By: Kelly Riley
Ever since I have gotten to South Korea I have been struck with inspiration to write sentences or paragraphs of thoughts, sights or experiences I have had. I finally compiled them from the random notebooks and email drafts to form this. I will update it with more batchs as I collect them. They are short, and corny at other times, but I wanted to share. Enjoy!
At night the mountains looked like spilt black ink pooling against the horizon.
The leaves had turned yellow, a stark contrast to the dark bark. They looked beautiful in their distinction, barely clinging to life. But one tree had given up, just barren naked branches with no startling yellow remaining. It had lasted as long as it could, fought against the pressures of time and season. But finally it gave into death. It was almost sad, the only tree that stood naked against its brothers, but as I jogged beneath it a soft crinkling pulled my gaze. Yellow leaves littered the field as exquisite as rose petals dropped by a lover’s hand. In its last moment that tree released its beauty into the world.
Every day I looked up to the mountain and watched as the green faded away, tracking the vibrant yellow on its march north.
We idled at a stop light, fog hanging like blankets around us. A car materialized from the mist as it rushed past us. Within seconds it was swallowed up again, dropping us back into that seeming isolation.
On those long bus rides through the countryside we would see the edges of mountains carved into shelves. Smooth marble gravestones studded across them. They had the best seats in the house and no eyes to see it.
They pulled three tables together and began bringing plates and plates of side dishes. They were soon filled with assorted kimchis, chopped napa cabbage, garlic, seaweed and others I couldn’t even name. As more soccer teammates showed up so did more food, sashimi, dried fish and dipping sauces. They had two grills cooking away with cuts of beef, samgypsal, sausages (some oozing with cheese), and chicken. “Boga, Boga,” they urged me to eat, dropping food onto my plate, and when I didn’t eat that fast enough, dropping it directly into my mouth. I had eaten my weight in meat and veggies when a teammate emerged from the kitchen holding a giant gold pot. She placed it right in front of me and pulled back the lid to reveal clams, shrimps, and chunks of fish all simmering in a red broth. I couldn’t help it; I gasped and took a picture, much to my teammates’ amusement.
It’s in those quiet moments when the bus is silent, the world outside is dark and rushing past the window steadily. Your eyes trail over the mountains on the horizon, or the string of lights lining a distant bridge, you just take it in, swish that realization around your mind, getting used to the taste of it. This is your life, and you wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.
I let the soup slip over my tongue, relishing the slight burn on my lips from the spice. Gamjatang would always be a satisfying experience.
At night from my porch I’d look out towards the mountains, their outlines sometimes like curved black against the sky, other times blending completely. A car might drive down the mountain road, lights slipping smoothly towards the string of pepper streetlights before being swallowed by the night.