How To Read This Blog

Welcome, all!

While posts can be read separately, threads, characters, and experiences will hold more weight if you start at the beginning.

To dive deeper into this world and understand our cast of characters, see WHO’S WHO.

I also on occasion write posts about Korean language and introspective pieces unrelated to the primary chronological blog posts about daily life.

*NEW* Click on the favorites category for my best or most extreme pieces.

My origin story can be found here and to keep up with me, subscribe here and check out my Instagram if you are reading this blog on mobile and can’t see my excellent desktop layout.

And if you really like what you see, you can buy me a coffee.

Happy reading~

Haedong Yonggungsa: Temple by the Coast

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was originally built in the 14th century, burned down during Japanese invasion in the 16th century (actually, one or another Japanese invasion is why most Korean historical sites are not exact originals) and rebuilt in the 20th century.

It’s a functioning Buddhist temple so among the tourists, monks were conducting daily rituals and others came to light candles and bow three times.

I managed to throw a 100 won coin into the “lucky coin divination” bowl which I’m sure was not an original feature of the 1376 construction.

As it is a popular tourist attraction, many people on the last day of the school holiday were here to sightsee, say prayers, and climb rocks to pose with golden Buddhas for Instagram.

Fish cake and hotteok were plentiful and there were several good luck charms I just barely managed to avoid buying.

It’s a sight worth seeing, though I recommend you go on a weekday!

February 23, Late Valentine’s Day

My mom sent me a lovely Valentine’s package with chocolate for me and the roommates as well.

Freshman was delighted and touched to see her name written in English on her goody bag. The three of us also ate Twinkie’s to commemorate my long running gag that the corgi and the hostess cake look exactly the same.

My mom had also included some of the 50+ prints she had made for New Year’s cards (Costco Photo Center has good and bad points) and I reached out to my previous co-teachers for their addresses.

C was first to respond, followed by S and then G. H texted me back a bit later and we ended up chatting back and forth for a few hours. You may be wondering, who’s H? And not without good reason.

H was the pregnant coworker I had for the beginning and end of fall semester for grades 3 and 5. You may recall G was her substitute for the majority of her maternity leave, with a brief appearance by Toupee Sub whose most memorable scene was a short moment away from class in which all the students asked me if he was pooping since he had been gone for awhile.

I haven’t seen H since January 2020 but she texted me during the spring semester to tell me she came into the office to submit taxes and also tell the VP I shouldn’t have to desk warm (apparently G and S commented this to him to which makes me laugh) and then late last year to tell me she wasn’t coming back to school due to her second pregnancy (!).

“I asked the VP where you were but he said you didn’t renew. I won’t be back because I’m pregnant again so we’ll miss each other!”

Our time together was brief but I really enjoyed it and thus she made it to “Abigail’s VIP New Year Card” list. She told me to stop by her house next time I’m in Seoul so I can meet her baby(ies) and she’ll make me some delicious food.

It got me thinking though. Even though I’m an immigrant and a non-native speaker, I have a community. Completely of my own doing.

My community in Atlanta was my relatives and ice skating friends; Florida is my hometown so my community is rooted in it being the place I grew up.

Once again I marvel at and am thankful for the surprisingly large community I’ve been able to amass here. Some days life is so easy I almost can’t believe I’m in a foreign country.

Shall I confess a small secret? When I make a wish, I usually wish for a happy life. I have it and seems so simple once in hand. And yet, the journey there is perilous.

I’ve had many highs and lows, and certainly there are many more to come, but to be happy is such a precious thing. Light and delicate like a fresh macaron.

There has been a time in my past where I felt like I was at the bottom of a giant well, a huge column of water pressing me down and the pin point of light far above me continuously growing smaller.

To now be in the field, under the sun and pulling buckets of water from the same well that previously trapped me to nourish my garden, is a wonderful thing.

I’m just grateful. For the good and the bad. For the promise of the future and the perilousness of the past. For dreams and plans and everything in between.

February 18, Health Checkup

Unsurprisingly, I got a last minute message asking if I could get a medical check before my contract starts. Health checks are usually required not by immigration but by individual offices of education so I calmly called a local hospital and set up an appointment with the international center. If you think I have enough command of Korean to navigate a hospital on my own, you are wrong. Although, I appreciate your confidence in me.

I asked the nervous woman who had taken my temperature by the hospital doors where the international center was. She looked at me in confusion so I switched it to “foreigner center”. She answered hesitantly that it was on the third floor. I thought the receptionist who answered the phone before said first floor but I couldn’t find the center at all, and the hospital is not big, so I resigned myself to confusion.

