Finally, now that it's more than a week past, the final chapter in my April 26th adventures. I'm sorry to report that there are no photographs for this segment.
So, my ramblings had taken me past the comic books museum and the library, and now I was standing at a trail head. There's a bit of a mountain behind the library. It's nothing serious, but it was green and lovely, and there was a trail headed up it from right where I was standing. My watch told me that I had nothing but time, so why not? I put away my mp3 player and started up the gradual incline.
Did I mention that it was green and lovely? There was a bird somewhere that I could hear, but not see. What I do know is that it wasn't a magpie, pigeon, or sparrow, which made it automatically more interesting than any other bird I'd seen in months. The trail wasn't crowded, but I could pretty much always see other people. I always feel a little out of place hiking in Korea because I don't have the official Korean hiking uniform.
Every Korean seems to own a full-on Gortex matched-set outfit, and when they hike, even if it's a casual day hike, they come decked out with hiking boots, a collapsible walking stick, and a full backpack with a drinking cup swinging loosely on the back of it. I was wearing a pair of tan slacks, and a long-sleeved cotton shirt. I was decked out with my messenger bag and my red Keens (which make me feel like I'm an 'in crowd' hiker anywhere else in the world but garner disapproving glances here.)
Anyway, about 15 minutes along the trail a little old man started waving to get my attention and shouting, "You come here! You come here!" I wandered over, assuming he just wanted to practice his English. Well, he didn't really have much English to practice. I knew more Korean than he did English, which is really saying something. We still pounded out a bit of a conversation in which he learned that I'm from near Texas, I'm an English teacher, and that I'm not married. Having exhausted all my Korean resources and feeling that I'd done my 'foreign novelty' duty, I told him it was nice to meet him and goodbye and continued on the trail. He continued, too, pace for pace with me.
After we'd hiked side by side in silence for about 10 minutes we came to a little rest area. He grabbed my arm and pulled me over to a bench where he sat me down and sat next to me. This time we stretched out conversation to include what part of town I lived in and how beautiful Korea is. There were a couple of middle-aged women sitting on the bench to our left pouring themselves coffee out of a silver thermos. He turned and asked them for some coffee, which they poured into a paper cup and handed to him and he promptly tried to pass on to me. I didn't know enough Korean to tell him that I don't drink coffee for religious reasons, so I just said 'no, no coffee' over and over while he demanded to know why until he gave up and drank it himself.
When we started walking again he stretched his curiosity about my drinking habits and asked if I drank rice wine, beer, or rice liquor. After getting no, no, and no. He asked what I do drink. I told him water, milk, and juice. He said something I didn't understand and pointed at my belly. My guess is that he said, 'Well that's why you're so fat.' But it might have been, 'By the way, that shirt really suits you.' He then proceeded to ask what kinds of meat I like to eat and what sports I like to play. He shook his head disapprovingly the entire conversation. He told me that I needed to eat kimchi, which I assured him I do.
About this time we stepped off the trail onto a busy street I didn't recognize. I looked around for a sign that might tell me where we were. My hiking buddy grabbed my arm again and started pulling me to the left. I was starting to worry that he might be planning to take me home with him as his new pet American. When I didn't follow him he indicated that the subway station was that way. We spent a good 40 minutes strolling silently through the city together. He offered to buy me some milk, but I declined since I had water in my bag and didn't really want to drink milk after hiking all afternoon. He seemed disappointed and I was a little sorry for that. Finally we arrived and Bucheon station. He gave me a piece of paper with his name and phone number on it and waved me away.
All in all, we spent over an hour and a half together.
When I got home I pulled off my Keens and examined the pair of blisters I'd acquired, looked disapprovingly at my favorite hiking shoes, took a shower, and watched two episodes of House.