Second Moon in Seoul

It’s cold! My SoCal body can barely handle it. Thank God for heat-tech, layers, down jackets, and 온돌 (“ondol”) or heated floors. 

Can’t believe it’s already December. The day I write this, December 3rd, was the first snow of the year; it lasted a pretty hour. I’m reminded of my first snow in college. It happened to coincide with my first reading of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, making the whole experience a winter wonderland. Good god, that was nearly nine years ago.

Speaking of college, definitely one of the brightest spots of this second month has been reconnecting with Justin Lovett — my old roommate, trusted friend, and beloved brother. He’s such a goof, so much so that I forget he’s two years older than me; he does too. I mean, who thinks of creating a tent camera-obscura and then pitches it by the Han River — all pro bono?

Instead of late-night runs to McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts or midnight finals’ week sledding, I grab dinner with him and his wife (whose due date is sometime this week — so exciting!) like sophisticated adults. Ha! Just kidding: we still joke, play board games (defending the little village people in Catan), drink beers and wine (not with his wife, obviously), watch TV, throw darts, and ride electric scooters together. Oh, actually, there was that one night we scootered for about 20 minutes in Jamsil to McDonald’s for late-night chicken nuggets.

I feel both younger and older when we meet. Younger because our friendship is eight years deep, and I flashback to our times then. Older because we’ve definitely changed, grown, matured: he’s married and about to be a father; I’ve obtained a MDiv and traveling the world. We’ll continue to change — mature, hopefully — but I’m confident of our friendship. I think it’s because our friendship has evolved from mere similar interests to mutual love and camaraderie.

This month I got to travel more around Korea. First, I went to Hahoe Folk Village in Andong with AJ, a dear brother from LA (see more photos here). It was, wow, breath-taking in its own way. The village doesn’t captivate at first sight; no, it has a different charm. It lulls you in and invites you to stroll about her, to linger at her lasting beauty. It also prostrates in stark contrast to sleepless Seoul — Andong is dead quiet at sunset, which was about 6:00 pm when I stayed. Such a different rhythm. I wonder if places like these relax because they soothe us to match the land’s rhythm: wake up at sunrise; stroll around, not drive; lie down at sunset. Such alignment reminds that we are the land’s inhabitants, not merely some alien drone for quick profit.

Foggy morning at Hahoe Folk Village, Andong, South Korea.

Then, I flew to Jeju lsland — back after about 17 years (see more photos here)! Despite being winter, it was quite warm, almost hot. This made walking and sightseeing that much more enjoyable. I went with my cousin and his girlfriend — they’re so cute. I was a bit of a tag-a-long or third-wheel, but they also knew I wanted to visit Jeju. It was just fun to be with them, and I cannot stress enough. It was being with them that was fun, not just the fact that it was in Jeju, though that did help.

Me, my cousin, and his girlfriend. Don’t we look so cute?

As I’m entering final weeks in Seoul and third month on this Parish Pulpit Fellowship, I’m realizing so much more the gift of bodily presence. Recently late at night, I find myself stretching out my hand into the air, as if trying to touch something. I miss what I had before terribly: the people, the places, the schedule, the habits. The most surprising thing is that I don’t feel lonely; I just miss those things, full-stop.

My rhythm has been shoddy this past month. I’ve gotten lazy, seriously lazy. Now I’m feeling guilty and pressured to work and study harder. Too much free time for too long has not been conducive for productive work. Here’s to changing it during these last weeks in Seoul!

I’m continually finding picturesque, snap-worthy places and cafes: just gawk at this interior!

Holidays are coming. Holidays are tough for some people; I’ve heard that from adults growing up. Probably because the older you get, the more people you lose. I’m thinking about my mom, though we didn’t celebrate many Christmases or New Years together. I’m also thinking about Rodney Sisco (Dec 2018) and now Stephen Rometti (Nov 2019), both precious, precious lights. All three passed away due to cancer. Goddamn it; cancers are the worst. They are painfully paradoxical: cancer cells are undying cells that cause death. They’re malicious.

I’m thinking and praying for the many families during this holiday and advent season.

The two photos above are pictures of where I spread a little of mom’s ashes. Her resting place is near where I grew up. Last year when I was looking for the spot, I wanted somewhere mundane but with a view. Just by looking at the photos, one cannot determine precisely where it is. Korea is mountainous — this could be anywhere! But look at the view below: it’s breath-taking.

Pie Jesu, dona eis requiem
(“Faithful Jesus, give them rest”)