January will be a month of lasts—last day at Silla University (today), last shabu-shabu (last night), last night in Korea, last love motel, last visit with friends, last hike in the mountains here, last chumchi doc bap, last look at the Nak River just outside Busan as we slide along the shore north toward Seoul on the KTX on February 2, last Christmas, last birthday, last dinner party. There are others. I’ll recount my experiences of these lasts here.
But, if January is a month of lasts, December was a month of firsts—as a married man, first margarita, first Christmas, first birthday, first dinner party. First time I wrote consistently in months.
So, if December was a month of firsts, and January was a month of lasts, it stands to reason that February will be a month of firsts. Certainly, it is desirable that there was this kind of predictability in life; and surely I’d complain about it if there was that sort of predictability. But January will bleed into February. There is no clear delineation in the meaning of firsts and lasts at this crossroads. I will here demonstrate: It will be the first time I’ll be saying goodbye to Korea for the last time, the first time I’ll be unemployed in two and a half years, the first time I won’t subject myself to the after-effects of shabu-shabu or chumchi doc bap. And next year will be the first time in five years that I won’t have a working birthday, a marginally-boozed margarita, a Christmas without family, or a dinner party without California wine.
It is this sort of logic that may allow me to wind my way past much melancholy as I set off on the Great Asian Adventure with Nic. It is also this kind of logic that allows me to think of the things ahead instead of focusing too much on the negative aspects of Korea that I will leave behind.
To that end, and not to belabor the point, I’ll move on to a first. I realized the other day how much time Nic and I have in Kuala Lampur (KL) on our connecting transportation. The cheapest tickets we could find all went from Incheon (Korea’s major airport in Seoul) to Malaysia. And, for the purposes of adventure (and for budget reasons), we’re going to do a border crossing into Thailand on train. The thing is that we arrive in KL at 5AM on February 3; we don’t have to be on the sleeper train until 9 that night. So, the first big adventure outside Korea together (aside from meeting the parents last winter) is a whirlwind of one of southeast Asia’s premiere cities. With the little reading that I’ve done, it is a good way to ease yourself into that region of the world: the light rail is supposed to be spectacularly easy and facilitates the visitiation of many different areas in the city. Aside from the world’s second largest towers—Petronas Towers—we’ll be visiting the colonial areas of Little India for some roti and some dahl and colorful saris; Chinatown for chaos; Detaran Merdeka (Independence Square) and the National Mosque. With all that time, these places seem easy to see in a 12 hour period. And sure, we’ll be running ragged, so a little coffee with condensed milk as we sit and write postcards near the Central Market will revive us. Besides, the train trip that night will be the first time I will sleep like a baby on a train.