Above a small exam room was “International Center” and yet the panel next to it said “OBGYN”. There was a single patient on a bed so I figured that was wrong. I called the center and she said they were located on the fourth floor.

The fourth floor was the sport rehab center and the kidney center so I called again.

“Uh… I’m lost. I’m by the kidney center.”

“Oh, stay right there. I’ll come get you.”

Wow, what customer service! I can guarantee you this would never happen at the massive 8 building hospital campus I went to in Seoul. It helps that this hospital is small.

A young woman in a cropped black sweater, black wool miniskirt and black tights came to rescue me. She directed me to join her in the elevator back to the first floor. With a slight Korean accent, “first” and “fourth” sound very similar.

“Our office moved. We made temporary signs but I don’t they’re big enough.” She gestured to a paper I had seen but not bothered to read.

An older woman with a felt flower pinned to her jacket looked between us and then commented to the attendant who in turn told me, “she says you’re pretty”. I bowed thank you to the woman as we got off the elevator.

Of course, I was wearing a mask and a giant knee-length padded jacket, so only my eyes were visible. Ever since my online course last year, I’ve had low self esteem in regards to my face; 20 hours a week of looking at yourself in the worst possible lighting will do that to you.

Plus, I’m so used to seeing only my eyes that I often feel the rest of my face doesn’t do them justice in the moments I can finally peel my mask off. My eyes never garnered attention in the US so the compliments sometimes feel particularly weird. Everyone thinks Phantom of the Opera’s half face is super handsome until he takes off the mask.

Am I alone in feeling uncomfortable showing my face now? I suppose this is just one of the many various COVID traumas we can all expect to face, including discomfort in crowds and having hand sanitizer on one’s person at all times.

The attendant asked about my new job, since it was required for the paperwork, and we chatted for a moment about the city. I told her I heard there are a lot of navy guys there but I shouldn’t date them because they drink a lot. She giggled and asked, “do you want to date a Korean guy?”

I spluttered, unsuspecting of the turn. Why does this seem to be the theme of the month?

“Uh, no, I just mean… my friend’s husband is in the air force so he told me navy guys are bad and air force guys are good.”

The attendant let me leave my puffer jacket in the international office and led me back into the elevator then a locker room where I changed into the shirt robe without batting an eye at the other women around. The gym showers prepared me for this moment!

But I thought the shirt was a bit strange. Like a bathrobe, I had to tie the waist straps then readjust the lapels lest my entire chest be exposed. I walked around the third floor of the thankfully small hospital braless and with more clavicle on display than I’ve ever shown in Korea.

I shrugged it off until I saw another woman waiting in the radiology area. She had tied the robe in the back which means I had put the shirt on backwards.

Well, too late to fix now!

There was no running back to the changing area so I sauntered into the radiation room and figured I’d just grace everyone with my scandalous sliver of upper chest (that mind you is a regular cut for casual American shirts). You’re welcome!

When I returned to the dressing room after my series of quick examinations were complete, I was alone and got a good look at just how potentially scandalous my robe could have become. Let’s just say it’s thankful I didn’t have to bend over.

I looked at the triangle of my bony chest in shadowy relief (I blame this on lack of access to a bench press) and realized that in the soft light of the mirror I was a lot smaller than I thought. I mean– I’m not small by any means but rather I was not the large foreigner I usually imagined in my mind. My female roommates are short and petite and in addition, our house lacks a full length mirror so I never have a good idea of what I look like in a neutral setting. It always come as a surprise to see more than half of my body at a time.

This seems to be a winter symptom, too. Growing up in Florida I saw my limbs fully exposed every month of the year.

It brought back a conversation I had with my teacher recently. I told her that I wanted to make a better butt and reduce cellulite and she looked at me incredulously. “Everyone has cellulite,” she dismissed. “You’re already thin,” she said (let me point out, this is not true; I’m quite average for a Westerner, or large for a Korean but then, maybe this is the point). “If you said you wanted to eat a certain way for your health I could support you 100 percent. But not if you’re doing it for looks alone!” My teacher is a pretty cool lady.

As we wrapped up and I paid 90 dollars for this exam as it’s visa related and thus sadly not covered by national health insurance, the attendant asked for clarification.

“Can I ask you a question?” She said. Uh oh was my first thought but she continued.

