I said the first of my goodbyes today. As the end of my time here is approaching I took my beloved bike to the shop I bought it from, Imagemany moons ago. The shop is owned by a kind and friendly middle-aged couple who have sorted me and bikey out a few times since we began our adventures together. They have also thrown many “service” items – water bottles, head scarves and lights – my way. As well as being generous people, I think they were pleased by my Seoul trip last year.

I told them (in my broken Korean) that as I’m leaving Korea soon and selling my bike on, I wanted it looked over. Telling Korean people that you are planning to leave Korea incites a very common reaction. It is like they have just heard that not only are you going off to fight in a war, but also that their winning lottery ticket has just expired… A delightful mixture of genuine disappointment and deep concern. My bike-shop friends were no exception. After a few saddened shakes of the head, Mr Bike Man said “don’t forget us”, asserted that I “must come back” and when I do I must be sure to come and visit them. It was sad. I nearly cried. God knows how I’m going to say goodbye to the people whose names I actually know. But then, in a way, it is these connections that I will miss the most. I can stay in touch with my good friends here, but these day to day interactions that make me feel like an honorary local – there is no way of recreating them. And so I said simply that no, of course I won’t forget them. And yes of course I’ll come back, one day.

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