Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Korean Grandpa in Training

How do you like my ride?  Sweet, eh?

I'm in South Korea, in the same area of Seoul where I stayed last year.  I have the bike above on loan from the friends I'm staying with; they have a couple of spares, and I may switch to another one, but for now this one works for me.

Yeah, I know, it's a "women's" bike.  But it's also the bike my host's father rides when he's in town; the basket in front makes it good for running errands.  And I've noticed quite a few old Korean men riding "women's" bikes, so I fit right into the scenery.  That's not to say that Koreans aren't uptight about gender -- it's a very sexist, male-supremacist culture -- but I suspect that for people around my age, who grew up when Korea was still a very poor country, fussing about what a bicycle has between its legs is a luxury they couldn't afford, and don't worry much about now.  (P.S. My Korean friends agreed with my speculation.)  I get a fair amount of attention as I ride around Godeok, and I'm not sure whether it's because my bike is a lady or because I'm a foreigner riding a battered old Korean bicycle.  So I smile back, and nod, and have a great time.

Having the bicycle increases my mobility wonderfully.  I routinely turn down side streets that I wouldn't ordinarily have time or energy to explore, and I've found some interesting places as a result: a little bike shop for repairs and such, a second-hand store that will be useful when I get a place of my own, a restaurant I mean to try for lunch.  I'm also saving money on transit fares, though I haven't gone very far yet.  I'm thinking of riding up to Jamsil, a few miles away but closer by road than by subway oddly enough.  Just riding around Godeok has occupied my energies for the past several days, and I'm not finished yet.

This is where I want to live for a while.  I can't yet -- I'll return to the US in mid-November -- but I'm more certain than ever that this place feels like home to me.  Not for the entire rest of my life, perhaps, but for a man in his mid-sixties, who knows how long that will be?  But for a while.