“At the dentist station, I say ‘do you have any toothache or loose teeth?’ but my clients often seem confused. Do you know why?”

I told her that loose teeth and lose teeth sound very similar though the meaning is quite different.

“Then how should I say it?”

I pondered and didn’t have a great answer, except for the immediate but unsaid clearer pronunciation, until I left the hospital. Ask instead, “do any teeth feel loose?” Or maybe switch the two clauses and buff up the phrase to “Do you have any loose teeth or toothaches?”

I didn’t want to give her a huge long sentence to say instead of her go-to phrase, so I don’t think I was much help at all.

We passed by a girl coming out of the office in a white puffer jacket and at the same time we noticed that my jacket was no longer on the waiting sofa.

“Hey, wait—“

Another nurse caught our confusion, laughed, and pointed to where my jacket had been folded up neatly on an office chair out of site. I think, only in Korea. How lovely!

I had to fast before that appointment so I found a nice little bakery cafe across the street. All the workers were kind and weirdly, I understood all the Korean of our interaction. And no one complimented my language skills which means I’m slowly morphing into one of them.

There was a cute section of the cafe that was completely empty. A young man behind the counter saw my confusion and we made eye contact. He didn’t look away and answered that of course I could sit over there. Proactive customer service is not a thing in Korea so what a nice treat.

After a few hours slowly eating my “American Brunch” I packed up and returned my tray. The cashier from earlier was sitting nearly out of site, eating something out of a takeout container. We locked eyes awkwardly, noodles halfway to his mouth and I turned around to let him take his lunch break in peace. The little window into the bakery area also showed a girl and two boys in white aprons, crowded together in a corner eating out of to-go cups. I bet they were all watching something on one person’s phone but it reminded me a little of a puppy pile.

While winter storms, the pandemic, and government negligence rage on in nearly apocalyptic levels of decimation in the US, Korea has let me stay and build a safe and happy life given the unprecedented circumstances.

I looked out the cafe window and thought, not for the first time, living here is almost too easy.

February 17, Blood Type

I’m writing this from a cafe where I had another Korean-English misunderstanding.

“Do you want me to put on pipping cream?” The barista asked, more than once.

When in doubt, I simply say “yes”. A few moments later I realized he asked if I wanted whipped cream. I confirmed with him then told him I couldn’t hear well so my bad.

I’ve had the same hearing problem with other Korean English words at a cafe like “cinnamon” and I can’t be mad at either of us.

In class today, my teacher reviewed five grammar points that all translate to “look like” in English. I’ve learned some of these albeit extremely quickly and without much detail in my university course.

“Do you mind if I brag a little?” She asked.

Please do, I gestured.

“You know that I work near the other university on odd days. I have many students who attend that university’s Korean language program but come to me for help. Once I explain it, then they understand. Those teachers don’t have much time or patience for explanations.”

That’s certainly how I felt at my old Korean hagwon back in Seoul. As you know, I annoyed the teacher a few times and then didn’t sign up for the next month.

“So I love it when you ask questions. Whenever you have a question, please go right ahead.” As a teacher myself I deeply vibe with this sentiment.

She asked me if I knew about blood types. It’s similar to zodiac signs in the US. They are explained as such:

  • A blood types are introverted and meticulous.
  • B blood types are creative and independent.
  • O blood types are social and outgoing.
  • AB blood types are calm and adaptable.

“Let me guess. You are a… B.”

That is actually my real blood type so I was surprised. B types are also apparently “4D”: we live in our own world. That fact hit a little too close to home.

“Can you guess mine? Use our grammar.” I wanted to say B but guessed O.

“Wrong. The opposite.” Well, it must be A then.

“Wrong. I’m a B, too! So I can recognize other Bs.” Apparently she has been right about all her students and asked me to guess why.

“Uh, because there are only four options?”

“Then why am I always right?”

I was stumped, unless she moonlights as a phlebotomist and has access to all our records. She challenged me to use the “looks like/seems like” grammar to describe her.

“Hmm. Teacher, it seems like there was someone you loved a lot in the past.”

The particular but brief look in her eyes told me I was right, and she herself confirmed a moment later. She seems very positive about marriage even though she herself hasn’t mentioned a husband and is predicting that I too will settle down with a Korean man since I know the language and culture well. My own family culture is also similar to Korean culture so I suppose my social errors would be slightly less.

But I couldn’t help but think that her prediction sounded more like a curse.

