As far as my stomach was concerned, it was enough to call it a home.
To be perfectly honest, I once thought I was born to be a nomad. It was the 2010 hipster thinking I had then I remember the nomadic life may or may not include the following: packing thoroughly, bulky and impossible-to-carry-in-one-hand travel bags, being constantly on the run lest I miss my flight, cooking for myself (GOD FORBID) and always changing homes. Hah, nope. Might not be for me.
Yangcheon Hyanggyo (took me a week of living there to finally get the hang of saying it) was the exact opposite of how our neighborhood in the Philippines is. I’m not gonna lie and tell you that I had the grandest time making friends and whatnot because I didn’t – not in this neighborhood at least. I didn’t even get to know deeply one single neighbor I had (I asked a neighbor one time how and where to throw away my garbage – so much for getting to know someone deeply huh). In the Philippines I knew almost everybody I was living with.
It’s safe to say though that I still found myself calling Yangcheon Hyanggyo another home I had in the world. A tiny piece of land where I make my way to after a long tiring day of walking around and taking photographs. I ate a scrumptious meal one rainy day on an ahjumma-owned restaurant, ate tteokbokki, and bought groceries. As far as my stomach was concerned, it was enough to call it a home.
The nieghborhood housed a beautiful park nearby where the older generation spend most of their afternoons in, walking and eating – THE LIFE, I’m telling you. Out of nowhere, as I sipped my coffee, I’d catch a glimpse of office workers wearing their stylish Adidas slippers off to get some lunch which is something normal in Korea by the way.
Speaking of making friends, I remember making one in the form of an ahjussi bus driver. I may have looked a little too touristy having a camera hanging over my neck and the constant checking of my KakaoBus app to know where the hell I had to go. I have this love-hate relationship towards bus drivers in Korea but for this one in particular, I had a decent time with. I was on my first real day of exploration and of course like the criminal that I am I had to start somewhere close to where I was currently living (saying that gave me the chills – ok, maybe the nomad life IS for me). As the bus went on and on to the different stops, the driver made a full stop on a cramped street and suddenly made his way towards where I was seated. He’s going to kill me, ohmygod. Why did I watch all those crime Korean dramas again? My narcissistic self remembered there was a guy a few seats away from me. Okay, we’re safe. For now.
“First time here?” the driver asked.
“Ah, no, not really.” we were talking in Korean and I was half patting myself on the back and half brain-exploding searching for all the right words.
“Where are you from?”
“The Philippines.” I said that almost too enthusiastically but at least the driver had a reason to smile at me and say he’s been to Manila before.
But before I could even begin to form a question on how he liked my country, we had to get going on the road again as more people have climbed the bus. Apparently that particular stop was like a “terminal”.
Now that I think about it, going back to Yangcheon Hyanggyo to live there again wouldn’t be so bad. Obviously living in a place for 3 weeks is just enough warm up to opening your eyes and trying to fit yourself. To actually get to know almost all your neighbors and navigate the area like the back of your hand is a totally different story (aka 6 months to a year).
And Yangcheon Hyanggyo, even if the ttekbokki ahjumma did not know where the nearest Han River park is, I still love you.