Cast of characters








An old man








As he was just about to turn back to the apartment and call it a night, Fred saw him.




* Who does he see? *




Staggering up the sidewalk about half a block away, Fred made out an elderly man, likely in his late-70s.





He had a white stringy beard and was wearing traditional clothes –a loose-fitting white silk jacket and pants, and old tattered shoes.




The night temperature was distinctly below freezing but the elder seemed oblivious to that.





His apparently inebriated state and unsteady walk put a grin on Fred’s face — yet the waygook was grinning with the old man not at him.




The elder got closer step by step but hadn’t yet noticed the waygook.





In his own little world, the elder would have likely passed right by, had Fred not stopped several feet in front and greeted him.




“Anyong Hashimnika!




The old man stopped and was overtaken with complete surprise. The silence of the night filled the air.




“Oh! Anyong Hasseyo,” he answered, coming curiously and carefully closer and then becoming very concerned about the foreigner.





He reached out and gently but firmly clutched the waygook’s arm.




“Did you eat rice yet? Have you had rice? Rice?” Before the foreigner could answer, the old man more firmly gripped his arm and led him back toward the previous block.




The foreigner could see they were headed to a restaurant.




“Come on,” the elder urged. “You’ve got to eat dinner. Let’s go. We’ll eat together.”





The elder’s actions, as the foreigner would learn over his future years in Korea, were typical of the older generation, when everyone pitched in to help each other.




The old man hadn’t proceeded more than a few steps, however, when the foreigner realized he had to decline the offer.




* How come? *




It wasn’t that Fred couldn’t have eaten something; and still haunting him was Mr Go’s earlier invite, which he’d rebuffed and then regretted.





Yet redeeming himself was not important at this moment.




The foreigner saw clearly that the best place for the old gentleman to go was home. In his impaired state, his remaining energy would be best used getting himself back.




With as much grace and respect as the foreigner could muster, he slightly tugged the old man’s arm and stopped him.




“Ajasshi,” he said politely and respectfully, “I’m okay. Everything’s okay.”




The old man was taken aback. He deliberated momentarily and then came on side.




Now it was the young foreigner leading the old man.




They walked several steps to the foot of a road which led up a hill to some place where the old man obviously lived.





He wasn’t insulted by the foreigner’s refusal to eat rice and there was still warmth between them as they bid farewell.




The old man slowly walked off and began ascending the hill. 




“Nice to meet you,” the foreigner shouted after him. “Anyong-hee Kashipshyo!” (Go in peace.)




The old man didn’t reply. He simply continued up the slope slowly and unsteadily but with an undiminished sense of purpose, and disappeared over the top into the blackness.




Fred Pineridge took a deep breath of the winter air and shook his head in appreciation and astonishment, as he turned toward Good Lucky Apartments.





“Korea,” he said heading off into the night, “What an amazing place.”




The end.