When I was a kid I loved Belle from Beauty and the Beast— her spunk and independence, her unapologetic love of reading, her rejection of Gaston. She ran to the fields and sang “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” and then at the end moved in with the prince down the street.

As a kid I always found that to be disappointing in a way I couldn’t articulate.

Adventure in the great wide somewhere is vastly different than settling down in the great wide somewhere. It’s simply home twice removed.

But of course, never say never.

I took another guess about her life using the learned grammar. “As for your mom, I think you really…” She started to shake her head in disagreement until I finished, “take care of her well.”

“Ah,  I think my sister does a better job of that.”

She has always remained professional and keeps me talking and pokes my brain with Korean sparklers so I really don’t know much about her. It doesn’t stop me from being curious: what brought her to Busan, why she doesn’t get along with her mother, who is this long lost love…

People really are filled with secrets and peeling back the layers is both an art and a fundamental challenge of the human experience.

February 15

Happy late Valentine’s Day!

I spent Galentine’s Day with an expat friend I’ve met a few other times these last two weeks. The other two ladies who originally planned to come to the museum with us dropped out so the two of us wandered the near empty Busan Museum. I learned a bit more about Busan– did you know it became the temporary capital when Seoul was overtaken during the Korean War? People have also lived on this part of the peninsula since the Neolithic Age, which is where the idea of Korean people originates from.

There was a line about the Bronze Age that went something like, “During the Bronze Age, people discovered metal and learned how to make tools which they then used to create weapons and concentrate power” and I immediately thought, wow. People will never same. We invented power and fought for power since the dawn of time. To quote Aesop, “how often we give our enemies the means of our own destruction”.

We two gals closed out the surprisingly long day with egg tarts and conversation about mental health and how moving abroad to follow our hearts changed our lives for the better.

Today I continued on a goal I just recently recognized this year and skipped off to Korean class. The path to fluency is full of shoots and ladders but every day little interactions become a little easier, a little more understandable.

I must again post this comic from Itchy Feet:

the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know
Itchy Feet comic by Malachi Rempen.

I love the puzzle that is language learning. It’s strange to think how many gears go into learning and using a language; gears that maybe monolingual friends haven’t lifted the hood to see.

Languages are not simply one to one alignments with differently spelled words. Languages are full of idiosyncrasies, a reflection of a nation’s history, an intricate interlocking mechanism. Besides using a different alphabet (Hangul is a 24 character alphabet, not a character writing system like Chinese), Korean has an endless number of delicate petals that have no direct correlation to English, and vice versa.

I have a brother.

Yo tengo un hermano. [lit: I have a brother.]

나는 남동생이 하나 있어요. [lit: I younger male sibling one exist]
There is nuance for “I”: I used the informal version here; when talking about siblings, Korean has separate words for younger/older brother/sister which also depend on your own gender. Additionally, the word for “have” in Korean is actually intransitive so there is no direct object; you simply exist alongside one another.

To quote Marge Simpson (again), I just think that’s neat. 

Now that Mt. Fluency is within view, so too are my abilities and aspirations. I joked that pizza was my one true love this Valentine’s (and forever, really) but that would be a lie; my heart lies in linguistics and it’s a magical feeling to reconnect with my first true love.

Still love my pizza though ❤️

My teacher today said, “I bragged about your ability to my friend”.

“You’re joking,” I responded mock suspiciously.

“I did! I also told her about your ‘diamond’ pronunciation.” We both laughed; I am truly terrible at loan words.

I think back to my days at the university intensive Korean program in 2019: how hard it was, how difficult it was, and how I somehow managed to become valedictorian. It came right after the many lows of the Atlanta job and I had never commiserated more with The Office’s Kevin in that moment:

Even when parts of my Abs Abroad life feel challenging, ultimately they have also felt right.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m sitting in a bedroom in an Airbnb in Korea and feel more at home and more at peace than I did at my fancy apartments I rented when I worked in corporate.

My imagination has been a lot less active lately and I wonder if it’s because I’m simply old and boring or rather that I’m living my own dream and thus my imagination is satisfied.

I’ve always had a huge dearth of interests and maybe the underlying thread is I feel most alive when I’m consuming experiences. I want to take a bite out of the whole world.

Life has really only improved since I made the decision to move abroad. While Valentine’s Day is not a day of thanks, I’m still incredibly grateful for boarding that plane.

Life is too short to eat burned bread

I popped my frozen bagel in the toaster and pushed the lever again when they popped out still a little pasty.

