13 working days and counting. Suddenly, I'm slightly less happy about going back to Canada
, because of events this past weekend
. More specifically, I'm discovering how much it sucks to meet your ideal woman
just one month before you're supposed to leave the country.
For those of you just tuning in, I'm in South Korea, where I've been teaching English the last two years. This weekend was crazy in many ways, but Saturday night particularly so. I went to Elvis, the local watering hole around 9 PM and met up with my friend Peter, a British guy. He was there with three other guys, two more Brits and another Canadian. Feeling a wee bit delicate after a wild Friday night of drinking, I was planning on taking it easy that night. Wishful thinking.
After one Long Island Iced Tea at Elvis, the guys decided they'd head down the street to another bar, "JJ's." Had a bottle of Corona there (still taking it easy) and then we left to a third bar, Gan-i-yeok.
At Gan-i-yeok, we all got a pint of beer and split two bottles of maeshil-ju (green plum wine) and some delicious little meat and vegetable skewers. Then the guys decided they wanted to go to a fourth bar, Blue Moon (to which I'd never been) and hit on the beautiful bartenders there. Peter and I decided to stay on at Gan-i-yeok and have another bottle of maeshil-ju, but told them we'd catch up with them later.
Maybe 40 minutes later, now starting to get a buzz going, Peter and I walk to Blue Moon, maybe half a dozen blocks away. It's actually quite a nice place, with a really high ceiling and a city-scape painted on the wall behind the bar. Like most so-called "jazz bars" in Korea, no actual jazz gets played there.
All the seats around where our friends are sitting are taken, and they're too caught up in flirting with the girls behind the bar to be of much use as company, so Peter and I go sit down at the other end of the bar where there are some free seats. Half an hour later, two Korean girls show up and sit down next to me. They know Peter from Elvis, and tell me that they recognize me from there too, although we'd never been introduced. One of them is Nan Hi, a somewhat unusual name for a Korean girl, and the other's name passes in one ear and out the other because it's something ending in Jung and I can never tell them apart. I swear 80% of women in Korea are named Eun Jung, Su Jung, Eun Kyung, Su Kyung, So Jung, Sun Young, etc. Anyway, they both speak excellent English, having been overseas for several years. Nan Hi was in New Zealand. I don't know about the other one.
Here's the thing, though. I start talking to them, and Nan Hi and I just click. I mean really click. Like I've never clicked with anyone before. I'm a motormouth. I talk way too much, especially when I'm drunk. Sometimes I can tell that I'm boring people and try to speak less, but then I go too far the other way and never say a thing all night. But Nan Hi doesn't mind. In fact, she loves it. Every time I seem like I might be running out of steam, she asks me a question or prompts me to go on, and she's eating up my words like a monkey eats bananas. She's really impressed that I can (sort of) speak Korean, and play a pretty decent game of Badouk (or Go, as we more often call it). Like me, she loves to read, and like me, she dreams of one day being a writer herself. She loves to listen to Tom Waits, just as I do. She thinks that it's cool, not boring, that I studied physics at university, and still have a passion for it. She's intelligent, independent and ambitious. In other words, she's everything Korean men don't expect their women to be. She's everything I want, and it's starting to look like the feeling might be mutual.
To test this theory, once we've mutually maneuvered the conversation in the direction of girlfriends and boyfriends, and confirmed that we're both single, I go on a hunch and guess that she's older than me.
Me: My problem, in Canada as well, but especially in Korea, is that I don't like girls my own age or younger (this is true). They all act like babies.
Nan Hi: They have gongju byeong, you mean? (gongju byeong = "princess disease")
Me: Exactly. They have gongju byeong. I tend to like women a few years older than me (I'd already told her my age: 25). Like around 30. Speaking of which, how old are you anyway?
Nan Hi (smiling): 29.
Me: Cool. You know, we have a word in English for older women who like younger men. We call them cougars.
Nan Hi (still smiling): Actually, I'm a cougar.
Me: And I'm easy prey for cougars.
Nan Hi laughs.
At this point, I know I'm in like Flynn, and I'm drunk enough that the two parts of my brain containing - respectively - the information that I like this girl a lot and she clearly likes me and the information that I'm going home in a month have not gotten together and realized that this is a problem.
We spend the night drinking and chatting, moving on to yet another bar, Beer Boss at around 4 AM (by this point, the other Canadian guy is clearly going to get laid by Nan Hi's friend, who seemed a bit slutty... Nan Hi was very disapproving), and then from there to a soju tent at around 6 AM. By 7 AM I'm thoroughly drunk, and decide to try to seal the deal by putting my arm around Nan Hi. She doesn't protest. When we're leaving, I said something, I can't remember exactly what, to suggest that she might like to come back to my apartment with me. She says "Actually, I really like you. I want to. But I still live with my parents, and they're probably already awake. The later I get home, the harder it will be to explain to them." That's Korea for you. Where else in the world would you have this problem with a 30 year-old? Anyway, it's probably just as well, since my apartment is a pigsty right now, and there's a strong possibility that I would have been too drunk to get it up anyway.
We share a taxi, and I get dropped off first. "Alex, popo juseyo," she says, and points to her cheek. I give her a peck goodbye, as requested, and go into my apartment to collapse into the deep, dreamless sleep of the incredibly drunk and exhausted.
Stupid me forgot to get her phone number, but fortunately, she'd used my cell phone to call her friend, whatever-the-fuck-Jung, that night, so that number was stored in my phone. I sent a text message to her, and got Nan Hi's number that way. Text messaged Nan Hi, then, and got a response. She then called me that night, without having anything in particular to say, which is always a good sign. We haven't made specific plans to meet again in the future, but both indicated that we wish to do so.
Anyway, she's wonderful. Talking to her, the rest of the world disappeared, and I think it did for her, too. Only once have I ever gotten off to such a great start with a girl, and Sheila ended up being my girlfriend for a year and a half, a relationship that only got broken off because I was finishing university and leaving, and we both felt that it was better to break up than try to preserve a long-distance relationship.
This is all well and good, except that I've got a non-refundable plane ticket to Canada, leaving August 12, 2003, and I'll be out of Suncheon in just three weeks from now. I wonder if she's the kind of girl who'd pack up and move halfway around the world with a guy she just met. Probably not.