January 16

We are all in COVID purgatory.

My two roommates and I sat around the table passively watching an IU music video and arguing if it was the theme song for a famous drama. The Russian stopped by to show us his Cookie Monster socks and discuss the origin of pickles.

With my head pillowed on my arms I looked up from my midday stupor to ask House Owner when cafes would open again. I just want to have a coffee by the beach, dammit.

“Oh no. The government has just extended level 2.5 until the end of the month.”

This means no open gyms, no ice rinks, no classes, no sitting around at cafes.

“Ugh.” I put my head back down in defeat then realized I had yet to give them the gift from my mother, a 500 piece puzzle on classic postcards from around America. Neither of them had done a true puzzle and as I was putting in my shoes to leave for a walk and shake off the daze, I heard Freshman promise herself that she would finish it fast.

The morning had brought on an odd, FOMO malaise and I walked down a pier to the farthest edge of the beach I’ve visited. The distant white noise of cars on the bridge and waves against the concrete subdued the buzzing in my head.

A girl and her father peered into the shallow water of the fishing boat dock and squids peered at me from tanks at the wet market.

As it’s winter, I hunted for the 호떡 stand I had seen unoccupied before I left for America. Lo and behold an older woman was waiting for me at her cart in the alley and exclaimed at my good Korean as I happily paid for my sweet, chewy pancake. If you’re American, I can guarantee that you would love this— it’s like a chewier funnel cake with honey nut filling.

I wandered the streets happily munching. It’s strange to feel at home in a place where I’m still scared of going into a new restaurant alone.

When I made it back, fingers much colder than before, House Owner invited me to her mother’s second birthday dinner without a second thought. This time it was her other at sister who joined and we ate boiled pork and a rainbow cake.

“I’m pretty much used to Korean life except for eating cake with chopsticks. That’s strange to me.”

I’m currently in my bedroom trying to delete 50GB of doubled video footage and searching for an in-person Korean tutor so I have some reason to leave the house; I can hear the Russian playing video games live with his friends and the family continuing the birthday celebrations. Surrounding myself with good people, even if by Airbnb’s matchmaking, has been a blessing.

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