This weekend, I hopped on yet another bus, and made the trek to Sokcho, on the northeast shore. Sokcho is the smallest city in South Korea, and current home to my longtime friend and former roommate, Babbie. It was great to see her for the third time in two months. These frequent visits make me feel like home really isn't that far away, and the world is growing smaller with each year that I inhabit it.
This trip was my furthest exploration outside of Pohang yet, and it was rewarded with some experiences I have long been craving since I arrived. Babbie and I, along with Megan and Courtland, went to a coffee house acoustic show in Gangneung. The performers were more friends of Babbie's from her first year teaching in Sokcho. They were welcoming and inclusive, and even asked Babbie and I to play a little music at the break. The music was good, and the crowd supportive. This is the first live music I have attended since I arrived, and it ended leaving me inspired to seek out more of the same. I miss opened mics and acoustic sets, and I am beginning to wonder if I shouldn't go about creating something like it here in Pohang. The jury is still out, we shall see.
After the show, the shop owner, Lim, invited us into his beautiful home, where he made us a Korean meal. We were up until all hours, talking and listening to his stories about his family, his travels, and his career as an entrepreneur. As the night wound down, he invited us to stay, as the hour was early and our original plan not quite as comfortable. We accepted the invitation with much gratitude. In the morning, after a good night's rest, he cooked us another traditional meal, followed by tea and further conversation. He was a genuine person and treated us with such great kindness and hospitality, we all came away feeling comforted and warmed.
We had stayed at Lim's much longer than we planned, but none of us had regrets. When we left, we had a little time remaining to enjoy the emerging sun on the beach in Gangneung. As the cab pulled around a corner and the coastline emerged, my breath escaped me. The horizon opened up on crystal blue waters, breaking waves, and golden sand littered with shells. The beach in Pohang is beautiful, but this, was magical.
On my bus ride home, I breathed deeper. There is so much to see and do here, and a year really is not so long. There is so much ageless natural beauty amid a culture of genuine hospitality. When I have moments in which that is fully realized, I begin to wonder why I ever feel lonely here.