26.10.2019 - 07.11.2019 20 °C
I don’t really know what to say about Seoul. It wasn’t bad, but I was never amazed by the place, or the food. There was art, some cool to look at, but never really impressive. There were temples and palaces, but not so different than anything I saw in China. There were clean streets and easy access to any part of the city, but I’ve seen all of that before. If there was anything that I will hold on to, it is the memories of the people I met there.
Like in Taiwan, most of them were foreigners, travelers like myself. Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Germany, Australia, and more passed through while I was there. We shared an apartment that was far too small, but it was clean and close enough to everything that it was good. It could have been miserable if we weren’t all laughing at our problems, giving bad advice and complaining all at once.
We laughed as we gave worse and worse advice to Germany about the guy she left behind, doing nothing useful to help distract or solve the problem, but all of us laughing and exploring the problem we have all gone through, the people left behind.
We laughed even harder listening to Morocco try and explain his views of the world, most of them in the domain of a 15-year-old rather than a 30-year-old. Simplistic ideas of diet, politics, and relationship delivered in a way that always seemed like he was just being an asshole. The truth was that he believed it, but was open to changing his opinion. He just couldn’t hear or see the attitude he presented with it.
Portugal was my favorite, a strong, independent personality with a beautiful all-encompassing laugh. An artist traveling and working out in the world. I’ll always remember the long conversations and laughter we shared, talking about everything and nothing. The first conversation we had was about Morocco, right after she arrived. Morocco was arguing about the need for cattle, and he was so sure that he was right that he never realized that when Portugal said she was vegan she didn’t mean that everyone had to be the same. I was off to the side, laughing constantly but unable to explain because I was brushing my teeth. Portugal kept looking back and forth, trying to see why I was laughing while he was being such a condescending asshole.
I finished and Morocco went to bed, and Portugal and I sat up talking. I explained my laughter, that I could see that he is not just an asshole, he just sounds like one. That he can and will change his opinion when he is wrong, that it sounds more like an attack than it was. I laughed because he was so unaware of what he sends into the world that he cannot see why people don’t like him. That he can’t see why his humor fails or his explanations never convert anyone. I laugh because of the beautiful innocence wrapped around his failed attempts to look strong, to look like a leader. He reminds me so much of so many other friends I have had in life.
Spain never really stopped working. Sitting in front of his computer programming, cleaning things left behind by others, finding translations for the new appliances, or helping organize and set up the house, he never really stopped. More of a leader, someone who does things rather than orders others, leaving a place better than when he arrived.
Turkey was also one of my favorite people, a fierce burning personality, adventurous and independent, going out to see the world because she can.
It was interesting to see how often I made her laugh with the same kind of comments that Morocco made, but somehow, he always made her annoyed. In comedy, like so much of life, delivery is everything. I remember the walking tour we went on, traveling through the back alleys of the art district for an hour, then somehow the tour went into the tech stores, like computer parts and murals belonged in the same tour. We talked and laughed, pointing out the cutesy sayings on the walls, like “my heart goes pit a pat” in neon over a coffee shop. It was amusing to see her eyes roll with annoyance, and I loved hearing her perfect, near constant singing as she walked through life. I wish I had half as clear a voice as she does.
There are other memories, fragments of conversations, jokes, wandering the city and sitting in the café. There are locals I met, long discussions of Korea and culture, of music and learning. But that is what Korea was for me, a place that I forgot almost as soon as I left, the void filled with people I could spend a lifetime traveling with. Laughter and complaints, beauty and sadness.
In a way, I am glad I never really connected to Seoul. There is a joy I find in places that I need to be alone for, accompanied by crashing waves, the wind in the trees, spectacular meals, and lonely sunsets. People can be a wonderful distraction, but there are times when I just want to feel the world alone. I missed out on that in Seoul, but I will never regret what I found there.