Vast regions of empty space

Yesterday was, of course, Thanksgiving. A friend of mine invited me to join him for a lunch feast at the Seamen’s Club. I’ve heard a lot about this place but had never been there. So far as I know, it’s a dining club and bar that used to be a place for military personnel to enjoy a slice of Western culture. Now it’s become kind of a status thing for Koreans and a Western oasis for foreign teachers and workers. Koreans have to pay some 220,000 won annually to be a member. For foreigners, it’s free so long as you fill out an application.

I’m sometimes wary of the “foreigner experience.” But I’m really glad I went. The place was relaxed and the Thanksgiving feast was fantastic. We gorged on a buffet of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, broccoli casserole, gravy, and pumpkin pie. I had two full plates, just enough to exceed my limits (as one should on T-day), but not enough to feel discomfort. Hot damn, I needed a meal like that. There’s nothing quite like comfort food.

On the drive over I was talking to one of the English teachers at my university about driving in Korea. I told him I was considering getting a motorcycle. He told me he’s selling his old one, apparently a nice Daewoo 125, whatever that is. Four or five hundred, he told me.

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before. The thought never crossed my mind. So I’d have to learn. And I’d have to figure out the whole Korean process for covering all the legal aspects.

I swore I’d never drive in Korea. I’ve never felt the need. Owning car doesn’t interest me at all, and I’ve been perfectly fine with taxis, walking, and my bicycle. Then of course there are the drivers. They’re insane, especially in our 4 million person cowboy town of Busan. They don’t use their mirrors or their signals, they’re rude, they don’t obey the laws. Nearly everyone who’s spent any time here has had at least one accident.

So why am I even considering a motorcycle? It’s strictly about aesthetics and romantics. The landscape in South Korea is absolutely beautiful. Once you leave the cities, there are endless kilometers of open, rustic countryside. I want to get out alone, under my own direction, and explore. It’s different from America. In the states, you’ve got open land, but there’s not really much mystery to it. Korea, by contrast, is an ancient world, and you can feel that mystique any time you get out of the city. I want to have the freedom to wake up on the weekend, get on a bike with a sleeping bag, and head to Jirisan, or a coastal park, or some hilltop village, and see what I find along the way. It’s not like I’d be taking trips to Seoul (you’re not allowed to take a motorcycle on freeways anyway, so it’s all about the “blue highways”). I’d just like to take some trips when I feel the urge.

So yeah, now I’m really considering it. Hearing all that talk about it charged me up even more. He told me that after he got his motorcycle his perspective on Korea completely changed. He was saying all of the things that I’d suspected.

Bah, just dreaming for now. I’ve got friends in the U.S. who ride motorcycles and there are others here I could get in touch with as well. Before I do anything, I’ll send some emails and try and learn what I’d be getting myself into.

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One Response to “Vast regions of empty space”

  1. Or you could rent a car when the mood hits you. Do they have buses that might take you into the country and leave you till another comes along? Just suggestions.

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