In the middle of September, I joined a website for people looking for language partners, called conversationexchange.com. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made here so far: I was contacted by over 30 Koreans within two days, and by now I’ve gotten messages from literally hundreds. I haven’t followed up with all of them, but I have chatted with a fair number on Skype or Kakaotalk, and I’ve met three in person so far. At least one of those has become a regular, weekly language partner for me – we have dinner and coffee on Wednesdays, and alternate English and Korean. In the case of another, we really hit it off and beyond just being language partners (it’s mostly one-sided in that we communicate 99% in Korean), we’ve already become good friends in general. He’s helped me with a ton of stuff, from buying a used iPhone to checking my homework (and commenting on it in much greater detail than either of my SNU teachers). Plus, he’s generally just an awesome person to hang out with, especially because we have a surprising amount in common. I’ll call him WG on here for now. This post will be about the day we first met, after a week of instant messaging on Skype. We spent the day in his hometown, Anyang, which is a satellite city just south of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do.
We met at Sadang station and took a bus from there to Anyang station, which was approximately a 30-40 minute ride if I recall correctly. It was a little bit awkward initially, as first meetings are bound to be, even though we had chatted quite a bit through Skype. I’m the sort of person who frequently doesn’t know what to say even in English, and it doesn’t help that my spoken Korean is much worse than my reading and writing (and also listening). But WG was pretty cool about it from the start.
Downtown Anyang is pretty similar to some districts of Seoul, but as we took another bus to head towards the Anyang Art Park (안양예술공원), we moved into a much quieter, suburb-like part of the city. Perhaps it was extra quiet because it was the day before Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving, when Seoul residents make mass pilgrimages back to their hometowns all over South Korea). There was a stream flowing through this part of the city, which was pleasant to walk along. It really felt like a nice break from the hustle and bustle of big-city Seoul.