February 9

The new roommate could not look less like The Rock. House Owner has lost her people description privileges.

The Not Rock is a tall, white man, with hair, and super blue eyes whose humor and mine are not on the same page. At the very least, the first thing he said when I wandered through in my pajamas (my day clothes, really) “Hi, sorry if I surprised you.”

He’s here for a week or two while he waits on his visas (he’s betting on two separate countries and the winner will be his new home). He’ll have to do a two week quarantine in his new country but as he’s from New York, he explained that having essentially been in lockdown for a year nothing can phase him.

We parted ways at the gate, he to find the beach and I to hike my backyard mountain.

I took the usual way up by the hair salon and started down the usual way towards the science building. There’s a nice park and for the second time in a row, I saw the same two retired men. They tend to do one pushup then talk about karaoke, then a few bench press reps and talk about dinner plans. The rounder faced one squinted at me in recognition. I’m not hard to pinpoint: the only people I’ve seen at the park are 60+ year old Korean men.

My friend!

The friend offered to buy him rice wine then waved himself off. There was a moment where it was just the two of us and I felt he was close to starting a conversation when a few more men came to sit on the benches and do a single pushup.

I imagine next time I go, we’ll become friends for sure.

I’m still trying to find a special path I used months ago, one that starts behind a tennis court. Once again I did not find it but somehow ended up under an archery range and then in a construction site.

Well, that certainly wasn’t it. An older passing man told me something gravelly in Korean which I assumed was, “don’t go down there, it’s a pile of rocks and dirt”. I hiked back up the archery range and then past an empty shed which was no help, but the hikers I passed became my beacon until I was finally spat out by the science building.

My goal is to find that tennis court exit before I move out of Busan next month. Symbolism.

My mountain days come with a certain routine after, too. There’s a mart on the corner on my way back and I stopped in to pick up shrimp dumplings.

The cashier’s eye makeup was beautifully applied and done with care, and in a style that the average Busan woman doesn’t wear to work. I almost never see dark eye makeup on women over forty so it really struck me, especially her more Western style: extended lashes and dark mascara. As someone who regularly gets eyelash perms and has specs for mascara, I loved it.

“Your eye makeup is really pretty!” I told her, compelled, because she put in the work and deserved to be complimented.

She immediately replied with enthusiasm which confirmed that she had done her makeup with attention to detail.

“Oh, thank you, no, your eyes are pretty!”

It was such a true woman moment that I smiled all the way home.

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