Korea.

Having an extroverted personality, nurturing relationships, being around people and interacting with others come naturally to me. There’s one person though, I was not too sure if I knew her well enough then– myself.

I left work after a hectic work week on a Friday night, my mind was in a whirl, exhausted but also excited. As I was packing my bags, it started to sink in that I’ve booked a trip to Korea 2 weeks ago and it’s going to be the first time I’m going somewhere foreign all on my own. It then dawned upon me that there isn’t anyone to tell you what to do, or how you should do it. That sudden realisation crippled me for a second, then it came acceptance and liberation.

I flew by Scoot. There were rainbow lights in the cabin. “With rain comes rainbow,” I thought. I met a Korean girl on her flight home, she spoke good English. She told me her parents were picking her from the airport and I found myself struggling to remember when I last sent someone off or for received at the airport. After catching a few winks, I alighted. It was dark and the breeze came through the agape section between the aircraft and the land connector. The process at the customs was just as breezy. I stepped out of the airport and it smelt different, it’s not Singapore anymore.

The Korean girl’s family met me, and bought me bubble tea at the airport to welcome me into their country. They dropped me nearer to my new crib, and knowing I had extremely limited conversational ability in Korean, they waited for my taxi to tell him the address. I stayed at Hongdae and it was crowded on a Saturday night with youngsters having chats, laughing and playing outside. They seemed well prepared with beers and snacks. Everything had cheese with it. I got changed and went out. I got a crabstick cheese snack from Family Mart (so I figured they bought all of it from there as well), sat on the bench just like the locals, breathe in deeply and soak up all the moonlight, street lights and the smells of bbq meat. I opened my eyes and this two guys walked by and said hi.

I let out a doubtful greeting.

“Hi?”

“Are you local?”

“No, why?”

“You speak good English.”

“My friends’ coming,” I casually told a lie.

“You want to learn some Korean? We’re both English Teachers here.”

And that’s how I learnt my two life-saving phrases in Korean: “Isseo” means “have”, and “Eopseo” means “don’t have”.

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