LASTING TRANSITIONS

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Autumn Prospects

Autumn Colors at Hyewha Park

Autumn in South Korea reminds me of a verse written by the French philosopher and writer Albert Camus: Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Up until a few days ago, every corner and park in South Korea were filled with iridescent trees that fostered a warmth inside my soul. The beautiful autumn colors and soothing sunlight that I encountered on every stroll throughout town would strangely stimulate memories of childhood that haven’t been reminisced for many years. To me, autumn is a nostalgic season that yearns for splendid times of the past, but also nurtures moments to ponder the fortuitous possibilities of the future. Let the pondering begin…

The last several Saturday afternoons I’ve been spending time with a Korean girl-friend named April that I met through another fellow English teacher.

April ponders while drinking Chinese tea

The communication barrier is very minimal as she knows an English extensively, and from how things are going and the genuine happiness I feel while spending time with her, there shouldn’t be any doubt that we develop a great friendship. Of course, I’m open for the possibility of something more if the opportunity were to present itself in the future, but for now, I’m quite jubilant to just have the chance to spend time with her joyously laughing our afternoons away while venturing throughout Seoul.

Last weekend, April invited me to join her and her best friend named Jin, on a stroll through Hongdae.

Jin gazes into the distance in Hongdae

April & Jin pointing out something

Immediately upon meeting Jin, I found her to be just as charming as April and I was able to quickly ascertain why they are best friends. On the 30 minute busride to Hongdae, I was asked where I’ve traveled to in the past among other things. Delighted to hear this question, I told them a few joyous stories of my extended time studying and teaching in Spain as well as my unique experience working the grape vineyards in southern France. This immediately caught the attention of Jin as she jumped on the chance to explain that her family owns and operates a fairly large acreage of grape vineyards just a few kilometers south from where I live in Gimpo-si. “Holy cow! Are you serious?” I emphatically questioned.

“Yes. We have many vineyards,” Jin retorted.

After explaining my knowledge and experience with wine, I asked if I could help her family free-of-charge during the next grape harvest season, which will be in September-October of 2011. She felicitously accepted and was happily surprised at the coincidence of my kind gesture.

“It’s hard work, but there is such a unique peace found while working the vineyards and I’d love the opportunity to help out, ” I stated. She duly agreed. I hope to visit her family’s vineyard soon.

Before we reached Hongdae, Jin also described that she and her family are taking a trip to Italy in February. It will be her first time visiting Europe and she became very excited describing her travel plans. Then the conversation somehow drifted to movies and I asked April & Jin if they’ve ever seen the Italian-inspired movie called “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Not having ever seen or heard of it before, in addition to never having tasted true homemade Italian cuisine, plans are now in the works to invite the girls over to try one of my homemade Italian dishes with my very own “special sauce.” Looks like I will be taking another trip to Costco very soon…

Upon reaching Hongdae, I was briefly told what it was all about. “Hongdae” is a nickname abbreviation for Hongik Daehakgyo (Hongik University), which sits west from downtown Seoul. The Hongdae area is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants, boutiques, jazz clubs, and artsy cafes. It draws revelers from all walks of life, especially university students, English teachers, and tourists. Most places are also open fairly late to allow patrons to return home by subway at 6am. Unlike Itaewon, which has a Tijuana feel, Hongdae feels like San Francisco with it’s art-inspired indie ambiance at every turn.

After venturing through the heart of Hongdae and grabbing a quick bite to eat, we all yearned for a warm cup of joe. Whimsically zigzagging our way, we randomly came across a relatively quiet area in Hongdae away from all the hustle & bustle of town in what seemed like, as I aptly coined, a “café district.” We passed an attractive outdoor café with colorful autumn leaves on the ground, but it was just a little too chilly to sit outside, so we moved on.

Outdoor cafe in Hongdae

We then passed by another café very close by, but the name of the café didn’t sound even remotely appealing to me, so we continued on. Perhaps you agree…

Caffeine Laboratory

A half-block away we then stumbled upon a café by absolute random coincidence named Cafe Journey. We immediately fell in love with the place.

Cafe Journey

Cafe Journey patio

It was a little too cold to sit outside, so we ventured inside and were immediately hit with the pleasant redolence of fresh coffee beans and herb plants that were placed on every table.

Coffee beans in wood wine boxes inside Cafe Journey

April, Jin, and I spent close to three hours inside this very comfortable café. We talked, laughed, snapped photos of ourselves, and reminisced many stories from the past that made us all smile; it was truly an afternoon to remember. Upon our departure, I made a vow to visit this café someday soon when I just need to take a break, collect my thoughts, escape the bone-chilling cold, and freely ponder without reprisal. That day came today…

I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t find it again, but I got off the subway near Hongik University and retraced my steps without error through various Hongdae neighborhoods and shopping districts until my successful arrival to my new Korean hideaway: Cafe Journey. In addition to the artsy, quiet ambiance, and the great espresso machiattos, it’s quite a zigzag journey to find Cafe Journey as it’s fairly tucked away from all the congested sidewalks and streets. However, perhaps that’s why I like the place.

Therefore, as I sit here sipping an espresso machiatto, I can’t help but gaze outside at the tawny leaves swirling on the ground and propitiously ponder what the future holds…

3 comments on “Autumn Prospects

  1. Jessie
    November 28, 2010

    Paul,
    So glad you have made such nice friends in South Korea! I love reading about your exciting adventures – you seem to be adjusting QUITE well.🙂 Here’s to what the future holds!

  2. Tim
    November 30, 2010

    Haha…April and Jin know everybody in Gimpo. Yeah they’re very nice ladies…you should have seen April’s flute solo at Louis’ birthday…to sweet

  3. Adam Bender
    December 1, 2010

    “propitiously ponder”…Hahaha, you crack me up man. Everytime I read a blog post I just wait to see what you’re going to be wordy about today. It’s awesome to see you use alliteration with your adjectives and verbs. Have fun, bud, we miss you in Texas. Lori was just talking about you yesterday evening.

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2010 by in South Korea and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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