So, another birthday, number 60. Sixty is traditionally a special milestone in Korean culture. As commenter Kevin Kim helpfully shared:
That’s five times around the twelve-year Chinese zodiac, and Koreans normally celebrate this with a special party called “hwan-gap,” a reference to having completed the 60-year cycle. If no one’s said anything to you about hwan-gap plans, it could be that you’ll be in for a surprise on Thursday. And, hey—if you don’t get a proper hwan-gap celebration, go have an awesome meal at your favorite meatateria, anyway.
Well, there was no hwan-gap today for me, Jee Yeun advises that people live so long these days that 60 has lost its significance. Instead, the big party is for hwan-gab, the 70th birthday. What a difference a “b” makes, eh? Here’s hoping I’m still around for the hwan-gab celebration!
Hwan-gap or no, it turned out to be a pretty fine day. It started with awakening to the flowers pictured above and a sweet card from my spouse. Then it was off for another day
on the chain gang serving the American people to the utmost of my ability.
Although I did take time out for a selfie whilst I contemplated all the wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years. It didn’t take long.
At lunch time my boss and two co-workers joined me for a fine Mexican feast at On the Border in Itaewon.
Upon my return to the office the long awaited email from the embassy was there informing me that MOFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) had finally seen fit to issue the documentation verifying that my vehicle had been de-registered from it’s former diplomatic status. So, I hoofed it over to the embassy annex and picked up said paperwork. Then I hiked over to Camp Kim to get my car registered with USFK.
I had all my required paperwork, but the vehicle inspection is only good for 30 days, and 30 days came and went on Wednesday. Despite my urging for an exception to policy (being as how the vehicle has been parked for the past three weeks) I was given no quarter. Instead, they gave me a temporary registration and licence plates (for $3.50, U.S. currency only). Then it I carried my plates back to the embassy annex, finagled a visitor pass, and went in to finally take possession of my 1999 Hyundai Sonata.
My embassy contact handed me the solitary key to the car, I dutifully inserted it into the ignition. turned it, and…nothing. Yep, the battery was as dead as that ambassador Hillary hung out to dry. My helpful embassy contact secured me a jump start and then had one of the mechanics install my temporary tags. And this time I was able to actually drive back to Camp Kim (and the A/C worked perfectly!). First stop was the AAFES car care center for a new inspection and a $122.00 battery.
Battery installed and inspection passed, I completed the reams of paperwork, and was given two shiny new license plates (for $6.50 U.S.) and told to install them myself. No big deal I suppose, but that is a service the registration folks used to provide. And it was hot and I was in slacks and a tie. Oh well. I got ‘er done and drove back on post just like I knew what I was doing. Found the car wash ahjussi and he cleaned my new old car up like a champ for a mere W10,000.
I did a little more office work and then Jee Yeun arrived to take me shopping at PX (she buys, I pay). We had discussed purchasing a new backpack, but after trying a couple on for size I decided I liked the one I’m currently using better. So I settled for a pair of slacks and a shirt. Suits me.
Jee Yeun said she was hungry and although I was still stuffed from lunch I drove her (even opened her door like a proper gentleman) to Dragon Hill Lodge for a fancy dinner at Sables. We had us a live Maine lobster which on the menu was listed as “market price”. That turned out to be a mere $65.00 and included three sides of our choosing.
A huge ass lobster served up with a baked potato, broccoli in cheese sauce, and asparagus in butter, I was glad we didn’t order two lobsters because I was stuffed.
My fat and satisfied 60 year old self.
After dinner we drove over to the commissary and stocked up on all the heavy items we could now easily transport home in the very spacious trunk of my Hyundai. Then I got to find our way back to Gireum-dong. The GPS that came with the car is next to worthless, but Jee Yeun did a great job navigating and we made it home in less than a hour, which considering the traffic wasn’t bad at all.
So Hee brought me a birthday cake from Paris Baguette. A cheesecake which I truly do enjoy.
All decked out with 6 ten year candles…
…which these old lungs managed to blow out with a single gasp.
And that’s pretty much how my day went. As regular readers know I’ve been a little melancholy upon reaching this milestone. Glad I did of course, but reflecting on the ever dwindling time I have left has been somewhat disconcerting. The fact is I still feel young (the aches and pains notwithstanding) so I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to embrace that and keep on going as hard and long as I can.
It’s a sorry shame is what it is…
Well, I’ve been blessed. And instead of focusing on the things I no longer have in my life, I’m going to work at being satisfied with the things I do have. It’s not a bad life I’m living at all and I’m certainly in no hurry to let it go.
Back in college I read Hemingway’s A Clean Well-Lighted Place (full story at the link, it’s short). It moved me then, but re-reading it tonight from the perspective of an older man gave it a rich new meaning. A couple of days ago I came across a story (fiction, I think) that also resonated. Living life in regret will consume you if you let it. I won’t.
Happy Birthday to me!