IT'S OFFICIAL

It’s official. Lee Jae Chan and I are friends. I don't have to pretend anyone. He's my first Korean friend, and I'm his first foreign friend. We made it official over a big, fat, breaded tenderloin dinner this evening. His wife is my friend now too, and soon I'll meet their daughter.

It's a pretty sweet gig. Not only have I made two wonderful friends; I get to help Lee Jae Chan with his English, learn basic Korean in exchange, and drink all the drip coffee I want from his café. Bonus! He doesn't let me pay anymore. It's part of the deal.

Lee Jae Chan invited me to dinner after our informal lesson this evening. As we waited for his wife, he kept referring to her as his "husband". I couldn't help but chuckle a bit, and let it go to provide some amusement. Of course I politely corrected him before actually meeting his wife.

I loved watching Lee Jae Chan and his wife interact throughout the meal. They teamed up to ask or answer questions. A lot of nodding suggested we were getting to know each other well; when really, only fraction of what we communicated was probably understood. Plus, the bugs that kept coming out of my croutons distracted me.

A filling time was had by all nonetheless. We gorged on grapes for dessert – tart, dark and juicy Korean grapes. It was fun to notice our slight differences in approaches to eating them. Lee Jae Chan and his wife ate the grape seeds, but not the skins. I refused to eat the seeds, but ate the skins.

After dinner we went back to Coffee Dream, Lee Jae Chan's café near my apartment. He opened it especially for us to sit and enjoy chatting over double-shot lattes. He proudly showed his wife the work we had done earlier, and I practiced some Korean phrases with her.

When it was time to go, Lee Jae Chan carefully tucked away the English notes I wrote for him. Making sure his wife didn't fold them first; he placed the scribbled-on papers inside his notebook. I could tell how much they meant to him. And that meant a lot to me.

It's official. I love my life in Korea. Only a week in Ochang, and already I've had such fulfilling experiences. Although every day is mentally exhausting, I know it's important for me to continue seeking these sorts of interactions. Even when all I want to do is hide or sleep the moment I leave school.

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