February 29, 2012

From the first time I laid eyes on Annabelle and claimed her as my own, I knew she was something special. While her exterior hinted her years, she was young at heart. Willing and more than able to glide up, blast down and slice back and forth, she brought joy with every twist of the throttle. I also knew that one day I would have to part with her, no matter how much I tried to tell myself otherwise.

I tried to put it out of my mind but as my departure date got closer I contemplated what to do with Annabelle. I thought about bringing her back to Canada with me, I thought about keeping her in Korea so I would be prepared in the event of my return, I thought about jumping her off a bridge or pushing her down a mountain so she could go out in a blaze of glory but I didn't advertise her.

By and by I had a number of people came along to inquire about her status, I mentioned that I would keep them in mind once I made up my mind. I came to the conclusion that it would be selfish to let Annabelle waste away when she could bring joy to someone else. We agreed on the time and a location that the exchange would take place.

I watched my class graduate the day before, there by finishing my last day of teaching, so I was free to spend all day saying goodbye. I slept in a little and, needing to run a few errands, took Annabelle up town to pick up some last minute things and stopping at Young's Bap one last time to pick up my favorite, two rolls of chamchi kimbap.

Having picked up everything I wanted before heading back to Canada, Annabelle and I set out to make the last of our time count. There would be time to pack up later, there would have to be, we had been blessed with a beautiful day and it would be a shame to waste it. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and all, as far as I could tell, was right with the world.

We took off with no set plan or direction, we went where ever the roads took us, just being together was enough. Contrary to many of the other good-byes I had already experienced the mood was not as somber as one might fear. Annabelle was as playful and full of spunk as ever, as if she didn't know what was to take place later that day. I played along as to not give anything away, I did not want to disappoint her.

We were as good a team as could be. Slicing through corners stronger and faster than ever. At times she would tease me in to thinking we were going too fast, only to laugh on the exit knowing that more was possible. This only urge me faster around the next. It was pure bliss.

It wasn't all go, go, go. We stopped when Annabelle was thirsty, we stopped to gallivant on a few beaches, we stopped(but mostly slowed a little) to gaze out over the beautiful scenery. But it was mostly go, go, go.

We saw all the sights that could be seen from the road, but didn't matter, I was with Annabelle. We traversed mountain passes and blasted through valleys, but it didn't matter I was with Annabelle. We rode the East coast from South to North, but it didn't matter I was with Annabelle. The whole while she whispered sweet nothings in my ear as we rode(as only her 125cc engine could).

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and while I did say we set out without a plan, that was a lie. We were headed off the island for the last time together, for Tongyeong, which became clearer every passing kilometer. But I wasn't going to let her go quietly. We blasted off the island, hitting our highest top speed yet, 110 km/h.

Due to our blasting we were a little early which meant we had a little more time, time that I did not intend to waste. The entrance to the town was located in a little valley, with the highway rising up on either side, at the top of either side was an intersection.

If you can't already picture what we did with the extra time that is alright because I will tell you. We blasted around the 3 kilometer loop as fast a we could do. First down, then up, then a u-turn; repeating it for the remainder of our time together.

When our time was up, we made our way to, what I thought was our meeting point. As you may have guessed from the previous sentence, I though I knew where it was but when I went inside I realized that it was not the right place. I did not know how to get to our agreed upon meeting place.

Without a cell phone, phone number, or address, Annabelle and I frantically took to the road to find the right location. Thinking I may have taken the wrong exit in to town I back tracked only to find that we had taken the right exit. I looked for a place to turn around but it wasn't easy as we were on the highway.

I finally spotted something that looked like an area to turn around but upon slowing down and looking closer it was not to be. I geared down and looked to get back in to the flow of traffic. I spotted my entrance and twisted the throttle.

Annabelle made a sickening mechanical report and despite the increased revs refused to speed up at all. I piloted her safely to the edge of the road and turned her off hoping that what had just happened was simply a figment of my imagination. I waited a while and started her back up. I shifted her in to first, nothing. I went up to second, she pulled a little bit but quickly let go. There was a similar result with third, fourth, and finally fifth gear.

For many, this would have elicited feelings along the lines of anger, frustration or worry but all I felt was peace. This response may sound unnatural as this event would have deeply troubled my heart had it been at any other time. But now it was as if on cue, Annabelle would have wanted it this way. It was as if Annabelle was telling me that she could not and would not live with out me.

I rolled her off the highway and behind a gas station, where I found a small patch of open gravel at the top of a hill. I gently rocked her kickstand down one last time, and help her slowly down to rest on it. Having travelled a total of 29105 kilometers, 4800 of those with me, Annabelle and I said goodbye for the last time.

I placed my riding pants and jacket in the saddle bags, put my helmet on the backrest and walked away knowing that Lord Alfred Tennyson was right when he said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."

That day was February 29, 2012.


The End is Nigh

I am back in the motherland called Canada and, as some of you already know, it has been for a good two weeks. I have taken the time to rest, catch up with friends and process what I experienced the past year.

