I suddenly felt the urge to run back to the village, the one hidden between the mountain slopes and old valley roads where nobody knows, the one enveloped by dry tree tops shy of its bare branches looking sullen and bowed, where each of them mourn the loss of the young king laid to rest. And in the silence, I mourn it too. I mourn the loss of this one street town, where in its absence of youth, has seen shops close doors and its mirrors collect dust, where taxi drivers stroll the street in slow motion waiting for invisible passersby. But here in this small nook in the countryside, I found love – love for the one who gave stalk branches life, that in its spring those cherry blossoms sprung. Here, I found love in the people – the ones who hide their families away from dark times in rundown apartment blocks, in which the laughter of little children echo in rooms we once thought vacant. And there at the coffee house, where we seek refuge behind steaming kettles, where grown men huddle around and hum the same tune, and strum the same strings, there in the midst of winter we found warmth, warmth from these hearts, where the women never forget a face and always offer a smile – to the lost ones, to the ones who by luck ended up here, who were abandoned here, who found something to love here, those hearts kept us going. With all of your laughter and all of your smiles, we can only hope to pass it on along the road, when we leave the country, when we leave the village – where in great misfortune, fortune grew, and we found in ourselves a strength we never knew. Here’s to you!
Photos were taken in Yeongwol, South Korea.