Like all toasting situations, I forgot to pay close attention to the millisecond between perfectly browned and burned so as a result two partially blackened bagel halves made an appearance.

I thought, well only the bottoms and edges are burnt so I can scoop out the good parts and maybe I’ll save fifty percent.

Then I stopped myself. I had at least six other bagels in the freezer. I wasn’t hurting for money or food, so why was I trying so hard to salvage the bitter bagel ends when I could simply start anew and ensure a perfectly toasted and delicious bagel?

I stopped to wonder how many other burnt ends I had eaten around in life instead of simply starting fresh.

Being thrifty and economical is smart and necessary— but not to the point of unnecessary self sacrifice and lost enjoyment.

Life is too short to eat burned bread.

Balancing Act

I was walking back from a quick grocery run in the evening when I saw a young girl balancing one soccer ball atop another.

I was mesmerized, how was she doing that? The street wasn’t flat or forgiving either so what magic was this?

The top ball turned out to be slightly deflated and as we passed each other on the street, I looked at her. She looked at me looking at her. The top ball started to slip sideways without her noticing and I couldn’t look away.

She dropped both balls in the road and only then broke eye contact, almost confused about how they fell.

I’m thankful my mask hid my laughter.

February 13

The Not Rock roommate may join the ranks of strange male roommates after all. In hushed urgency House Owner called me into the hallway with Japan Aunt who reported to us that even though she told The Not Rock good morning in English and Korean, he hadn’t even made eye contact with her.

“Maybe he had in earphones?” I suggested but Japan Aunt shook her head. House Owner looked forlorn and asked me to keep an eye on things while she’s gone since Freshman is out of town and therefore she’s down one confidant.

House Owner added he seems serious and I noted he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. She agreed which means my intuition was right.

For at least two days I didn’t see or hear from him and started to wonder if we should investigate his room.

But that would be unnecessary because as House Owner later informed me, he had suddenly checked out early from his ten day stay. He didn’t tell her in person but instead sent her a text and saw himself out. None of us saw him leave.

“He complained that we weren’t wearing masks in the common area.” She started.

“We all live here, why would we wear masks inside,” I spluttered. All of us are long term stays.

“And he said the trash had a strong smell.” Fair, food waste has gotten rank up there from time to time.

“And he complained that the fridge smelled like Korean food when he opened it.”

I was shocked that this guy moved to Korea and complained about a Korean house smelling like Korean food.

“Honestly I’m a little relieved,” she added. House Owner did seem to be more wary of him than any other man in our house so far which is concerning.

“I think he’s a little bit sensitive so…”

“It’s best for everyone that he moved out to his own single bedroom place.”

She nodded.

Another day, another weird roommate.

February 12

Happy New Year!

Yesterday Japan Aunt caught me coming in and invited me to breakfast today. I set my alarm and with difficulty woke up before 10am to prepared rice cake soup and savory pancakes.

She had hoped to treat The Not Rock as well but he was nowhere to be found.

Note: later, that would turn out to be for the best.

We talked for an hour and half in Korean and I understood at least half of what was going on. She told me about her 25 year old son: he has always been bad at school but loves to earn money. He went to Canada for a year to study abroad but dropped out two months in and worked odd jobs for the rest of the year. Now he works at an app company and moonlights as a bartender with a girlfriend 7 years his senior (we love to see it).

She got teary eyed giving advice and I knew she was really talking about her own son and what she wished he would say: “Say sorry, and thank you. Say you’re happy now. Things get better in time.”

Since it’s the new year of the ox I suppose I should also officially announce I got a job! I’ll be working at an elementary school in a small city not too far from Busan. (But far enough to make travel back a headache.)

The placement isn’t as country as I’d hoped for initially but I like to think the universe is putting me where I need to go. And hopefully the camaraderie I felt with the interviewer softened her to putting me with a nice school.

The city itself is nestled between the ocean and a ring of mountains so even though the population is high, the feel is country (and Seoul and Busan people are quick to point out it’s rural because any city under 1 million is basically a field in their eyes).

I’m excited to move, I’ve already used my superior Korean sleuthing skills to find a realtor video of the exact apartment the school is renting, and House Owner even offered to drive me and my things over when it comes time to move. The importance of cultivating good relationships, y’all!

I’ll be close enough to stay engaged with the friendly expat community here as well as House Owner and Freshman. In fact, their family is from the city I’m moving to.

I’ve really started to consider buying a car so I can attend Korean class at least monthly with my current teacher and go to Costco. These hamburger patties aren’t going to buy themselves!

