오늘도 알찬 하루 돼~ oneuldo alchan haru dwae – Have a meaningful day today. This was the content of one of the final texts my best friend sent me only a couple of days before the accident happened. He was also the one who first taught me the meaning of the word 알차다 alchada (meaningful) or 알찬 alchan when conjugated. I distinctly remember him using the word to me for the first time as we were walking right behind the Hyundai department store in Sinchon after having had dinner together one night in August 2017. At that point, I didn’t know that word and asked him to explain it to me.

Now, together with 인연 – special connection -, 알차다 – meaningful – has become one of my favorite words in the Korean language, and I make an effort of using it whenever I can. Not just using it – but actually living it. As I’m slowly coming back to meaningful living after the darkest months of my life, I’m making an effort to try and live my life the way he would want me to. Eating well, taking care of myself, and continuing to make happy memories and taking on new challenges.

This weekend has truly been the most meaningful time I’ve spent since his passing. I’ve been in the company of wonderful friends and I’ve managed to cross a lot off of my to-do list.

This morning I took a long walk from my place to downtown Seoul (in case you’re wondering, walking from my apartment to city hall square takes about 40 minutes) while listening to an audiobook called The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama. The weather was cool but not too cold and there were hardly any people in the street save for a few churchgoers.

I happened to reach city hall just as there was a changing of the guard ceremony at the Deoksogung Palace – score! A meaningful and beautiful addition to an already quite agreeable Sunday morning. I continued on, crossing over city hall square toward Jongno and the Cheonggyecheon stream. Strolling along the stream I finally reached Jongno Tower – my destination. Not many people may know this but on the B2 floor of Jongno Tower, there is a little gem of a bookstore. Excellent selection and never too crowded.

I went there to buy a diary for 2019. Last year, my best friend gave me a diary as a new year’s present. “Sorry, I couldn’t find a pink one. I know you love pink. I hope you like it anyway”, he told me. Well, this year I managed to find a pink one. There were so many to choose from, but I ended up choosing a cute diary with a cartoon bunny on the cover. It was wrapped in plastic so I couldn’t see the contents but it looked so pretty on the outside so I bought it.

Now, if you think it unlikely for me not to peruse the new releases since I was already at the bookstore, you’re absolutely right. Before heading for the cash register, I stumbled upon the latest book from Korean Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim. I had been meaning to get my hands on this one as I absolutely loved his previous publications. The new book is called 고요할수록 밝아지는 것들 – roughly translated: The things that only become clear to us when we are quiet. Happy with the two purchases, I hopped on the subway bound for Sinchon for a lunch date with one of my Danish Seoul-girls. We had a lovely afternoon eating delicious Indian food and doing lots and lots of talking. After lunch, we headed to a British-themed cafe for tea and coffee. All in all a great afternoon – perfectly in keeping with the day I’d had so far.

Back home, I took out the diary and book from my bag, sat down by my desk and unwrapped them. I opened the diary first, as I was eager to write in the appointments I’ve already made for the following weeks. On the first page that I looked at it said: “You are so special to me”, which was precisely what my best friend used to say to me. In English. In that exact way. Then I glanced over on the opposite page on which it said: “Always be with you”. Needless to say, my heart nearly skipped a beat. I felt as though he was somehow communicating this to me. Why else would I have picked this one out of the 30 different journals available? – As I wrote in my previous blog post I’m keeping my heart and mind wide open to mystery.

After having taken a few minutes to calm my mind, I then proceeded to browse through the book I had bought. The first page I randomly looked at said 실패는 성공의 어머니인 것 같습니다 – failure is the mother of all success. Whenever one of us faced hardship or failed at something, my friend always used this exact proverb to cheer us up.

I don’t know exactly how and I don’t know exactly where, but these experiences convince me that, somehow, he’s still here. And that’s all that matters to me.

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