If I had to use one word to describe Korea it would be “happy.” The people are friendly, courteous and cheerful, the city is clean and busy, and the weather so far is perfect for a June day, partly sunny with a breeze either blowing down from the mountains or in from the ocean, I am not sure which, but either one works.
We arrived in Busan late on Tuesday evening after a thunderstorm delayed our flight out of Tokyo. Otherwise, the flight was very boring and uneventful, which is just the way airplane flights are supposed to be. They stuffed us full of food on the 13-hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo, and they fed us again on the two-hour Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo to Busan. I had my first bento box on the plane — sticky rice with snapper and Japanese ginger, pulled pork with miso, a boiled egg, deep-simmered kelp, and what they called a Japanese sweet, a figgy kind of filling wrapped with dough. It’s hard to describe. Served with chopsticks and very delicious.
It was so wonderful to see Megan again after 11 months! I didn’t think I would cry, but I did, and I am again right now. She came to the airport with her host mother, Yoo Soek, her host sister Minji, and her host uncle, whom she calls Samchon, which just means uncle. Megan told us that we were invited to Yoo Soek’s house for dinner the next evening, which I thought was so amazing of them. I even hugged Yoo Soek, which I’m not sure I was supposed to do but she didn’t seem to mind. It might have been mutual, but I was too emotional to know the difference. Samchon loaded our bags in his car and drove us to Haeundae district, not far from where he lives, and helped us find our apartment.
It’s a cute little apartment we found on airbnb, about two blocks from Haeundae Beach. The main floor is about the size of a motel room, with two beds, a nice kitchen with everything but an oven, and a set of steep stairs leading to a loft where there are two more beds, like a little bedroom. The main room has a high ceiling with a window that almost covers the entire exterior wall. Out the window, I can see the Haeundae Grand Hotel a block away, and quite a few other hotels. Our own building is 22 stories, a small one.
Yoo Soek told Megan that she needed to stay here with us, so she packed a bag and came with us. I feel kind of bad about that, because I didn’t want to interrupt her last week in Korea, but she had it all planned out anyway. Tomorrow she is going to take us to the beach and the Aquarium, then on an hour-long subway ride to her host parents’ house in Hwamyeong, which is a district in north Busan.
Tired. I tried to stay awake for most of the flight, thinking I could easily fall asleep when we arrived, wake up in the morning and have a mostly awake day. For the most part it worked, except for the soju, which I’ll tell you more about tomorrow.