Kimchi, jigsaws and combs

by darribas

I wrote this text on my travel notebook during the flight back home from Seoul to Madrid and I translated it into english this morning on the bus to Zaragoza, my hometown. I didn´t make any correction before uploading it here, so they are just the raw words, exactly the same way they came from my pen. I hope you enjoy this at least as much as I did it while writing it.

“It´s amazing how fast time runs when one is happy. I remember the day I landed in Korea as if it was yesterday: in my personal dictionary one couldn´t find any entry for the word “kimchi”; eating with chopsticks was nothing for me but a cultural experience, just like visiting a museum or looking at a picture; and hangul resembled my geometry lessons back in the days of school rather than a real written language. I had no clue at all about the place where I had just arrived. But I did have something that, flashing back now everything is over, turned out much more valuable: I had got time, time to discover and to learn.

Afterwards, I had the chance to get to know great people with whom, step by step and moment by moment, I filled a jigsaw which seemed irresolvable by the first day. Thus, all together we placed pieces made of mud, pottery and minced ice mixed with sparse fruit; pieces written in hangul characters, telling Korean contemporary history or decorated with Joseon Dynasty´s draws; of course, also Friday-night pieces which sounded like hip-hop and tasted like sohu and even some “made in China” ones seeped. We went to karaokes and sang luckily, alien to the fact that every song which finished took us closer and closer to the end of the party.

This morning, I´ve left those survivors who have been able to scratch a few hours from their new life routines just to stay with me till very the end. I guess I never really knew how to say goodbye, and the word “thanks” is too short to fit all the feelings and smiles I wish I could put between the “t” and the “s”. I only find consolation by thinking if a guy decides not to sleep the night before class starts just to share it with me, it means that, at least a bit, he has had a good time close to me.

The more I travel, the more I believe one finally leaves his hometown and becomes world citizen once he is able to be happy in any remote place and with people from every corner of this planet. I speak for me, but I think there´s a bit of everyone in it if I say that this now-ending month has made us slightly more habitants of this global hamlet we´ve been bound to live in than before.

In Spain, we usually say that experience is a comb life gives you once you´ve already become bald. Today, kimchi accounts for several lines in my own life dictionary; chopsticks are nothing but an extension of my hands when it´s time to eat; and hangul is something at least I can read if I see it written. But I don´t have time any more and in my jigsaw there´s only one empty space which is reserved for the tears these lines have taken me. Yet I´m glad because I know that once I hang it in my room of the memories I´ll be able to glance at it and think: yes, I did go there and I was happy.”