After about five hours of sleep, I found myself in the regrettable position of sleeping in until 6:30. I guess waking up early on a regular basis isn’t free of consequences. It was no matter. I managed to use the PC in my room (which was riddled with viruses and spyware) to do some journaling and language study, call my family, and enjoy some early morning coffee with knockoff Kit Kats before many of my friends were awake.
Eager to seize the day, I moved out. First, I hiked to Lotte Mart, munching on some Spam kimbap en route. At Lotte, enamored by the grocery store and engrossed in cheat day, I chose to eat some discounted ham and kimchi (in fact a very healthy cheat day choice).
I consumed the combination sitting on a bench outside the grocery store. My toxic-waste-green coat and beanie gave me an unhoused vibe. Wrapping the kimchi in ham and consuming it like a taco proved quite tasty. An ajumma (elderly Korean woman) walked by and smiled. She and her caretaker laughed.
“Ee-guh ma-shee-soy-yo” (This tastes delicious). They laughed more, transfixed by the sight of a foreigner eating an uncommon combination of food on a bench in front of a grocery store. As I type that sentence, I realize how weird that may have looked to them.
Stuffed with fat, protein, and probiotics, I continued my walk to Daiso. I needed to find secret Santa gifts for The Bard. Unfortunately, Special K and Fireball were not encouraging about my hopes of finding a traditional flea market. Therefore, I chose to throw some Daiso darts at The Bard in the hopes that something would stick.
Soon enough it was noon. I sat with bags of Daiso goodies and extra kimchi in a café sipping on an Americano. Fireball reached out. Her morning appointment concluded. I suggested to meet for lunch, and after I re-upped for another night in my motel we met up in search of food.
We settled on a kalbi restaurant. In some inexplicable science-defying feat, I managed to eat a full meal on top of my previous full meal (and still have room for convenience store ice cream afterward). Despite thoroughly disgusting myself with my appetite, I had a great time. Fireball is so cool. She showed me around her neighborhood. We walked through the park, played virtual reality video games, saw a lovely sea cove, and even (regrettably) spotted a dead cat. It was all I could ever want in an afternoon.
After parting ways in the early evening, I decided to meet up with three other ladies for dinner. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend enough time with them at orientation to learn much about them, so I’ll just call them T-A-C (The TAC Team!).
After a brief taxi ride and a less brief trek through the cold and dark Yeosu winter weather, I found them at a sushi restaurant. It was great getting to know them. We swapped stories about our schools, shared our impressions of Korea, struggled to read the menu, and laughed as a Korean infant at the table next to us stared and smiled. Ms. T and I ordered salmon rolls (delicious). Ms. A chose a beef roll along with (mistakenly) salmon roe (salty). Ms. C chowed down on a beef roll as well (also delicious).
After returning to my motel for a solo pre-game, I met up with Fireball again and meandered back to the foreigner bar. Mr. E hosted a fundraising event (for a cause I cannot remember). I sipped wine and noticed that I knew no one there. To my further surprise, neither did Fireball.
“Fuck it,” Anxiety-Brain slurred. “Social time!”
With my inhibitions temporarily trammeled, I enjoyed an extended period of uncharacteristic extroversion. I met Ian, the man after whom the “Ian” drink was coined, along with a teacher from Suncheon University. I played darts, joked around, and sang “Rock You Like a Hurricane” on the karaoke (mostly to give myself a break from the brother-sister tandem insufferably hogging the machine).
Fireball went home in anticipation of an early morning and I hung out with the TAC Team for the rest of the night. They had tired of the sparse and exclusively foreign crowd (as did I). We decided to relax at a different bar and make a new plan.
Over whiskey, beer, and vodka-cola (though not at the same time) we laughed and commiserated about life in inebriated fashion. The idea of no-rae-bang (singing room) came up and impulsivity reigned supreme.
For some reason, whenever I go to a singing room with friends, we always pay for an hour and end up staying two because the operator gives us little chunks of free time. I’m not sure if it had to do with the beer and soju we ordered or because we are amazing singers (I opted for the latter explanation). Regardless, over drinks and smokes, we resumed our commiseration through the power of song.
The night finally concluded in my motel. It was cold and my newfound friends weren’t quite ready to go home. So we played heads up (kind of like the game Catchphrase but with a phone app) and whiled away an indeterminate number of hours (alcohol distorts time like a boss). When everyone finally left it, my phone clock read 4:25 A.M.
“Damn,” said Anxiety-Brain. “Can we revisit the idea of the hike?”
Before leaving that night I had texted Special K about taking a hike on Sunday morning. When I awoke in a bleary-eyed and hungover stupor in my smoke-reeking room, I took Anxiety-Brain’s suggestion seriously. It was 10:30. At 10:45 I decided to shake it off. I wasn’t going out like that. I showered, wrote in my journal, packed up my things, and hopped in a cab.
The first stop was the turtle ship exhibit. Special K recommended it the day before and I was ready to grab some photographs like a wannabe tourist.
Finally, after taking out some cash (I had run up quite the personal expense account this weekend), I headed for Kubong Mountain. The hike commenced.
My calves burned, my breathing quickened, and Esther Perel spoke wonderful wisdom in my ear about infidelity (The State of Affairs – great book – I highly recommend it). On several occasions, I had to stop both to breathe and to pick up pinecones. The Bard suggested pinecones as part of his secret Santa.
Finally, in about an hour, I reached the top. The view was utterly breathtaking. A pair of Korean women smiled when they reached the top, a BTS song blaring from one of their phones. The offered me a cup of tea which I graciously accepted. We conversed in what little Korean I knew. Even the simplest Korean utterances seem to put smiles on people’s faces.
After a lovely break, it was time to hike back down, return to the bus terminal, and reflect.
I learned a lot from my trip to Yeosu:
– Even though I did similar activities I would have done in Mokpo, I was grateful to go. Who you’re enjoying activities with matters more than the activity itself.
– My stomach capacity is too big for comfort (though my parents are already quite aware of my hollow leg).
– Alcohol impairs your memory (I mean I already knew that, but it’s more subtle). I feel like when I drink with friends the details of the occasion are lost from memory. I can typically remember who I was with, where we were, infer what we did from knowing the location, and whether or not we had fun. That’s about it. How many indelible memories have I sacrificed to the Beer, Whiskey, and Soju gods?
– Sometimes I meet too many people to give them all pseudonyms. I am sorry T-A-C. Hopefully next time I will have better ideas.
– My relationship with alcohol and tobacco has been rocky, but I am happy I indulged. Regardless, each time I consume I am now more mindful of how I feel. Maybe this will inspire me to continue tapering off in the future.
Fortunately, I met people on top of Kubongsan who could take this photo of me.
This overgrown dwelling looks like the perfect place to hide a dead body.
Apparently putting bathroom signs upside down is now in fashion.
Something secret was going on to my left. I could feel it.
This panorama punctuated a fun and refreshing weekend.