26th September 2018
Hongdae – Seoul, South Korea
In a little corner of modern Seoul, I sit where nature and concrete build together. Where art and engineering coexist, and where food is plentiful. I am in Scandina cafe with my friends who are from all over the world: a country that speaks of a rich history with people’s skin glowing like bark of baobab tree, from islands where fruit and flavour blends into people’s smiles, from cities where a statue of Jesus watches over all the visitors, and from lands which I explored just a year ago.
But we are all here, in the magical city of Seoul which is five times as large as my home by the bay (San Francisco). Yet, today I ran into two people I know in unknown contexts. It made me smile.
Today I am not looking back or looking forward. Today I am here, feeling, breathing, watching, laughing. I am grateful to be in this moment, and I fear that if I do not pen it down it will escape from me. It needs to be felt, captured within the time capsule of my mine and be cherished.
I am sharing the table with an artist who is drawing onto the canvases of her little notebook poems and pieces in Hangul and English. Her hair is tied up, the pink of her glasses, headphones, and shirt complement the roses behind her. She looks like a painting.
Next to her is a girl, a mentor, whose resilience has silenced my own demons in times of distress. Her laugh carries the stories of her ancestors from the villages in her homeland and her demeanor shows that she is truly a friend to all people – humble, determined, bright, and beautiful. I do no justice to capture her in words, for her spirit is free and encompasses all the stories I could ever write for her. I am grateful that together, we are building our own little world with appreciation and love for each other.
I rest my chin on my left shoulder and turn to see a person reaching out with a tiny fork to stab a little slice of cake and nibble it. Her soul is pleased and excited, and so she touches her heart as if to feel the bump of joy her soul just felt. A sigh, and she turns to the world in front of her – her screen which creates endless worlds and alternate realities but right now, shows photos of beautiful hats. Very cute. A starting photograph to create the beginning of her writing piece. Her hair mimics her creative flow, crowning her smiling face.
A person scribbles behind me: thoughts, ideas, images. His calmness brings to life the stills on his paper, interleaving between words and objects. He is the lover of food, of appreciating beauty in little things, and surprisingly, of psychiatry. From above the skyscraper of his body, his eyes gaze below with an eternal warmth and compassion for his friends.
There’s also another deary. Her eyes told me about the time she experienced joy and adventure and pain before she was in this cafe with me. Her skin is kissed in many places by the sun, and birds fly in the pit of her stomach emanating from her soul and splatter across her shirt. She is free and traveling to the world within her notebook, constructing it as we speak.
I smile because I am amused by how simple yet profound this moment is. An Indonesian, two Americans, an Ethiopian, a Brazilian, and a Pakistani are creating art together somewhere in South Korea. The short descriptions above could be you, or it could be me. It could be anyone. It doesn’t matter who was who; what matters is that this moment exists with all these people in it. Because if this moment didn’t exist, I wouldn’t know that there’s a city called Rockwall in Texas where Southern hospitality has a different face, or of Abdu’l Baha and how he was a friend to all people, of stories of little brothers and sisters and how they call three times a day, of Catholic parents who want to see their son marry who makes him happy, and of a girl who can animate and make with color what people can’t with words.
If this moment didn’t exist, I wouldn’t know how relevant magic is to our eyes, only if we stop and see. If this moment didn’t exist, I wouldn’t know that there’s a little corner in modern Seoul where flowers grow skywards and sideways, where Thai people relax with a cup of coffee. And that the cashier would let us enjoy our burgers even when we didn’t purchase their tea. Life feels good, I deserve this, and I am so grateful to be where I am.
Viva La Vida.
(Some scenes from the cafe: )