9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Jangnim-dong, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea
There’s nothing like that first cup of coffee. Home plus-purchased, Tesco-brand, Level 5, French Roast, brewed in a French Press with a cracked lip I inherited from the teacher I replaced almost 11 months ago. I worried I may be ingesting microscopic pieces of glass with every pour. I still do.
It’s still a damn fine cup of coffee, though.
There’s nothing like the first plate of 오므라이스 (omurice), served with some funky cabbage salad and the usual banchan 고봉민김밥인 (Gobongmin Gimbap-in) offers, even if all the hype for this guilty-pleasure meal didn’t live up to the end product.
There’s nothing like the first Christmas spent away from home, in a foreign country, eating with friends at a Korean-American veteran’s club that wouldn’t be out of place in working-class North Middletown, New Jersey. Christmas is better spent with those you care about, if you can, and not alone, especially 7,000 miles away from home.
There’s nothing like giving a little cheer to others, in the form of participating in a gift drive for a pair of Korean orphanages, then going and seeing the kids light up with bristling energy as they receive a gift they otherwise would not have gotten. Beyond the materialism, there’s nothing like seeing one of those boys set aside his toys in preference for genuine one-on-one interaction with one of the volunteers.
There’s nothing like getting to do it again three days after Christmas.
There’s nothing like Christmas lights hanging from the wall all-year-long.
There’s nothing like dry hands in the winter I know won’t crack once the next stifling Korean summer hits them.
There’s nothing like a neighbor loaning all three books in a series at once, and the prospect of finally starting to read them.
There’s nothing like talking on Skype with people 14 hours in the past this morning, or last week, or next week.
There’s nothing like waking up in the morning on Dec. 28, 2013.
There’s nothing like lifting the curtain to let in sunshine.
There’s nothing like getting dressed in clean clothes.
There’s nothing like that first cup of coffee.