I was all sorts of excited as the day I would be on my way to Korea came. It felt like forever, as I had purchased the tickets five or so months before, but all I could think about was my upcoming adventures and, of course, my many moments of reminiscing. And so, one of my friends who would be traveling with me from the beginning to end slept over the night before and at 4:15 in the morning, we headed off to the airport.
Of course, our first flight was delayed an hour and a half but we finally made it to San Francisco International Airport for our connecting flight. Because of our previous flight, we missed our original flight but we got another one through Asiana, which was great, but as a vegetarian, I was worried. They had no record of the vegetarian meal that I had booked a week before with my original airline. Hence, I was stuck with picking out the meat from my meals, reminding me of what I would need to go through once I arrived in Korea.
No matter (though I would be lying if I said the lack of food options in Korea never bothered me after I stuffed my face in Taiwan and Hong Kong on my vacation earlier this year), because for some odd reason, Korea had already won me over when I lived here for a year, but at that point when I was only a couple hours away from Incheon, I could only hope that would remain the same. …And it did.
I came into Incheon and it was as if everything clicked. I was a tourist this time around – no job to hold me down and take over the bulk of my time (though I’m still working so I have to wake up a little earlier than my friends to work here), no local bank account under my name, no registration card – but it felt right. I knew where to go, what to do, and I got there without any trouble. I entered my friend’s apartment as if I’d always been in Korea for the past 8 months or so that I’ve been away and we spoke as if it was just yesterday.
The next day, I headed back to Daejeon, but unfortunately, this was when my friend developed some sort of food poisoning. From what, I’m not sure and we still are unclear as to the reasons, but she is better now. Basically, we got there where my friend crashed on my other friend’s (my old building neighbor) bed. While she was resting, my friends and I went out like old times to a new restaurant that had opened not too long ago.
Apparently, my initial thoughts on how my return to Korea was not only on my end. Nothing had changed and it was as if it was another night. One of them had mentioned that when he saw me laid out on my friend’s floor so we could head out, it was like nothing had changed. Oh, the good times. But because of this, we all knew that this wasn’t permanent and I would be leaving before the end of the month. Well, at least one of my friends who usually doesn’t hang out much allowed himself to hang out just this once, haha. Even so, we made the best of it!
I gave my taekwondo instructor a call while he was dropping off the kids after class (the same session I would have normally participated in) and he was so happy he started laughing. He ended up driving straight to where I was staying when he found out that was my last night in Daejeon (for now) and we caught up and for once, instead of my usual “annyeonghasimnika” accompanied with a bow, we greeted each other with a hug. I promised him I would call him the next time I was in Daejeon so we would have dinner together. I realised I missed him a lot as well as those nightly taekwondo sessions when I hated him at times. Right after that, I strolled into my favorite coffee shop just down the street and plopped down my things at my favorite desk and headed up to the counter as if I was there just the day before as I would have been if I had been living there. I could see they recognised me but perhaps because of the nonchalant way I was going about it, other than smiles, they didn’t say anything too different. Briefly afterwards, the owner came by to my table and we talked and caught up and he apologised for another set of patrons they had but were a bit… inebriated. He promised to come the next day before his “shift” on he heard I was planning on visiting Jeju – the pluses of being the boss is that he gets into work at 6pm – so he could give me pointers as he had just returned from his own Jeju-do trip.
After I got my hair done the next morning in the city, I came back, picked up my friend who was feeling slightly better, and met up with him at the coffee shop over some affogato. There, I gave him a copy of the 24-day itinerary and he gave it a thumbs up while giving us tips on where to go, what to do, etc. He was, however, impressed at the sheer amount of places we would be hitting in such a short time since I had scheduled for the bulk of my Korea Tour to occur within the 12.5 days that all three of my American friends would be here, starting tomorrow, actually.
In addition to the hair, I also got a new phone (the LG Ice Cream 3… they chose pink for me). It was a little embarrassing because the guys at the phone shop had me call one of my Korean friends – my old coworker who used to like me – who had happily agreed to sign me under his name (otherwise I would need to get some SIM card that had ridiculous rates). The awkward part was that I didn’t get the chance to call him yet to let him know I was in Korea and the first word he receives from me is from some Korean sales person guy who asks him if he can help me out. Rawr. But yes: Koreans are really nice and helpful once they’ve decided to take you under their wing. I also promised him that I would call him the next time I was in Daejeon and we would hang out; I had already decided I would, but now, it was a mandatory addition to my schedule. 🙂
The manicure came as a free service with my hair, along with a massage. 🙂 Yes, Korea. I’ve certainly missed you – albeit this widespread notion of how “no meat” translated to “not a real meal”.