Saturday, 4th of September – A long lovely day in Gwangju, a shakey one in NZ

This morning I woke up to my first alarm and raced to get ready to meet anyone who wanted to go for a bike ride. James was keen to go for a ride, and he did not mind where, nor for how long we should go, so, I asked him if he would like to join up with the local group of Koreans, with whom we had been invited to ride. He said yes, and so we cycled across town to meet them by 10 am.

When we got to the meeting place at the Kim Dae Jung Convention Center we found that they were mostly all standing around as a couple of them fixed a bicycle tyre. When they were done we set off together heading towards Naju, but we turned off and went to the Nampyeong Forest Park. When we arrived, the guy in front, who had been towing a small trailer, opened up that trailer and pulled out the picnic lunch. The first thing he shared out to everyone was some cans of beer! It was such a hot day cycling in the humidity and sunshine that the beer was extra delicious. Our friend Jaihyun had also brought some sandwiches and some muffins for us to share, too, so along with the vegetables and fruit, it was a wonderful shared picnic lunch.

By the time we cycled home, James and I had been out with our bicycles for six hours. We had not been cycling for that whole time, but it had been a long, adventurous day, with lots of exercising, exploring, and socialising too. It was a lot of fun!

Something scary that happened though was some text messages I received on the trip. A couple of good, close friends sent me messages about the big earthquake that had shaken New Zealand earlier in the morning. They did not say that anyone had died, just that it had been a very large quake, measuring 7.2 on the scale. I really wanted to get home quickly to skype-phone my mother and check my sister and her family was okay. I ended up chatting with my mother for an hour, because, even though everyone was okay (there were no ‘fatalities’ or deaths) my mother and I had not talked for a long time.

Then it was time to rush out again, because another friend was having a birthday dinner party and another friend wanted to go together. When we arrived we met the birthday girl’s boyfriend outside. His name was Wesley, and he made an immediate impression as a really nice guy. When we arrived inside we found that the birthday friend – Laura from the USA – had made a huge vegetarian ‘pie’ especially for me because the party was supposed to be a barbeque, but I prefer not to eat meat; I like vegetarian cooking much better.

Laura showed me the pie in the refrigerator. There was no oven but there was a frying pan and a lid, so I fried some up for myself and my friend who I’d come with: Mano. He was born in India, but grew up going to an English speaking boarding school, and so he thinks more like a westerner. He enjoyed the pie a lot too; it had lots of olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum, and cheese and pasta in it, so it was very delicious. Other people saw it and wanted to try some, and so before a few minutes had gone by, the whole pie was completely gone!

Someone else had brought a salad, and with a drink or two to wash it down it was a wonderful dinner. There were many nice people with whom to chat while eating and after dinner too. By 10pm though, I was very tired and didn’t want to try to talk above the noise, so I started to think about going home. But another friend was supposed to come to the party but had not arrived yet.

I phoned my good friend Bongsuk to check how she was going after playing volleyball earlier that evening. She said she had just got into a taxi to come meet us. I suggested meeting at a coffee shop not far away. Just as I was about to leave, a new coworker demanded that we share a drink, so, I had a brief chat with him about work and drink, and we said “Cheers!” a lot between laughing at silly things like teaching English with strange accents (he is from Scotland), and then I raced out the door before he could demand I have another drink!

I met Bongsuk at the coffee shop and we chatted for an hour or so, but before midnight I was almost falling asleep at the table, so we said goodnight and parted ways again. It was another long, wonderful day.

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