The cold air hit me before I could adjust my scarf to shield my face from the relentless night. A shiver ran down my spine but I moved forward with Jiyeong, a dear friend I made in Korea. We walked along the quiet streets of Seoul, the only thing heard were the soft voices of young men singing against the gentle strum of their guitars. We walked further and further down the pavement until their voices were mere hums in the wind. I didn’t know where we were going, but I didn’t mind at all.
We stopped at the bottom of a hill. I looked over at Jiyeong, and her mouth pulled into a smile, signaling me to continue onward. We started our climb up the path, our laughs echoing out along the trees that cover us from the cold for a few minutes. Jiyeong pointed out faint lights along a distant mountain, and my gaze followed the string of lights all the way until they turned to stone. It was a wall: The Hanyangdoseong (Seoul City Wall), a wall built in 1396 to protect Seoul against invaders, and it stretched far along the modern city.
A rush of euphoria washed over me as I felt myself hurled hundreds and hundreds of years back. The past penetrated the present in such a beautiful way. The wall withstood the harsh condition of time, and still stands strong and unbroken today. I wondered if I’ve become that strong since coming here. I only have a month left here, and standing alongside a wall of the past looking out towards the buzzing city of the present has me happy yet sad at the same time. I’ll never be able to go back to these times. I’ll never be able to share the same memories with friends I’ve met here.
The past and the present come together all over Seoul. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to come back to where my past self has been, and where my past self has found herself. I wonder if I’ll be able to make new memories, and look back on old times fondly and not with the desire to turn back the clock and turn myself into stone.
But, the more I stare at this city, I can’t help but smile. I can’t help but sing and dance to the music I can only hear. This city has given me more than I could have ever imagined I’d receive. I cannot go back to the past, but I have so much to look forward to. As we descend down the hill, walking hand in hand with this beautiful wall, I can’t help but think about the next time we will meet. Maybe I’ll be taller, or have shorter hair. Maybe I’ll be married, or maybe I’ll take my family here, but no matter what, I’ll be happy.
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