We Are Leaving In Five Days

WE ARE LEAVING IN FIVE DAYS!!! I may have just peed a little writing that.

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We are flying out of Seoul on the 7th, landing in Paris on the same evening and spending a couple of days there, catching up with as many friends and family members as we can. Joe and I will then fly to Barcelona with three friends, one a Paris resident and two who will have flown in from Colorado. In Barcelona, we’ll be met by two other friends who will pick us up at the airport. Over the course of 11 days, the seven of us will drive from Barcelona to the Spanish Basque Country and back to Paris via southern France (where we will be joined by one more friend) through Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. So, I thought I’d do a quick mention of our partners in crime because they deserve it.

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People often ask me how I met Joe. My answer is through these two. Well, more accurately Luke, the big guy in the blue shirt standing on our old porch with his beautiful wife Hyerim.

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Luke and I met at KBS World Radio a few years back. He was working for the English news section and I was a radio presenter in the English section; we became good friends. In 2010, Luke left KBS and transferred to the Seoul studio of Gameloft, a global video game company headquartered in Paris. Joe would also be joining the company later that year in December. Over time, the two became best buds, bonding over three seasons of fantasy basketball and countless beers and dart games. Two years ago, in the spring of 2013, Luke and Hyerim made the big decision to move to Colorado. They are happily settled there, with their newly-adopted pooch Mandoo.

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This photo was taken in the fall of 2012 at Luke and Hyerim’s wedding. I was there and Joe was there. In fact, many of the then-strangers whom I would eventually meet and become good friends with were there. Joe and I still hadn’t met at that point. I would NEVER in a million years have  imagined that my life partner would be sitting right behind me on that day. It still boggles my mind to look at this photo and realize that my Joe had been completely unknown to me at this moment in time. We would meet face to face exactly six months later on a beautiful spring day–a Sunday–at a Mexican restaurant in Itaewon where the members of the upcoming Euro road trip (minus two) got together for a long-overdue brunch. I’d been badly hungover that morning and had almost taken a rain check. When I showed up, late, everyone was there including Joe, a colleague of Luke’s I’d never met.

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This is a photo taken from that day. Round 2 of what ended up being 4: beers on the rooftop. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Jiwon and Laurent are also part of the crew! Here they are at yet another Halloween party Luke invited me to but didn’t go. These two, accomplices to Luke’s master plan to  hook Joe up with me, moved back to Paris last fall. Laurent is also my former work friend from KBS. Jiwon is a badass foodie and wine connoisseur.

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And last but not least, Eujin and Fabien, who have joined me and Joe on numerous weekend trips out of the city. Eujin is an adaptive physical education teacher who is moving to Montreal in late September. Fabien is a video game producer, geekus maximus who gets mad excited over mangas and toys and cars and video games.

Traveling with a group of friends is no easy task. I’ve realized this and not for the first time either. When the members of the party are dispersed in different corners of the globe, coordinating a two-week-long trip together is especially trying. Try planning everything as democratically as possible? It would require dozens of e-mail correspondence just to decide on which car model to rent. However, we’re almost there. Accommodations and restaurants meticulously researched and booked. A couple already on the road with a head start. The rest of us just counting down the hours. 

IMG_20150609_070143Oh, and an unexpected bonus! Last week, Joe and I had the pleasure of being introduced to Lucia and Santiago, a Spanish couple from Madrid traveling through Korea. Over some insanely tasty gamjatang and a few beers on the rooftop, Santiago mentioned that he was from Santander (the capital of Cantabria on the north coast of Spain). When he found out that  we’ll be staying the night in his hometown, he offered to host all of us at his mother’s beautiful centuries-old estate.

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This is a photo of his mother’s place he sent me. How does one say no to that?

We’ll be spending the tail end of summer together, possibly getting on each other’s nerves at times, but just envisioning us eight grown-up kids, traveling halfway across the world, squeezing into some bar in Barcelona on our first night in Spain and getting happily buzzed together is already an incredible feeling.

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