This weekend passed by much too quickly. Why do weekdays pass by so slowly, yet the weekend whizzes by before you know it? It’s a rhetorical question, of course. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. It’s a statement that’s more than a cliché. Perhaps I need to enjoy my work more so it too will pass by quickly. Of course I already enjoy what I do for a living immensely. I think I have the best job in the world. Still, working is never as much fun as having time off. On Saturday morning I went into work for a few hours. Much as I like my job, I can think of many other activities I would rather do outside the office—especially on a Saturday. For example, I’d much rather meet up with old friends.
On Saturday evening, I had dinner with an old friend I never thought I would see again. He is a Korean executive I tutored in English a couple years ago while I was pursuing my MBA at the University of Washington. I tutored him for almost half a year in Seattle. He was the first Korean to introduce me to Korean food, and for that I am very grateful. We spent a lot of time doing numerous activities in the Seattle to help him improve his English. We did a few of the things you must do when visiting Seattle, such as hiking and drinking coffee at Starbucks while watching the rain pour. He told me many stories about Korea. At the time, I had no idea I would end up living here and filed them in the back of my mind. I still remember many of his stories and suggestions. He returned to Korea in 2003. When I arrived in Seoul, I E-mailed him to let him know I now live here. His E-mail returned to me undeliverable, and I thought I would never locate him. My wife, who still speaks Korean better than I, called him a couple weeks ago, and we finally reconnected. He was pleasantly surprised to find out I was here and that I will be here for a couple of years. He told me that he no longer works at his old company and now has a much better job with a smaller company. Unfortunately, it’s located in Busan, and every week he has to commute back and forth between Seoul and Busan (about three hours by high-speed train). He doesn’t want to relocate his family to Busan because his children are at a critical age when living in Seoul is important to getting into some of the best universities in Korea (most elite Korean universities are in greater Seoul). It’s tough on his family, but he says it’s worth the sacrifice. Knowing what I know about Korean culture now, I believe him.
We reunited on Saturday night for dinner. I met his wife and children for the first time, and they met my wife and son for the first time. We spoke both Korean and English. My friend speaks excellent English, but his family does not speak it well. My wife and I speak some Korean, and we tried to talk in Korean as much as we could. Fortunately, my friend was a good sport and served as translator. His family really enjoyed seeing our life here in Seoul in an American enclave. They were also surprised to see some of the amenities we enjoy, especially our yard. In a place where land is at a premium, having a lawn is a big luxury.
I’m glad we were able to meet again. We’ve decided to get together soon and will probably go over to his house for dinner. In my relentless pursuit to meet and get to know Koreans, I’m glad I already have some good Korean friends in Seoul. It is a challenge to befriend Koreans, and culture always seems to get in the way. This is a good start.