January 31

The little flame of fluency achievability was extinguished with a sad little poof on Saturday. I met my friend Rachel at the bus stop and she told me, “you’ve forgotten a lot, haven’t you”.

Seven weeks without Korean practice in the face of a friend who saw my ability before I left for the US meant an obvious loss of skill.

I usually speak Korean with her and as usual by the end of the day my brain was cooked. I was mentally exhausted and physically worn out from our day trip where we completed not one but two Busan bucket list checks.

Both Gamcheon Culture Village and Eulsukdo Island were smaller than I thought, with the latter being so disappointing we simply bought coffee and got back in the car.

I thought the island had really nice sites but the reality is it’s essentially a giant community center with no access to the shoreline. Live and learn.

To get in some real views we stopped by fields near her house in Gimhae.

“We have to be careful because there are a lot of Burberry men lurking.”

Last week in class I learned this phrase because the teacher commented on my trench coat then explained how the generic term for trench coat in Korean is “Burberry” and a Burberry man is the term for a flasher. It appears men in trench coats arouse suspicion everywhere…

The view was quite spectacular even with the tall dead grass.

She gave her cousin a call, the one I’d met before during Chuseok, but he didn’t pick up.

We concluded our adventure and while she was dropping me off at the station, her cousin called in.

As the Russian’s behavior grows increasingly erratic (I found him outside screaming into a towel the other day), and as I sometimes feel exhausted with the weight of having to protect myself from discomfiting behavior of men known and unknown, it was an instant relief to hear his familiar voice babbling at me in Korean about my trip home and where I’m moving next.

Rachel had to translate because I have gotten worse in Korean after all.

I enjoy being a part of their family where I’m kept safe, happy, and fed.

And somewhere in Gamcheon we paid a thousand won for our fortunes and after I moaned at the paper filled with Korean text, Rachel translated:

“Oh it’s good. It’s really good!”

So I’ll put my faith in the monkey zodiac and my friends and keep moving forward with eyes lifted high.

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