It was a while ago. Maybe back at the start of fall when things were still shiny and new here. My biggest problem was finding a running route that didn't include a drastic, mountain-hike incline. So one day after school, I laced up my sneakers and grabbed a pair of earphones. It was probably late evening given the way storefront windows tore through the dark like a lighthouse at the edge of an ocean. Living near Busan Port, I'd decided to see if there was a road I could take along the water.
--Since I always ran by the Marina at home in Queens. I wasn't homesick, not yet, but maybe I would be in a month or two.
Before I started running, I stopped by the bakery below my apartment. My landlady owned the shop, and had so far been sneaking treats into my hand when I'd come to pay my utility bills. This time around I just wanted to say hello, but she was with a customer so I simply dipped my head into a bow and continued on my way. I ran around the construction, past the pharmacy, down to the subway terminal then up to the other side of the street.
There was a tunnel next to the science center that ran under Busan Station's railroad tracks and reminded me of the fifth Harry Potter movie--that abandoned place where Harry spotted a dementor. Y'know the place? Frail, fluorescent lights and gray mud stains on concrete. On the other side, I made a beeline for the port, passed a wild-flower field with a little boy on his tricycle whispering to his grandfather, past a row of fishermen who all turned to stare.
When I finally reached Nampo, one of Busan's shopping and tourist districts, I realized there'd been a few missed calls on my phone, a Kakao message from my friends wondering about going out later tonight and continuing the Busan Chronicles as we've so named our ridiculous adventures navigating beer, boys, and even mountain boars. I responded. I turned around.
I took a long way back, lingering in the port parking lot that was vast and empty save for glittering lights on the water's surface--from ferries leaving their station, and from apartment towers behind me silhouetting the mountainside.
It was a while ago. Maybe back at the start of fall when things were still shiny and new here. Some things here in Busan have lost that glittering newness to them, of course. My memories are now less neon and more subtly hued. But that doesn't mean I'm tired of here yet. Actually, I think I love my Korean hometown all the more.
Returning to Busan after my trip to Japan felt a lot like when I fly home to NY. Catching the first glimpse of my city filled me with this sort of comfort.
Yeah, I know that memory was dramatic and cheesy. But hey--It's been an official six months that I've lived here in Busan, and my affection for this city has only grown. Of course I love my Seoul weekends, and I'm anxious to see more of Korea (especially its mountains), but Busan...well Busan is my Korean home.
So this isn't one of my usual itineraries. It's a Busan Bucket List for anyone who cares to read and--well--for myself, so I can make the most out of my time here.