The children at heart had landed innocently and brightly, their hands clasping a drawing book, one for each, its crisp blank pages waiting to be splashed with shapes and colors, their feet wandering and their eyes wondering. Light. With it came a spectacle that was common yet uncommon…
…chilly breeze upon stepping outside the airport, simple tapping of T-card that instantly pays for the transport, smiling faces that welcome you upon entering the hostel, a paradise of all sorts, early morning showers and quick and on-the-go breakfasts, constant movement of the accommodating subway pursued by the rush of locals and tourists from all directions, autumn hues of trees and cute flowers that glimmer on our paths during seemingly endless walks, diverse dialogues that flow profusely anywhere, everywhere, spicy and tasteful Korean cuisine abounding in food stalls and restaurants anywhere, everywhere, fun and interactive games that’ll leave participants tipsy and confused even more as soju and beer bottle caps were continually popped open, fascinating elderly and vibrant youth (frequently glued to their smartphones) that fashionably fill up the streets, city beckoning you with its many interpretations of arts – bright lights and colorful signs, coffee shops with quirky themes, architecture of establishments designed with creativity, abounding cosmetic and clothing stores, restored temples, old monuments and villages that, themselves, narrate unique beauty and history, a culture that is like no other…
I could fill this whiteness merely describing the pulsating city. But I won’t, because you will see it for yourself. You’re going to be the next one loading your pages with words that will seem to be never enough and never exact.
Seoul wrapped itself like a gift. It was an unexpected delight. It’s not what I envisioned to be my first venture abroad, not even on my bucket list. But it made sense. Every detail was alive. It was the highlight, my memory of it doesn’t betray me. And why not? First-time experiences are almost always the remarkable ones. But it was just one among the several factors that made its enriching impact on me. What really hit me, what really chose itself to be a highlight, were the people. (It’s the people more than the place.) That trip wouldn’t be as amazing if done with a different set of travel buddies and newfound friends. This set was good and warm, like a cup of coffee. Really, what more could I ask for? It was one week. And then, nothing was the same. It was one eventful week of my life and I wouldn’t trade it.
On our third day, someone asked me why I chose South Korea. I, myself, was unsure. Out of curiosity perhaps. As far as I’m concerned, that uncertainty got me far for I learned so much…
I learned firsthand that cultures from home and cultures away from home don’t necessary clash. Both exist. Heaps of differences but both must coexist. I learned that striking up a conversation is one of the most important and satisfying gestures when traveling. In fact, good ones go a long way even after they’ve ended. I learned that every minute ticking and every step taken must always be dedicated to exploration. No time and space is wasted in learning. I learned to embrace the reality of the planned and the unplanned, especially the thrill that comes with it. I learned more to enjoy and appreciate moments as they are. I learned a great deal of attachment. There’s the art of vulnerability, there’s also the art of letting go. I learned that for each story we share, there are lines, there are curves, and other kinds of details. They’re present but we don’t see all of its presence. It could be the one telling or the one listening who will make you aware of its wholeness. I learned that revelations of me and the people I’m with tend to peel themselves off naturally along the journey, making this phenomenon one of the best parts of the trip. I learned that possibilities are beyond bounds and beliefs. I learned why people pack their bags and depart with their personal essences of travel. They explore. They go back home and carry with them more than their heavy backpacks.
I could fill this whiteness merely describing what I learned from my visit to the pulsating city. But I won’t, because you will experience it for yourself. You’re going to be the next one loading your pages with words that will seem to be never enough and never exact.
There was much enlightenment. There was much confirmation. You see, I know these and I know those. But the trip somehow wedged itself in the knowing and deepened my understanding of both worlds on the inside and on the outside. Some things sensed some sorts of clarity. Doubts and fears slowly stepped out of the circle. They fight for some space at times but they struggle hard because the courage for happiness has definitely been fighting harder, stronger than ever.
Yes, my very soul got hit in Seoul. This wordplay is nothing but throbbing with truth.
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Love in the Present Tense
Her two ears were dedicated to listening to Drake, Mumford and Sons, and Radiohead on a Sunday.
The brown-skinned girl wore a loud summery skirt, sleeveless black tank top with Hakuna Matata words and bird silhouettes printed on it, cheap flip flops, and a faded and torn two-tone body bag. Her ensemble screamed different among the crowd. Still, her feelings were painfully unchanged. She’s standing on the edge and anytime she might just choose to jump willingly or fall blindly. The weight of silence could push her forward and its gravity could pull her down for good.
The entire day was supposed to consist of a few errands noted on her single yellow post-it. She needed focus yet she walked with lost eyes and distant thoughts. She stopped for a while and tried a new coffee shop. She found calm and scribbled briefly on the white blank page at the back of the receipt. She decided to go home. She followed the queue. She waited too long while carrying heavy purchases and heavy heart.
Monday was a new day stuffed with new encounters.
She wore an oversized yellow shirt with a neon green tank top inside, sandals with neon green and transparent straps, denim shorts, and a printed and earth-hued bag pack. On her agenda was to get a mani-pedi. She fearfully picked a shade of pink nail polish. The scream got louder and she might just explode any time. There might be something wrong but there might be something right too.
She walked. She was looking for a book. She ate in spontaneous cafes where her tired feet would take her. She scribbled again. She found the book. She walked again. She got lost in two cities but she just continued walking until she found the spot to finally ride back home. And she did.
She listened to Bastille for the first time at night.
*Title inspired by Matchbox Twenty’s ‘Yourself or Someone Like You’ album