Busan, or My Life

11 Sep

by Kim Seong-Eun

A few days ago, mid-spring in South Korea, it started to rain. For the first time in years, I was walking down a street along the beach on a rainy day. The sound of the rain falling on the sea and Stan Getz’s bossa nova really got along well. It was then that I discovered something: I had always thought that the smell of the sea was just salty. However, it was just the opposite. At that time, the special smell of the sea was more attractive than usual. It was unique and it sort of completed the scene. The sea has always been with me and every time it’s like different pictures.

The sea, I have always shared my feelings with. When I feel sad, happy, a bit depressed or just like having a good time. It’s not a particularly beautiful sea, but it’s like an old friend in my life. I don’t really know what’s out there, behind the horizon line. I just can’t guess where the end is, or if there are small islands, sightseeing boats passing by slowly, a lighthouse or fireworks. But they all form part of a lovely picture in my mind.

I was born in Busan, and it’s here where I’ve spent most of my life. Busan is a really comfortable and special place for me. Not only friends and family are here. Here also live the precious memories of my youth. Rather like the two-faced Greek god Janus, Busan is a very quiet and warm place located in the southernmost coast of Korea and a passionate, vibrantly modern city.

In music, it’s great when 2 genres are mixed up. And that’s another reason to love this place: it is as modern as anywhere else in Asia. But it’s got some of the most beautiful vintage markets in this part of the world.

Gangtong market,  ’empty market’ in Korean, is one of the places I often visit. The place triggers warm, familiar memories in the back of my mind. It seems like an acoustic folk song which is easy to listen to. The streets in there have their own atmosphere with vintage things and sweets from faraway lands, sweets, and old second-hand book shops. This market is really old and traditional in Busan. It’s like entering my grand-parents’ house in a way; everything is familiar and comfortable.

There’s also modern Busan. Lots of restaurants, lavish flats, museums and galleries along the sea and the energy that the young and wealthy who live here exude make it a great place to visit. Going for a drive at night, it feels almost eerily quiet and beautiful.

I really believe that the character of a place is determined by the people who live there. Whenever I go on a trip somewhere I can really see this connection, and often it is only by meeting the inhabitants of a place that you can really get to know the city. In the case of Busan, many people look angry and miserable, almost on edge. But once you get to know them you can appreciate the extent of their warmth and love for each other and their wonderful sense of hospitality. These, my people, are the same as Busan.

What does Busan mean for me? Busan is the place which makes me feel calm. In my heart, I can either get rid of or get anything I want. As long as I’m in Busan. It is, at more than one level, a departing point in my life; the point where I can start new things. And like family and friends, Busan always welcomes me back. No matter where I’ve been.

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