To The Famous Imis

Yesterday I received the stress tonic I needed. During the week my head felt like it was being pulled and concertinaed. In Seoul I was feeling off colour and the day after coming back I was sick. I felt drained and the thought of another 7 months here, teaching class after class left me feeling mentally exhausted. I could go more into the ins and outs of this week but I can’t be arsed. Snooker balls are still rolling about my head, not all of them pocketed after my decision to stay. Basically, at the beginning of the week I was leaving by the end of the week I was staying. My director has agreed to cut my hours which here in South Korea is a big win. One choice is the sensible one, the other where my wild heart wants to go.

So yesterday morning, it was Saturday and the joy of being here lies in getting up early on a weekend morning and making the journey to the bus or train station and heading somewhere I’ve never been before. This time the journey was to head away from a city. Seoul was excellent. I need the buzz of a city. Equally I need the space where people don’t occupy.

On the jerky bus that served to make some of my travel companions sick we arrived at Yesou. My imagined ideas of Yesou were somewhat more romantic but I forgot that this is Korea and its winter and it was grey or was it smog? Our bus passed the brown land which looks like it’s been scorched dead from dry heat but it hasn’t. During the summer it was green because summer is wet. Now it is dry and barren. There was blue sky every day last week. I love that. Chilled days that don’t feel as chilled as England despite a lower temperature gauge and blue sky instead of dark dreary grey. Yesterday it was dreary and a small town in Korea on a dreary day looks dreary.

The town circles round the mountain and Koreans love to hike so accessing the mountain is easy. There was a cheer and then clapping as we reached the top of the steps that led to a path. A foreign moment in a foreign land. For some unknown reason the site of a 6ft something white man, a black guy and two small white girls caused applause as students lined the steps letting us pass and their teacher took pictures.

A few flakes of snow tried to fall as we climbed up past trees with no leaves. At the top no view, the sea merging into the sky but still a different view. A knock on the foot from a woman’s stick to get me to move out of her way on the path could have felt worse than being barged out of a subway tube but yesterday it wasn’t. I laughed as a man popped out of a small hut on top of the mountain. He garbled something, returned to his hut and reappeared dangling something by my head. I accepted it before realizing (with relief) the dark, rough, squishy looking thing was an incredibly well cooked sweet potato. He danced behind me, shaping his hands in an hour glass figure urging me to eat the potato for my body. It was pretty hysterical.

After a terrible lunch in a terribly decorated restaurant. Flower bouquets that could have come straight out of the “The Wedding Singer”, our little posse settled into “Imis”, the famous coffee shop that I’d heard so much about in Yesou. Its minimalist wooden interior came as a relief after the fake flowered queasy inspired restaurant. Hans, its owner, spoke great English and I copied Angie in asking for a fancy “pour over coffee”. I wasn’t sure what this was but the smell of the cafe was great. I already knew there was a good reason why people talked about it. A mellow Mexican bean to accompany my rich blueberry cheesecake and the conversation circled from pooping to the USA’s involvement in Iraq.

Not yet wanting to go home to our isolated Korean lives, Angie and myself checked out the CGV cinema and, “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Swearing, sex and drugs all carried out in a completely silent cinema. The slapstick movements of Leo trying to reach his car after a massive drug hit high got giggles, I was submerging my giggles in my scarf during descriptions of pussy.

It was a tonic day.

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