Saturday morning. I wake up, roll around in bed for a while, clinging to those last precious sleepy tendrils, before finally admitting defeat and descending from my loft bedroom. I enjoy a simple breakfast and coffee, attempt some yoga (which always turns into a one girl zumba dance instead), do the dishes in my undies (perks to living alone?) and finally shower and get ready to venture out.
I plan for a solitary day: grade papers and read my book at the park, shop for a few things I need at Emart, maybe catch a movie?
But as it happened, the universe had other things in store for me.
I meander around the park until I find a decent spot on some flat rocks in the sunshine, away from the throngs of bike riders and Korean couples with their dogs and toddlers. Before I can reach inside my backpack though, I hear a bright and loud “Helloooo!” from behind me. I turn to see an older Korean woman in a white bucket hat waving at me like we were besties; a small 5-year-old boy ambling behind her.
Alright, so when you live in a city of almost one million and hardly anyone speaks your language, you are truly a foreigner. It can be lonely, to not be able to connect on even the smallest of daily interactions. So I guess that can explain why, my first response to this waving ajumma (Korean grandmother) was to jump up with a stupid grin on my face.
“Hi!” I reply and (God bless her) she comes over to sit with me. We get to talking because her English is decent and whatever miscommunications we have we just giggle and shrug. She has kind brown eyes, a smooth face and a short crop of black hair under her hat. I find out that she’s been to America a dozen times for business (she sells guitars and banjos).
She sits and chats with me for over an hour. I briefly meet her grandson who is rather unimpressed and resumes playing with rocks and sticks and such.
After a while I notice another Korean woman nearby taking pictures of the little boy. Micaela (as I now know her) explains that it’s her sister. We are introduced but her sister doesn’t speak any English at all.
Micaela asks me, “She has daughter, she is 13, that could maybe English lessons. You have time?” I tell them yes and they get excited. “She will call her.” The sister speaks with her daughter on the phone and both of the woman start chuckling.
“What happened?” I ask.
Micaela translates: “Her daughter say, “No! Mom, I don’t want to learn! How could you?Asking some stranger on the street!”
And now we are all laughing together. Sounds like a normal 13 year old to me.
After the laughter subsides Micaela translates again, ” My sister. She has sweet heart. She is feeling sorry. You are here 3 weeks. You are lonely. We will want to give you food.”
And so that’s how I find myself in a small Korean diner on a Saturday afternoon, eating every kind of rice and noodle imaginable with this kind little family.
“I have cottage” Micaela tells me as I stuff seaweed wraps of flavored sticky rice in my mouth (They provided the five-year-old and me with forks).
“Cottage?” I repeat.
“You have a cottage?”
“C o t t i g e ?”
“Like small house”
“Yes cottage. In the country. We will go one weekend together”
I like this woman’s confidence!
“I would love that!” I say, smiling ear to ear at my new ajumma.
She insists on paying for the whole meal. And as we walk back to the park together, I smile into the sunshine at the happy turn of events. Before we part she sticks out her hand and I go to shake it. She holds it, looks me in the eye and tells me “So we should meet many times.”
Count me in, lady. Count me in.