He leaned over the second story balcony in the train station, gazing down on the multitude of people that he had grown comfortable not recognizing. She sat, next to a backpack stuffed full with goods and clothes and gifts for a month’s vacation, watching the clock and thinking about the upcoming train ride. He had never spent more than thirteen hours on a train before, and remembered no good things from that excursion, but felt a calm settle into this mind about the next sixteen. It would be relaxing, recapitulating, and adventurous at the very least. And if that was the very least, he hoped for the most.
The cars were market off by numbers, and theirs was almost at the front of the line. Number two. A green train car that was narrow but spacious. Slightly dingy but oozing character. Broad, comfortable leather chairs faced each other as they did when they sat down. Oscillating fans kept riders cool and she looked out the window at the other waiting trains and he captured her on digital film. They laughed and talked of old times and teaching and being out of college and laying the foundation for the next chapter of their friendship.
The train rattled and roared North into the mountains as the sun approached the horizon slowly but steadily as always over plains, trees, and bonfires scattered in farm land. Fruit, dinner, and beverage vendors frequently came through the second-class car offering mild distractions from the scenery and they laughed more.
He pulled out a gift he had just received from her – a notebook destined to be filled with Korean study soon enough – to plan their time in the small city in the North.
Temples, hostels, food, elephants, and a cooking class. It was set.
“I like this plan. It sounds good to me.” She wrote in his journal.
“감사합니다” He wrote back.
With a plan written down, their hunger piqued them up out of their chair, car, and into the food car. Accompanied by railway law enforcement, they dined on a soup that taunted them in almost spilling over as the train jumped, jolted around the tracks. Backdropped by a sunset, they imbibed and ate the lemon grass-rich soup with shrimp and enough spice to keep you warm, to contentment. Soon after, they were asleep in roll-away beds, dreaming of the next day and stability.
Gastronomically driven, the two made they way from vendor to vendor to hostel to temple to tourist office to temple to massage to restaurant to full-bellied bed. The next morning, they would be in the back of a truck on their way to a market with intentions of learning to cook the authentic way. As with any school, they took incessant notes. No pencil and paper scratching furiously leaving them with sore fingers, but digital snapshots, for memory joggers.
An experiment in prose. Coming soon: the cooking school and recipes galore.