’s shining if not slightly jet lagged faces. It was marvellous to see them. We exchanged the usual pleasantries “how was your trip?” “What did you do in Seoul?” “How was the bus journey?” and after catching up we took a walk around town ending up at the temple that looks out across Sachang from a tall grassy hill (a knoll if you will). We tried to teach the resident pooch to play catch but for some reason the poor dog was frightened of the stick, so we departed. We made our way back to the apartment to get changed and freshened up before going to dinner. We went and had Sam Gap Sal at the same restaurant that I took my parents to on their first night in my town. The food was well received and there was hardly a dish left on the table that had any food left in it. It appeared that Kieran and Naoko were rather fond of Korean cuisine. The smell of Sam Gap Sal likes to stick to you, your clothes, your hair, and your skin and we left the restaurant smelling of pork but were sufficiently and satisfactorily filled up. We spent the rest of the evening playing cards and eating junk food and of course talking about the things that we hadn’t been able to talk about for the bygone seven months since the last time we met up. Oh, how strange it was to have my friends there in my apartment in Korea. How wonderful as well.

Unfortunately I had to go to school on Tuesday but that left Kieran and Naoko time to catch up on some sleep and allowed Natalie the opportunity to show them around town a little more, I think they ended up climbing the small mountain at the foot of the bus station. The weather was pleasant enough in the morning but turned to gentle drizzles come the late afternoon. I arrived home and showered, talked to Kieran about the people with whom we studied at college and what they may or may not be doing with their lives now. It appeared neither of us had really stayed in touch with anybody from that chapter of our lives, apart from each other. No matter. As Gordie notes in the 1986 film 'Stand By Me': "People come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant." There's a lot of truth to that and it makes me wonder how many people from this chapter of my life I'll still talk with in nine years time.

We went out for Chinese (Korean Chinese) food at seven, and Nathanael and Amanda came along as well. Natalie as well. We can’t forget her, can we? We dined on Mandu (fried dumplings), Jjangmyeong (black bean noodles), egg fried rice, spicy pork and soju and yet again the food went down well with the company. After eating we went up to the sixth floor Hite bar on the main strip of town and continued to drink. By the time we left Hite every foreigner that lived in Sachang was there and we went to a singing room to sing some songs and continue with the merriment. It looked as if my company (as if we’re in the Lord of the Rings or something) were getting tired, we were home by midnight and wanted an early night as I had a day off on Wednesday. We had plans.

Wednesday rolled around quickly and we got on the bus to Chuncheon. The weather was a little cloudy but the morning felt fresh and spring still felt like it was blooming and bouncing about the air. We were making our way to Nami Island. We didn’t actually arrive at Nami until around midday. We brought tickets to the zip line (one of many ways to get onto Nami Island short of swimming) and we had lunch whilst we waited for our turn on the wires. We snapped many photos and flew down the zip wires over the river to Nami Island. Both Kieran’s and my own harnesses got stuck just before the end of the line and we had to get pulled the rest of the way by the zip line staff. Embarrassing. We spent many hours on the island, hanging out with the ostriches, admiring the sites and having water fights on the lake in rented boats. We ate ice cream, helped some Koreans push their bike up a hill and made comment that Nami Island is like walking into a Studio Ghibli film, where everything is reminiscent of an Asian fairytale. It certainly tried its best to appeal to the romantic side of the Korean culture and make everything as un-necessarily cute as possible.

We got back into central Chuncheon by about six o clock and went and had Dak Galbi in a nearby restaurant. As usual my belly is regretting that decision but alas it was enjoyable and not disappointing. Dak Galbi always tastes so damn good. We caught the bus home and were thrown around bends at lightning speeds until we made it back. We all nattered some more and before we knew it, it was time for sleep.

Kieran and Naoko left this morning for Japan and we walked them to the bus station. It was truly wonderful seeing them and I’m so glad that they made the effort to come and visit. It’s strange that I won’t see them again until the end of the year but if I’ve learnt anything from living here is that time goes by quickly. I hope both Kieran and Naoko have a fantastic trip to Japan.

As for me, Natalie and I are now left to our own devices again and she’ll be hanging around until the end of April. I’m looking forward to the weekends over the next few weeks and will try not to waste the time we have left together as before I know it Natalie will be on the next plane to somewhere other than here as well and I’ll be in the last stretch of my time in Korea before both Natalie and I pack our bags and head to Thailand to begin our big adventure.

It’s a dangerous business, walking out your front door, you step out onto the road and there’s no telling where you might get swept off to.

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