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.

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