The Yeosu Trip (Part One)

This trip was about a month in the making.  Forces aligned and empowered me to solo-travel to Yeosu to meet up with friends. It all started when Tee tacked a photo to my Facebook wall.

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A drink at a local foreigner bar with my name on it?  How could I resist?

On top of that, I was feeling a bit of Mokpo and Gwangju fatigue.  The travel bug bit me.  It didn’t have to be a major trip.  I just wanted to get away.  As a bonus, I could reconnect with orientation mates left behind without so much as a wave goodbye.  So I chose a date (December 15th) and resolved to go to Yeosu to sip an ice cold Ian.

Friday afternoon, I shut the taxi door with a heave and a click and entered the Mokpo bus terminal.  A large lit soju sign thrust temptation into my eyes.

“Later,” I promised.

The bus ride was far more pleasant than I thought it would be.  Despite five stops, it was just shy of 150 minutes.  I gratefully surrendered my window seat to a serviceman because I’m patriotic like that.  Actually, I mostly did it for the win-win trade.  He wanted to sleep and I wanted extra leg room.

After a short taxi ride from the terminal and a brief americano-laced respite at Starbucks, I greeted Motor Man, Fireball, and Special K.

Motor Man is one of the oldest members of our orientation group with a strong affinity for motorcycles.  Nonetheless, his un-curmudgeonly demeanor defies his elderly stereotype.  (To be fair, his elderliness is merely relative).  His accent and laid-back temperament make him a joy to talk to.  Even Korean strangers will engage him like an old friend.

“Hey man, how’s business?” Motor Man said to a Korean who walked through the door and nodded his way.

They shared a brief exchange as I eyed Special K and Fireball with surprise.  I thought he taught at Motor Man’s school or something.

“Do you know him?” Special K asked.

“No,” Motor Man replied.  “I’ve never seen him in my life.”

“But you asked how business was.”

“Yeah…I don’t know.  He looked like a businessman.”

That’s Motor Man for you.  You can just meet him and speak as though you’ve known him for years.

Special K was one of the first people I reached out to about traveling to Yeosu.  That’s because she is special to me, as her pseudonym implies.  She instantly agreed to help me find a place to stay and hang out on Friday.  Another South African, she shoulders the burden of teaching at an all-boys’ high school.  By the sound of it, it’s no easy task.  Regardless, she has nothing but good things to say about her job.

I always appreciated talking to her at orientation.  Her eyes always belie a sense of genuine caring.  Her smile is infectious and her determination is even more contagious.  I already know she manages her classroom like a boss.

Fireball got her name for three reasons:  she’s Canadian, she has undisputed daywalker hair, and she’s as sweet as cinnamon-flavored pancake syrup that I used to drink at 18 but since renounced as a hangover-inducing scourge.  Her smile and quiet, relaxed attitude are a breath of Great Northern air.  She was the other first person I reached out about traveling to Yeosu.  Seeing her and Special K within minutes of arriving in Yeosu augured a socially satisfying trip.

Fireball lived the closest, so she directed me to two motels.  After checking the prices (they were the same) I chose the one that smelled least like escort perfume and short-term rentals.  After chucking my belongings onto the bed, it was time to complete my bar-related pilgrimage.

20 minutes later, after meeting the (strongly) ebullient Mr. E (the bar’s owner), I ordered an Ian and took a sip.  It was sickly sweet, but I didn’t care.  It feels good to accomplish your goals, no matter how absurd or disgusting.

“Can I get some plain soju instead?”  I asked.

“I normally don’t sell plain soju,” said Mr. E.  “But for you, we can drink together.”

We went shot-for-shot for the next hour and a half.  After a three-week hiatus from alcohol, I was feeling myself.  Special K seemed to be feeling good too.  After a second cocktail, she entered our soju party and more private thoughts prevailed.

“Ian,” Kajal said, “you really need a Korean girlfriend.”

“Oh.  Uh- maybe yeah.”  I’m rarely comfortable with questions of bachelorhood.  I do me.

Because the bar was deserted, I felt empowered to take over as DJ.  Mr. E relented (encouraged even) and I put on a K-Pop Christmas song.  I proceeded to sloppily dance through a routine I rehearsed with some of my co-workers.  Back in Namak, I was practicing a surprise performance for our school’s festival.   Fireball and Special K were weak with laughter.  Mr. E chuckled as well as he procured a plate of spring rolls.  His An-joo (drinking food) was en pointe.

The night remained relatively low-key.  A trio of orientation mates stopped by on the way to a party in Gwangyang (which turned out to be lame.  They should have stayed with the life of the party (me)).

First Special K departed to meet up with another friend coming into town (a friend she was hilariously furtive about describing like he was a dirty secret).  Then, as Fireball left, so did I.  We parted and I proceeded toward gluttonous paradise.

I’m not sure if it was the alcohol, the dinner I forgot to eat, or both.  By definition, I suppose dinner became candy bars and hot dogs with a delicious matcha waffle ice cream sandwich.  After ravenous consumption (picture cookie monster on amphetamines that actually enhance appetite), I collapsed in an alcohol-induced sugar coma on a slightly overpriced motel bed that I was nonetheless grateful for.  I was already content with a full day-and-a-half ahead.

Photo Corner

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Meeting these two again made for a fun Friday night.

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In case you were wondering, in the event of a bus fire, use the tiny hammer to break the window and escape.

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Iansan would translate into “Ian Mountain,” but apparently is also a city in Korea.

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I found a nice mural of the homeland.  One would pronounce that “mi-gook.”

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Don’t mind me.  I’m just mashing some bean paste on a Sunday afternoon.

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Don’t give me that look.  I would sit next to you, but the low back support looks less than ideal.

 

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