Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cold and warmth

It's been really cold here every day, usually with a high in the low 20s Fahrenheit and a cutting, mean wind. Every night, I think of Tiki, probably half-frozen, half-starved, and always terrified, back in Daegu. And the cold accentuates the sometime loneliness, as Christmas draws nearer and family grows farther away, in distance and in time. I have good friends at work, but they belong more to the expat stay-out-very-late-and-drink culture that's so prevalent for Westerners working in Korea, and they can be hard to get ahold of on weekends. Yesterday I was so flat emotionally that I went out in the freezing night to get a quart of ice cream, then came back and ate it. All. Without a bowl. For that matter, I was considering not dirtying a spoon.

Christmas is hard, you guys. (The only source of amusement is hearing Korean singers trying to enunciate "Feliz Navidad" on the Muzak in every store and coffee shop.) It's not the most wonderful time of the year everywhere; in some places, it's the hardest.

Today was much better, though, as I went across the city to the Veggie Club's luncheon. There is a chain of restaurants, in many countries now, called Loving Hut. They have huge vegan buffet, with all kinds of fake meats, salad, soups, coffee, slushies, cookies. All of it's good... 'ceptin the cookies. Vegan cookies suck; always have, always will.

The Loving Huts are owned or inspired-- not sure which-- by a Vietnamese woman who has her own spiritual-religious community; there's a tv playing her talks silently in the background, with subtitles in literally 20 languages. She's called Supreme Master Ching Hai, but you don't have to pay attention to any dogma to enjoy the meal. It's just in the background.

It's clearly a tactical mistake to let me into any "all-you-can-eat" place. It's nearly eight hours since I stopped eating, and I'm still not hungry. I brought a whole bunch of frozen stuff back, too. (Fortunately, it didn't have a chance to thaw on the way home.) More importantly, I made new friends, American, Canadian, and Swedish. Carley from Florida told me that there was a Loving Hut in downtown Orlando, but all the time she lived there, between the name and the fact that it was in downtown Orlando, she always assumed it was just another sex shop.

It's striking how energized I am after a Veggie Club get-together; more than the food (though it's a great pick-me-up, too, to be able to fix veggie meats at home after all this time), it's being around people who look at the world the way I do. I've been told that there are 10,000 vegetarians in Korea, which isn't many out of a population of 50 million. But I saw a dozen of them today, and the warmth with them is stronger than the cold outside.

So now I know I'm not the Sexiest Vegetarian in Korea. I may, however, have Korea's Only Mustache. And that's something.

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