#212 Life like what?

A long page full of pictures, did that make my blog a spot to watch? I made a blog to be read, it just got a bit deviated, just a bit carried away…

Living in a place, ‘thousands’ of kilometers away from home, decades of degree Fahrenheit apart and half a day on the other side of the world, it is a feeling that does not go down so well, or may be it does but I cannot realise it. Things are different, very different from the way I see them in homeland or closer to homeland.

I always had this notion in my head, “I do not want to go to US” and I would tell it loud and clear to people. And they would ask me “why?”… I would go on and give them all reasons, whether they made sense or not, I went on… I have been fascinated by some places that are almost never on a person’s wishlist to travel. Places like Russia, China, Mongolia, Turkey, Georgia, Israel seemed more “calling” to me than the West.

Fortunate I was to travel to the magnificent and uber-cute land of Daehan Minguk, South Korea. I was there for a little under three months, and I traveled almost the whole of that little country, tasted almost all of its deliciously healthy cuisine, understood and appreciated the technology decades ahead of Indo, learnt and almost perfected the script, and totally enjoyed my first stay abroad. I maintained a good blog and filled it with a lot of photos of almost everything I saw, everyone I met and everywhere I went. People who saw it, loved it, and wondered how they never knew Korea was so wonderful!

Here I am today, on the other side of the globe… Trying to maintain a blog, busy work schedule means I cannot do this more often, trying to enjoy the cuisine, but… “________” and trying to be happy…

This is a great country. I must say so and I appreciate it when I say so. The roads are perfect, the buildings are exuberant and the cities are brilliant. Things are pretty good here, in the shops and showrooms, clothes, accessories, electronics, chocolates, drinks are cheap here and superior in quality. Water supply is almost unlimited and comes in two temperatures. Perfect. Period. Food is great! Yes, food is great. I keep going back to the tiny Korean restaurant JK Cafe on Clark in Evanston to have that great delicacy called ‘Bibimbap’ – do you remember? I keep going back to the Korean restaurant to have sushi rolls, to have kimchi, to have odeng, to have ramyeon! I keep going back for more reasons than the food. I go there to socialise. I am happy to meet and interact with the cute Korean couple that runs the restaurant. I asked them their names, ‘Handsome man’ and ‘Pretty Ooman’ (in the typical Korean accent came the reply). I was glad, and gladly wrote down my name Aditya in Korean script on my business card and handed it to them. They are more than happy to see me there almost everyday. This is not a story about the Great America, it is a story about a small Korean restaurant that I have come across right in front of my office.

I go there almost every other day and the things I love the most at their restaurant are not Bibimbap, rolls or coffee milkshake… but the love and the warmth they show and serve me with. They feel as if I am one of them. I started eating rolls out there with a certain customization. When I first went there, I told them I want california rolls, but no fish and only vegetarian ingredients. They kept asking me if “fish is ok”, “tofu is ok?”, “radish is ok” and I kept answering “yes” or “no” and at the end of it, I had a fully customised roll all for me… Since then, whenever I have been there, all I tell Hara (the Korean lady) is “Can I have a roll please” and she shouts back inside here kitchen “Adi-tta roll juseyeo” (Get him ‘Aditya Rolls’). With so much and more warmth, as I go and take my seat, her husband brings up a number of banchans (side dishes) like kimchi, yellow radish and soy sauce for me to enjoy… and makes sure that he himself comes and serves me my fully customised ‘Aditta Rolls’.

I am touched.

Last friday, I wasn’t very hungry and decided to go to JK Cafe and eat a california roll. These rolls are very delicious, very healthy, have almost zero fat and are not filling at all. So I thought, I would have them and I would be done. Given their generosity, warmth and liking for me, they would not let me eat just the rolls and within minutes of my taking a seat, my table was filled with more than the regular set of banchans.. and a sweet potato dish made in the shape of a fish… It was yummy, but by the end of my meal, I was full, more than full.

I was filled. I was filled with emotions, I was overwhelmed by their selfless attitude and care for my taste buds. Last afternoon I even got them a couple of Samosas from the local Indian restaurant in Evanston. It happened that the lady dint get any of it to taste as Mr Handsome Man loved and finished them himself. In the evening when I went there again, he told me “I loved your samosas… I have enjoyed it earlier in Indonesia with beer. Fantastic”. The smile on their faces and the smile on my face never seems to fade away. They work hard. It is perhaps the only restaurant in the Northwestern Univ area that stays open late till about 2 or 3 am every night. But the warmth with which the bells rings when I open the door and enter JK and the warmth with which Hara wishes me “Annyeong Haseyeo” and the warmth with which Handsome Man waves at me from inside the kitchen, touches me. Touches me more than anything else.

Things like these keep me going on. And on. Yes, I miss Korea to date. I miss my Korean friends, Yunseong, Daeseong, Jaejin and everyone else I met in Korea. I miss those cute girls moving around in the trains, on the streets and everywhere else. I miss those jingles the vendors used to shout at their street side bbq shops. I miss that smell of kimchi. I miss that language… I miss Korea.

But here I am in a totally different country. It is not much different from what I have seen it as in the movies, and the television. Perhaps it is much different and definitely better once you are here. Life is convenient. It is safe. It is the greatest country of the world. When I go back to India, I will tell people that my notion about this country was not completely correct. Now I am convinced about it. It was incomplete.

Everything is perfect, but the warmth was left behind in Asia…

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7 thoughts on “#212 Life like what?

  1. Hey Aditto,

    Nice post.. Your story is definitely touching and what have impressed me the most is your style of writing.. Your posts remind of the short stories written by Jhumpa Lahiri..

    Keep us posted regularly through your blogs. Its fun to read.

  2. Sorry to ‘barge in’ into your blog..but couldn’t help noticing Anirudh’s comment on FB about it..And I second what he has said..:)..I have not been to the US, but I have got a couple of friends who are studying there,and I have seen most parts of it through their eyes. Awesome Post..Way to go..

  3. @yash
    Yes, the warmth is the ONE thing that differentiates the east and the west. And Koreans and Japanese are amongst the best in that :)

    @Sam
    What you are saying is completely true, how I wish we had an office in Seoul :) That would have been picture perfect!

  4. Nice post , Aditya. You seem to have a penchant for details and i’m happy for you that you’ve felt at home there…

    But on the lighter side..Get over Korea man…our company doesn’t have an office there anyways. !!!

  5. The relationship that you share with the Korean couple is really touching. You know what’s a funny coincidence? I have a friend here in canada who spells her name ‘Yaejin’ and she’s from korea too. very gentle warm girl. And very intelligent too. She can pick up hindi words and indian names very easily.

  6. wow…amazing post…ya u r right, no matter how great a country US is, the west can never match the spirit of the east…its the asian spirit…truely awesome…

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