My first impression of Park was that he was a quiet man, with a less quiet wife and daughter, that spoke French, and some broken English. We met on the first Sunday I was here and I noticed that while everyone else busied themselves with conversation, he sat quietly and only added a few things here and there. We had a few attempts at conversation ourselves but then we both went back to listening. The next time we met he had picked me up for my first sailing trip and we were to meet the client at the Laguna Cafe' where we would then take them to the boat. Not only did they not show, but lead us to believe they were coming every 30 minutes which resulted in us waiting for an hour and a half. So we talked......you know.....like small talk.....He asked me things like "Do you feel a deep emptiness in my heart that kept me up at night because I wasn't married and was alone?", little things like that. An hour and a half of this, in broken English and on my part almost no french. This conversation changed everything. He is not at all an introvert and loves to talk, and when he finds something humorous he grabs my knee, if sitting, or tickles me, if standing, to emphasize the point. Look, I get it. Physical contact is really important for everyone on the physical and the psychological levels, but.....I'm...a...grown...ass...man! Please stop trying to tickle me. ALSO.....ALSO.....you too are a grown ass man. So....you know! No touchy!!! Don't get me wrong, he's a good dude doing good things, but if picks up a pillow with twinkle in his eye.......It's ON!
So the man really wants to learn how to fish. It's one of the first things that he spoke of when I met him followed by "Do you fish?" I told him I did and he asked for a lesson. Someone had left him so fishing poles and some gear and he simply needed someone to show him how. "When we go fishing?" was an expected phrase anytime I saw him. Next week, this week, tomorrow?
ME:Well Park, we have a sailing trip on Monday, and a business meeting at 2pm on Tuesday, so how about Wednesday?
Park: After business meeting on Tuesday. (notice no question mark)
The business meeting ran long and I was convinced that we would have to reschedule. Not on his watch. He was knocking on my door at 5pm ready to go, and so we did. You'll have to picture where the lagoon meets the dry land isn't a beach, but roughly a 15-foot cliff that goes down to the water. Every few month another part of it breaks off into the sea. Even though the evidence of this is everywhere park insists on driving as close as possible to the edge. This marks the most nervous I've been since arriving here. He is also known, and almost proud of his speeding tickets. Finally, we arrive at an agreeable spot and grab our things from the back of the van, just a few things will do, we have about an hour I think of fishing time. WRONG AGAIN! I was handed a gas tank, a stove, three fishing poles, a cooler and three bags of fishing gear. This was an event. We made it down the small cliff without incident and I start setting up the poles. I taught him the knots to use and how to secure the incredibly smelly bait that he had bought so that it wouldn't be easily stolen, and we were off. He took to casting pretty quickly and now it was just a waiting game.
I have no idea what was happening on the end of his rod but I had to monsters just bite my line in half and I caught three little fish that barely rivaled my bait. Then it hit me, I was fishing in the same pond but just on the other side. If I looked straight the Atlantic ocean and slightly north I'd be looking in the direction of my home. It was a strange moment. Next thing I knew Park was whipping up some grub. The stove was out, I saw blurs of food wrapped in plastic, styrofoam cups with Korean writing and a small thermos that promised authentic Korean coffee, chopsticks, spoons, and some mismatched cups for coffee. Ten minutes later, "Sit", he said (still no question mark). He filled my coffee mug first and then his, we both took a sip and he said,with a scrunched up face, "Oh sorry, not Korean coffee). We ate our Korean ramen, drank our not Korean coffee, had a miniature fish pizza, and started up fishing again for another 45 minutes. The tide had receded and so did the fish. It was colder now and it was time to go. We took all of our gear back up the cliff where the car still tested the strength of the cliff by sitting as close as possible and went home. Even though Park didn't catch a thing or get a chance to tickle me he said thank you for taking him fishing and that he had fun. For me? I'd never fished from that side of the pond before, so I too had a good time.
There has been a surge of business over the last couple of weeks, which we are all grateful for, and so I went out for the third time to test myself against the elements. Our clients for the day were two french ladies visiting a friend, he was busy with work, so they came sailing with us. Like everything else different people approach the trip in different ways. These ladies were content with laying on the trampoline (in the front of the boat) while we buzzed around them hoisting sails, tacking, serving food and drink, etc. The older of the two had sailed with some friends during a summer about twenty years ago, and the other girl (in her twenties) was experiencing sailing for the first time. So there were white knuckles everywhere....although seasickness wasn't an issue.....so kudos to them for that.
As for me it was time to dig in a little deeper. Time for me to practice what I had been observing over the last couple of trips. First of all, physics and gravity owe me an apology! How is it that a man of my...uh...density can struggle to hoist a weighty sail, but another man with a weaker grip and less constitution can do it with a smile. I must have had a bad angle or something, anyway, it was a lot harder than it looked. It was deceivingly difficult but with great effort and strange noises, I finally got it.
Secondly, a good sailor knows his knots! It's pivotal to a successful voyage because knots are everywhere. I was given a simple request days ago to the tune of "Learn how to tie a bowline knot". I had a little experience with this knot in the rock climbing days so it came easy...I worked on it for an hour until I could do it with my eyes closed. Proudly I announced my victory and was busy congratulating myself when I was told that the real challenge is to do it behind your back. I scoffed, NO PROBLEM! BAM! in 20 minutes I owned that knot behind my back. Confidently I'm in the field/boat with my battle plan at the ready just looking for a rope that needs a tying. I hope I don't embarrass the other guys with the speed and agility I demonstrate when I get to tie a knot. The mainsail is up...after a little help...Foresail has been hoisted and drawn tight and is ready to be.....wait.....I see it....the end of the rope that is destined for the flapping point of the foresail. I get command, "Tie the line into the clew of the foresail (he looks at the wind and then back at me)...you have thirty seconds.... I only need ten! I NEEDED MORE THAN TEN! The sail was out of control, flapping with the cruel wind, and that wasn't the worst part. The knot tying wasn't in front of me, or behind my back,.....Neh,Neh..... it was above my head, reversed, the sail was moving constantly, with the wind and motion of the boat trying to throw me into the water......(Real quick. Don't think for a second that the lagoon we sail in is a glassy surface that we make beautiful ripples in while we glide effortlessly across its magical surface. NO!....waves....lots of waves...and wind...all the time.....Is it warm? you might ask. NO! We are layered with clothes and can very comfortably wear a beanie without the slightest fear of overheating. Anyway....where was I?...Ah yes....I'm failing miserably at my knot whilst hanging on for my life.) With my brain short circuiting, and my 30 seconds long past expired and handed the job to someone more capable, kicked what was left of my ego off the boat and into the water and once again observed how it was done. I walked to the captain, who found it all amusing, and I asked him. "In what situation would I ever never need to be amazing at tying a bowline behind my back?" He just smiled as if he had no idea what I could be talking about.....Oh, he knew! Everybody got jokes.So I learned a few lesson through humility that day, which is always a potent teacher, and got a few more miles under my belt. Next time will be different!!!