Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Tourist Map of Korea

Last week I went through some old things. They were papers and etceteras from my early undergrad student years. I found them in an old bag under the bed. Most of it ended up in the dustbin.

Among the old things that didn't end up in the dustbin was a map of Korea. It was a gift from someone named Michael. He's a law student and a (Muslim) South Korean, a combination I found strange. Normally foreign student who study law in Malaysia are from countries formerly colonised by the British, because they, like Malaysia, inherit the British law system. I don't think Korea falls into this category.

Michael was my friend's room mate. I hung out there sometimes because we were in the same group for an assignment. Michael wasn't around very often then. My friend mentioned Michael a few times, but I didn't meet until later in the semester. He said Michael was always busy with some projects. He is a very talented artist.

I know it's wrong to go snooping around other people's room, especially when they aren't around. But I was so impressed by the artwork Michael had put up on his room's wall. He drew mostly sceneries and objects. I remember studying a drawing of a boat he did, trying to figure out whether it was computer drawn or hand drawn.

The first time I met Michael, I was looking for my friend at his room. It turned out that he wasn't there. Michael was on his way out but he politely greeted me and introduced himself. As usual he was on his way to some project. I saw him as a person with a lot of ideas, always in the middle of doing something. A classic Type A personality.

I was delighted to meet an actual Korean. I don't know much about the country. This was a few years before the Korean wave started. Almost nobody had heard of Bae Yong Joon or have any idea what kimchi is.

My friendship with my Korean friend was a brief one. We rarely sit down together. We ran into each other, exchanged greetings and updates on our own personal live. Our topic usually was drawing, something we both are passionate about.

A few weeks went on without Michael and I crossing each other's path. I don't see him in his room, at the canteen or anywhere else. I was worried that I might have annoyed or offended him in any way.

Not too long after that, I saw Michael at the canteen. He was having lunch and I asked if I could join him. I immediately asked where were him this past few weeks. I'm leaving, he said. He got a job offer as an illustrator in KL. It's a small company that's just starting out. I wasn't really surprised actually by his decision to leave, considering that Korea probably has a different law system altogether. He gave me his business card and told me that within a year or so he would be return to Korea. He then reached into his bag and handed me a folded piece of paper. It was the Tourist Map of Korea, published by the Korea National Tourism Organization.

Use it to find me when come there some day, said Michael with a smile. We finished our meal, and also our last conversation. We wished each other success and a good future.

Till this day I haven't been able to contact Michael. I emailed him once but I didn't get any reply. I think now he's back in Korea. Wherever he is, I wish him the best. I hope that someday I can use map to find him, just as he suggested.


ieka said...

la awat tak ckp awal2 ada kwn korea.. kalau tau dulu2 pi korea boleh tolong carikan dia.. hehehe

rol said...

Tu la, kan? Tapi aku memang dah tak ingat kisah ni, sampailah aku jumpa semula peta ni. Tiba-tiba teringat. Sedih pun ada.

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