Tucked away cozily in the outskirts of the frequented underground music & art district of Hongdae, Seoul, stands an independent cafe - Cafe Oui. Taken over nearly five years ago in 2008, current owner Ji-Woo Nam bought the quaint brick-walled Hongdae cafe from two acquaintances who were putting it up for sale. After working the routine life of the typical Korean white collar worker at an export company, Nam chose to start a new chapter in her life as a barista and cafe owner. The drastic change to Nam’s course of life and occupation has become a romanticized wish for many busy and stressed Seoulites. In fact, it is a common line of thought that can be heard from people while crossing the crosswalk in this cafe-consumed city after a long hard day of being cooped up in a cubicle: “I should just quit my job and open up a cafe.” Even though most will never be brave enough to leave the stability of office work for entrepreneurial ventures like Nam, for the residents of Seoul, cafes are so embedded in their lives that it is no surprise to hear such a statement.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon late last November,
Shivers ran up & down my body as I face-timed with my mom outside the entrance to the dorms. It was 2:15 pm. We were catching up. She told me about how her weekend was, about the newest batch of rascals in her classroom this year, and how much she wished I were there to scold my younger brother for her. I talked about the weather, how my classes were so far, and other things you say to reassure your parents that you’re living your youthful days wisely.
As I talked, I paced back & forth in odd, irregular lines… I was freezing. I never knew November could be so chilly. I just kept moving to stay warm as I talked outside. During our conversation, I noticed two people in the corner of my eye, they were snickering. For some reason, I felt like they were laughing at my funny movements. “I guess I do look pretty ridiculous,” I had thought to myself. I was scurrying around to keep warm, looking at my iPod from arms length, and giggling out loud. While our conversation came to a close with last minute jokes, “I-love-you’s,” and goodbyes, I all of a sudden heard someone singing from the direction in which the two people had been sitting. As I hung up, I turned my head towards them. It was a Jason Mraz song.
It has been two hours since the sun set in Irvine, California, and, as usual, there’s a still silence all around. Not a car in sight. While there are no cars or movements to break the picture of the still night on West Peltason, there is a symphony of movements being conducted in a brightly lit room further up the street...