Upon my return the question of what would happen to this space on the internet arose. Seeing that the internet is not running out of space, I will leave it up. Having left out many parts of my experience in Korea one option would be to continue expelling them until the needle on my story tank read E. I will not do this.

Instead I will conclude a story that started a full twelve months ago; a story that changed my time in Korea from mediocre to mind blowing; a story that gripped my heart and refused to let it go. That story is, of course, the story of Annabelle.

Thank-you for your encouragement and support over the past year. I don't think that I speak for myself when I say, it has been quite an adventure.



I mentioned the other day when talking about the grand open that I was on a mission. This was what I was after:

The shop that holds the title for Korea's best pizza now also lays claim to Korea's biggest pizza. SkyBori Pizza in Suwol. While SkyBori is a chain, none of the other shops, or any pizza place in Korea, make pizza like this for the price.

If you are in the area stop by and give it a try, you won't be disappointed. It is just across the new bridge past the LG and Samsung buildings. Also the owner's wife speaks great English and is always down to chat.


Message in a Bottle

Ever since I heard that it was possible I have wanted to write a message, put it in a bottle and throw it in the sea. I was reminded of this a few months back but being winter it was "too cold" to take Annabelle to the sea. But seeing that my time was short I decided to go ahead with the project regardless of the happenings outside my windows.

I bought a bottle that I felt would be perfect for this type of enterprise and went about disposing it's contents to prepare it for it's work. I also looked in to ocean currents and where my message would have the most chance of reaching some far away place. Once that was all in place I set about writing the note.

Now there is a percentage of the population that would say this is child's play, tomfoolery or nonsense but I didn't ask what others thought of the idea so I don't know what percentage that would be. I am not the most creative person but wrote the note as best I could imagine a five year old writing it.

As per message in a bottle regulations I included my name, my address and the date. I did not include my age for fear that it would impede a reply. Everyone wants to write to that five year old boy waiting for a reply, boy will they be surprised... I also did not include any form of internet communication. If I wanted more emails I would reply to my family more often, I want a letter that I can touch, look at and mount on my wall.

With everything in place I called Annabelle and we set off. My research on ocean current were inconclusive. Seeing that I would be hurling it from the shore I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get it far enough out. So I decided that the best way to give it a proper start would be to throw it from the bridge between Geoje and Tongyeon. (The Geoje Busan link bridge would have been better but I did not have a legal way of carrying it out.)

I took a glorious ride out to the bridge and found that there would be no stopping to get sentimental, I would need to heave it from the bike as I rode across. I took a few passes to determine the best place to throw it from as well as to have a minimal amount of traffic observing. About the fourth pass everything came together and as they say, "felt right", so I let it fly.

Worst case, I get charged for littering, but from what it looks like here I should be safe. Best case senario I  receive a letter in the next fifty years or so and we become best friends. I can't wait!


Grand Open

This past week they completed a project that they started this summer. When I started in Korea there a rundown lot that I passed everyday, with a small corrugated metal mart in the middle and a small waffle fish stand. A few months in they started to dismantle the building and clear the lot making me wonder where I would be able to find edible Korean seafood...

In it's place came a large footprint of what would, in a few short months, become a LG electronics store. It is the Korean equivalent of a Best Buy or Future Shop. It is strategically placed in a affluent, growing neighbourhood right across from a Samsung store of the same nature.

This past week they had their Grand Open as they call it in Korea and while I don't quite understand it, it is all quite interesting. First of all, most electronics stores in Korea have some sort of noise(some call it music) coming from external speakers to infiltrate the otherwise calm(not so much) of everyday Korea. But because it is a grand open they need to push the limits of what their speakers can handle.

Next you add a guy on stilts. No one is sure why, but research show that if you have a guy on stilts you are more likely to attract more people. It's either that or cause more accidents in front of your store. Then you have a clown. Just an ordinary polka dotted, red nosed, cone hatted, baggy panted, frowny faced clown. This store took it one step farther by having a gorilla suited guy to make a full set of musketeers.

And if that is not enough to draw you in they also have lights and streamers and tents and banners and prizes and specials and gifts.

To combat LG's enticing tricks, the Samsung store across the street was doing their best to sell electronics by blasting music and employing a couple of ladies to dance on a street side stage.

What do these gimmicks have to do with selling electronics? I would love to know.

I was almost tempted to set foot in the establishments but unfortunately(or thankfully) I was on a mission.(More on this later)

You can also see from where the picture is taken that the bridge is finished.



Due to my new location I got to see this the other day on my ride to work! A ship entering port! While a simple thing in itself, having not grown up with it, I was(and still am) pretty excited about it. Something so big, so close, moving so slowly.

New Home

My school decided that it was best for them to have me out of my apartment a week before I come home. When asked where I should stay they said that I could move in with them... dream come true. I declined. Thankfully one of my friends was kind enough to take me in. This is the view from the table where I eat breakfast. Yes it over looks the sea... not too bad.