Goryeong: Sunday, May 24

Korea in the spring…slays me.

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Photos of hikes and leafy jaunts Nate and I have taken over the past two months pile up in my folders, but for weeks nothing has really reached out and grabbed me. Nothing has given me that insistent nudge: share me. Nothing has stirred me the way that Korea springtime usually does. Who knows why. But though Spring has been around for a few months now, and is starting the uphill climb to summer, I’m only now catching up with it.

Last weekend one of our favorite families in the whole world invited us for an afternoon in the countryside. Jeong Hui and I met because she mistook me for her son’s new English teacher nearly two years ago, just after I moved to Gyeongsan. Our conversation led me and Nate to the Bible study that’s been our Sunday evening staple ever since, at a small, homey church literally two minutes from our door. She and her family are one of my favorite experiences of real, Gospel community. She and her husband Deok Si have 3 kids: Hana, the oldest, Han Byeol, who is the middle child and does nothing that anyone else is doing and thus is in zero pictures (girl, I get it. do you.), and Han Bit, who is crazy and my favorite person.

Jeong Hui invited us to visit her parents’ home last Sunday afternoon to take a half-day trip. Our awkward moment: we bought a watermelon as a hostess gift because that’s how you do in Korea, and did it without consulting Jeong Hui because we assumed that she’d insist we bring nothing, and sure enough, when we toted the monster melon out to the minivan, Jeong Hui burst out laughing and shaking her head. “No, we insist!” we gaily caroled, and then Jeong Hui said,

“My parents have a watermelon farm…”

Hysterical laughter is a great way to start a road trip.

The afternoon with her family was that proprietary blend of serenity and ease with notes of desperate language barrier awkwardness. Lots of bowing, lots of smiling. After nearly 4 years, it takes on its own rhythm and all I have to do is remember not to fight it.

We drove down to the river nearby with its winding paths and signs identifying various wildlife, and Han Bit begged to stop and see if he could find the rabbits he released last summer. He pouted when Jeong Hui, hardhearted, refused. He got over it when he stuck his head out the window to bark into the wind. (although in Korean dogs say mung-mung. Not woof or the ever-inexplicable bow-wow.)

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We took all the pictures as the men talked fishing and Han Bit tried to steal a boat. The light was magic. Everything was magic.

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Hana can smize for days.

 

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how do you say Huck Finn in Hangul?

 

I realized I hadn’t been out of the city in so long, I couldn’t even really recall the last time. Han Bit found me flowers to photograph and Mom and Daughter talked together.

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such a sweet friend.

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I didn’t want the sun to set. I didn’t want to leave.

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Every occasional car that passed overhead made the bridge rumble like a tractor trailer. Thunder and blue skies.

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This is Korea in spring, after the cherry blossoms and festivals go away, just on the cusp of scorching summer days. These bluesy-soft mountain sky edges and purple breezes, these tall grasses and velvet airs. This is what I’ve been hungering for and this is what I’ll miss so much when we go.

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This, and these.

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Note the Rice-Mask Bandit in bottom center.

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Late Summer Pick-me-up

Late summer, you charmer. You knew I’d be running again and you put on a show for me. Don’t deny it.

You want me to notice everything and you’re not afraid to show off. In fact…you’re a bit of a hussy.

That sun, just barely still sizzly on my shoulders? I see you.

Roadside flowers, lavender and golden-yellow and bright white, nodding on tall, slender stems? Oh please. You know exactly what you’re up to.  And don’t get me started, morning glories.

True-blue sky, shot through with sunbeam-strewn, mile-high clouds? Keep it coming.

And all you green things. Vines on trees on shrubs on vines. Honeysuckle on red berry clusters. All imaginable shades of green tangling over each other in a frantic heap of last-minute growth spurts. Blooming your hearts out before fall lights you up. You might be my favorite. You leaves and branches know how to work your good side, backlit by those opportune sunbursts. Transformed. You reach out and then fall back, but I know you. You’re not shy at all. You’re flirting. You want me to want you, and oh baby, I do. So even if it makes me look a little crazy to the no one who observes me on that long stretch of road–I give in. I’ll stop and take you in and try to catch that essence of woodsy summer that makes it even here amidst high-rise construction and the occasional fertilizer plant. It’s your swan song and you’re making the most of it. You make me crave plums and ice in glasses and no-makeup days. I’d wear sundresses forever if it meant you stuck around. (I wish I could wear sundresses forever anyway.)

We both know this isn’t gonna last and that you might not even be around tomorrow. But wouldn’t you agree we had it good while it lasted? I know I would.