At the House

모슬포 (Moseulpo), South Korea. 1997.

The driver of the Korando was in his late 20's, single, and introduced himself as 민철. He asked me if I preferred Soju to drink or what. I told him beer, Soju, Makkeolli, whatever was fine by me. He asked me if I needed cigarettes or anything else from the store. As far as I knew I needed nothing. He pulled over in front of a nearby store and left the vehicle running while he ran inside. When he returned, he had a couple of bags filled with snacks, smokes, and beverages. Off we drove into the darkness of the Korean countryside.

After driving for nearly fifteen minutes we were square into the middle of noplace. It appeared to be an industrial area devoid of the common Korean residence. Finally we pulled off the main road onto a dirt driveway that led to a building unlike any I had ever seen in Korea (or anywhere else for that matter). I took this picture the next morning in the light of day:

We parked the Korando around back and took the rear entrance up to the second floor. At the top of the stairs we came into a dining area just off from an enormous kitchen. In the dining area was a long, low family style dining table. There were no chairs, of course, as one sits cross-legged on the floor while eating. The table was rough-hewn lumber, well used with celebrated knots and stains. It was long enough to seat perhaps twenty.

Seated at the table was the Mr. Kim from the Wando Ferry. He rose to welcome me, now speaking only Korean. He re-introduced the Korando driver, 민철, and another young fellow close to my age called 명룡. He proudly introduced his daughter Kimi. She was the gal who had answered the phone the second time I called. She was a "healthy" high school junior, cute, shy, dutiful. She opened the bags of snacks and drinks and started preparing to serve us manfolk.

After a while, the woman of the house returned. She came in very bubbly, perky, and full of energy and happiness. She took my existence in stride as if it were common for strangers to appear in her house. She loved to talk and everyone loved to listen. The next couple of hours were spent drinking and chatting while most of them smoked like chimneys. They were all very curious about me and I about them.

When I was too tired to continue, 명룡 showed me to a large room where I was to sleep on the floor under an electric blanket. There was no central heat and the air was quite chilly, but I slept the sleep of the dead in my clothes.

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