I joined S and her family for an outing to the famed day trip destination of Gapyeong. An hour outside of Seoul, without traffic which was not our destiny, a road lined with beautiful and eclectic cafes leads you to a park famous for its gardens and mountain views.
“I think he has better pronunciation than me,” she remarked of her three year old who could sing every word of the Moana theme song and shouted a range of English words like “rubber band” and “scary”.
S has been reading to her son in English for which I’m really proud.
Her husband, who was a little shy last time we met and who I assumed didn’t speak much English, broke out some of the most amazing and natural sounding English I’ve heard from a Korean.
“You’ve been holding out on me!!” I told him, then wondered if I should reign in my enthusiasm for someone who works for the military.
Us three adults decided on chicken ribs for lunch and S’s son munched on the strawberry peppero I brought him while we sat in traffic.
We finally made it to the restaurant and a group of muscly college boys seemed very shy upon seeing a Foreigner in the middle of the mountains. The other patrons paid no mind and S’s son called me “auntie” and kept wriggling over to feed me or poke me.
I aimed my camera at the spread and told him to smile. This kid is a model in the making because he knew immediately to give a one dimpled grin and throw up a V sign.
I offered to pay for lunch but S and her husband insisted they do since I helped them get a refund for their canceled vacation.
“Aha in that case, I accept tips,” I told her husband who just chuckled.
Another short drive through the mountains and we made it to the Garden of Morning Calm which was busy with many young families and the occasional couple.
The four of us had a great time sightseeing and snacking. We made a wishing rock stand in a small river and her husband saved a tower I knocked over with my bum.
“Oh no, did I just destroy someone’s wish?” I despaired while he laughed and put it back together. S’s son fell over in the water and got his pants completely wet which sent me into a shock of laughter. Toddlers find a way to challenge plans.
There were many spectacular views, even if S’s son held my hand often and insisted on being in half my photos.
On the drive back to the city, S and her husband sat in the front and held hands. The son was conked out in his baby chair.
S’s husband told me he wants to learn English for traveling and has been studying movies. S and I caught up on some school things:
“The subject teachers this year… well, they’re just. It’s different. But I’m glad we all get to have a goodbye lunch!”
“Oh. We’re not. Because of the virus each grade is eating separately.”
“S… you mean… it will be just me and the subject teachers at a restaurant an hour away? So awkward! Noooooo!”
“Yes, I think the… vibe?… is different for you this year. Even male music teacher talked to you in English sometimes.”
I sighed and had to admit for as much as he annoys me, at least he acknowledges me. The new cast of subject teachers is very quiet and because they feel uncomfortable around me, I feel uncomfortable around them.
“Ugh, it’s fine. Listening practice.” I concluded.
Since S is the only one who knows the truth about my future, she’s also going to help sort out my moving situation. My original plan was to rent a car and drive all my things to Busan but I’m nervous about navigating two large cities of aggressive drivers on top of navigating rental car services here. The next best bet is to look into pickup parcel services for which she’ll call on my behalf.
They insisted on dropping me off by my apartment instead of the train station which saved me a thirty minute ride.
It felt like the most natural thing in the world, being a part of their family for the day.
You don’t need to marry into a family to have a family.