PhunkyPhishPhood and the lost flip flop..

Trip Start Jun 17, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Thursday, August 4, 2005

Nine years later.. I ate phunkyphishphood we named ugly fish lacking the English term to properly name the creature on our table.. nine years later.. my friend and I got a little wiser and overcame the cultural differences more easily.. nine years later.. I was shocked by the changes on the campus ground that used to be my home.. nine years later.. it was not the two of us but we strolled with four, one of us always losing his flip flop.. nine years later.. my friend has a family, a house and a company, while I, well I am still the bird of freedom roaming the planet.. nine years later.. he tells me I have more wrinkles in my face than he could remember.. nine years later.. people speak English, the technology is more advanced than in the West and I feel dumb.. nine years later I returned to Korea.

For those of you who don't know, nine years ago I studied in Korea for a while, in Daegu to be precise. One of the many people I met there, and the only one I stayed in touch with, is Stone. Five years ago Stone got married to Cindy, and they celebrated their honeymoon in the Netherlands. If you're wondering, no, Stone, Cindy and Thomas are not their real names.. Korean names are a bit difficult to remember for Westerners (and me in particular, haha), which is why they adopted Christian names as well.

In the past two weeks I visited Stone and Cindy in Daegu, Korea. I had the time of my life! Untill my return I had not realized I loved Korea so much. Yes, I knew I loved the food. Korean food I feel cannot be compared to any other food in Asia. So far, I did not find an affordable restaurant in the Netherlands that serves Korean food, and I craved some good kimchi, bulgogi and kimbab. Yes, it's all gibberish to you, but take it from me Korean food is delicious!

Also, I remembered the specific combination of temperature and humidity, some of the smells of Korea, the incredibly overdone information displayed on each and every building in the city of Daegu, as well as the grey hue overlaying Korea's landscape. But once there more things came back to me quickly. I picked up the Korean alphabet easily this time, though I am still incredibly bad at memorizing words. Also, I absolute love the sliding windows that are a standard in Korean apartments. Small things that made Korea special to me nine years ago, made Korea special to me this time as well.

Korea did not stay the same though. I am amazed by how Korea has developed over the past nine years. People speak English now! That was quite different nine years ago. I used to communicate with hand and feet, now I could communicate in English in most of the stores. Technologically it seems Korea surpassed Europe, probably also the US. I have seen far more advanced communication gadgets, wireless internet is available widely, people watch television on their mobile phones. Prices rose dramatically as well, though. Visiting Korea on a budget is no longer an option.

The highlight of my trip to Korea definitely was spending time with Stone and Cindy. Stone and Cindy have a little boy, Thomas, who was a bit shy towards me.. Now that I have left he turns out to miss me, haha! Although Stone and I have been in touch throughout the years, I feel we only really got to know each other this time. We spent most of my time in Korea together. Cindy and Stone were the most amazing hosts, showing me around Korea, letting me take part in their daily lives, helping me organizing the things I needed to do.. Things I needed to do? Yes. For example, I needed malaria tablets for China. I had not brought them from the Netherlands to keep down my luggage to a weight I could carry, assuming it would be easy to find the tablets in Asia. Not the case, though. In China the average pharmacist did not understand what I was talking about, and in Korea I needed a prescription. So Cindy went to the doctor and got a prescription for me!! How wonderful is that?

More things I needed to do.. get the whole stolen credit card and bank card thing working again. My father organized the new cards as well, and sent them by carrier to Stone and Cindy's home address, at different points in time. The only thing I needed to do was activate them by sending faxes with signatures and all, and try if everything worked fine. Well, it didn't, and it again took several banks, ATMs, a swallowed card that had never been used, Cindy's perseverance, new faxes and phone calls between my father and the bank to get everything working on the night before my departure. Just in time..

Now, I said Stone was the only person that stayed in touch throughout the years, which is true. But in November I received an e-mail from Peter, whom I also spent a lot of time with nine years ago. Peter was a teacher in English Literature at Keimyung University at that time, and apparently he had stayed there. We started mailing back and forth and decided to meet again in Daegu. Now he is doing much more at Keimyung university, apart from teaching several bachelor and master courses he is writing his PhD and he started an international lounge at Keimyung, where students can practice their foreign language skills in an informal environment. All in all very impressive and he seems to be working round the clock, seven days a week. It was good seeing Peter again, he had not changed a bit. Unless me he did not get wrinkles, haha!

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