Since I’ve had a busy week I had to reschedule Korean class to today’s New Year. On Fridays my teacher is at a location near the national university and what a nice area! I tried again not to feel jealous of a college campus.

I miss going to school.

I’m glad I get to attend her classes in person and we have a great time— I keep her up to date with all the strange happenings (what you read in this blog, actually) and we laughed about my inability to pronounce Colorado and diamond in Korean. (They are simply the same word pronounced with a Korean accent.)

Every week I feel I’m making progress and I’m going to miss our weekly sessions after I move. If I have a car I might be able to attend at least monthly, but of course I’ll need to find a local teacher if I’m going to really aim for fluency this coming year!

It’s the year of the ox so let’s grab this bull by the horns!

A very topical New Years greeting from the government: please maintain social distancing, gatherings of 5 people or more are prohibited

February 11

I told S I bought her son a gift while in the US and I asked for her address to send it off.

“We’ll just come to Busan.”

And thus I spent the day with S, her husband, and her son. They treated me to sashimi which is inexplicably expensive given Busan’s proximity to the ocean.

She asked how long I’d be staying in Korea.

“My next contract is for a year so at least a year. But I’m wondering, if I can get fluent at Korean, if I should stay a little longer to set up freelance technical translating.”

“Oh that would be perfect for you!”

My idea was to hopefully make it to a Chinese speaking country after this next contract but if there are opportunities here to sow and harvest, I’ll happily change or delay course.

“If you stay longer, I want to set you up on blind dates. That’s how we met.”

She gestured at her husband. He seems like a really nice and caring man even though he works high up for the military. His English intonation and pronunciation is so natural that I’m surprised every time. Somehow he comes across as gentle in both languages.

So I have to trust her judgement.

“You know C set me up once.”

“What???” She gasped in a way that wondered how C beat her to the punch.

“How was it?” Her husband asked, while my nephew sneakily stole spoonfuls of rice.

“It was. Fine.”

I didn’t know how to explain I was grateful for C’s consideration and the blind date’s kind manners. Fine was really a compliment here, even if he and I didn’t want to date after.

Mentioning C did get me some gossip: C is now the lead English teacher and H is not only transferring schools but getting married.

I was shocked! Everyone told me H was single and would therefore spend time with me outside of work. (She never did.) She also never mentioned a boyfriend in all the times she dominated the subject teacher lunches. We don’t know if it was a secret or if she really dated and got engaged that fast.

We four walked along the beach and went to an egg tart cafe as my treat and thanks for lunch.

“It’s expensive. Since she’s paying we shouldn’t order drinks.” I heard the husband say to S.

“It’s fine, please get a drink.” I told them.

“Oh you understood us?” S asked in shock.

Fighting over the bill is a universal language.

The husband stayed downstairs to wait for the tarts and shooed me away when I came to help. While waiting I played a hand slapping game with my nephew while S looked on and said I’m good with young kids.

“Have you thought about teaching kindergarten?”

I have but the pay is low and requirements are usually “bachelors degree, foreign face, alive” which is not very encouraging for someone who actually wants to teach. The husband came back with the tarts and a smoothie that we did not order; I suspect he didn’t want to make me pay, but my nephew ended up eating part of both their tarts and the milkshake, so maybe the kid should have thrown in a few bucks.

Later I took them to the pier to get a better look at Gwangalli Bridge.

“A Russian fishing boat crashed into that pillar.” Her husband pointed out. The giant pillar looked rusty but otherwise undamaged.

“Was the captain drinking vodka?” I asked. He laughed.

We all walked slowly back to their car to make the time last. This may well be their last family trip for awhile; the husband has to attend military training for eight months faraway from Seoul and S will be left as a single mom for a while. Somehow, S still wanted a second child but her husband ultimately said no, knowing it would be too hard on her with his constant relocations and offsite trainings.

“This is why people don’t want to marry military men.” S explained matter-of-factly.

“Oh, there is a navy base near your new home,” her husband pointed out, “but I don’t recommend dating Korean sailors. They drink too much and are gone for most of the year. If you want to date a military man, go for the air-force. They are the best.”

“Wait, are you air-force?” I asked with suspicion.

“I’d like to be,” he laughed. He hopes to train as a pilot if he can get Lasik surgery down the line.

The whole day passed comfortably and easily and it felt like no time at all had passed since I last saw S. That they would all drive ten hours round trip to spend an afternoon with me in such limited family time really touched my heart.