Friday, May 6, 2011

Finding soul mates in Seoul

Good morning from the land of sushi. I was in kimchi country when I last blogged but last night I took the last flight out of Seoul to Tokyo's Haneda Airport (which is much nearer than Narita Airport) to get to Japan in time for some shut-eye by midnight. But maybe it's all the excitement (or stress) of yesterday that's responsible, but it's 230 am and I woke up and now just can't sleep.

One of my friends from my time in Hong Kong some years back is now living in Seoul and yesterday I was anxious to catch up with her. As I had very little time during my stay in South Korea, she ended up picking me up at my hotel and taking me to the airport, which is a good hour and a half away from the city. On the way, we had a very nice chat which we continued over a quick dinner at the airport before my flight -- kimchi, of course, and some spicy noodles, with a bit of beef thrown in.

My friend, who I'll call S, was the picture of happiness when I saw her at last. She'd always been a perky sort of person known for throwing last-minute parties that lasted until dawn in Hong Kong. She never liked planning anything -- so unlike me that it's a wonder we got along -- but she had a positively palatial flat in the Mid-levels and she kept a well-stocked freezer and wine cabinet that made up for her lack of insight into the future. But last night, she was positively blooming.


"I've met my soul mate," she gushed, the minute I'd gotten into her car and put my seatbelt on. Obviously, she'd been dying to tell me about the love of her life -- or at least, the current one. I'd heard it before so I was neither surprised not ecstatic. It seems she met soul mates as many times as she met great bankers, lawyers or accountants.

"Sound happy for me, please," she pleaded, observing my lack of enthusiasm. I had to reply: "Of course, I'm happy for you. Is it the real thing this time?" We often talked very frankly so I could shoot such a question at her without fear that she would let me and my baggages off along the expressway halfway to the airport for my impertinence.

She smiled. "I think so," she answered. "He's a banker who loves art as much as I do. This time I'm really in love."

What else could I say? "I'm so glad to hear that," I said; but then I asked: "And you really think the two of you are meant to be?" Forgive me for being cynical, but I think I already mentioned that I'd heard this spiel from her already several times before. Previously there'd been a performance artist from Birmingham, a US diplomat, a German auto executive, and an extremely likable but emotionally-unavailable guy she'd cried buckets of tears over. I can't recall where the last guy was from or what he did for a living, but I remember that he'd had a very strange upbringing in a posh boarding school in England -- which was probably why he was like that. I dared not bring him up again last night.

"Well, I'm giving this one my best shot and my best hopes," she said, referring to her current soul mate. Then, she turned the tables on me: "And you -- what does the word "soul mate" mean to you?"

I shrugged. I hadn't given that term much thought in a while. In fact, the last time I'd even used that term was after watching the musical "Rent" in Manila last February, and I'd written in this blog that the musical -- among other things -- was about finding one's soul mate. Besides, I'd just had the worst computer problems in my life, so I was so not in the mood to be romantic or sentimental.

"Come on," she persisted, "we used to talk about the esoteric and philosophical all the time..."


I tried to find the right words without making things sound too soap opera-ish. It was such a loaded word, after all; but I did have definite ideas about it, if only I could actually bring myself to spew it out inside a Hyundai in the middle of Seoul traffic. Ordinarily, I needed kimchi and lots of strong local wine for this kind of discussion.

Finally, I had to say it. It seemed there was no getting out of this conversation -- at least not if I wanted to get to the airport on time. S was driving slow because she wasn't getting any answers. "It's someone who understands and accepts you -- and who brings out the best in you," I managed to say. "Only a soul mate can bring out the best in you. And sometimes, that "best" isn't even something you knew you had."

"Bravo," she said gleefully. "And that's exactly what my friend is."


All in all, last night was a pretty strange day of losing souls (see my previous entry) and finding soulmates in Seoul. Can't wait to see what today will bring. On a whim and a spur-of-the-moment, a couple of friends from Manila arrived in Japan last night and they persuaded me to join them -- or perhaps it's more to drive for them? -- for a day or two in Japan, which is one of the reasons I'm here. I'm planning to take them out into the country to my favorite restaurant in the middle of nowhere. We may not find soul mates there, but at least there'll be lots of good food.

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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