In the early Spring of 2015 after having lived in Seoul for just half a year I had purchased a small displacement motorcycle, a Yamaha YB-1. It was shipped over the narrow sea from its native Japan and somehow made its way into the Korean used bike market. When I saw it on display in a dingy basement of a garage in unglamorous Western Seoul I knew that it fit. It only cost me 1000 usd but I would have paid triple for it. It was small, efficient, and old, but still in running condition. I put new racing slicks on it, flushed the oil, cleaned the carb, and installed a sporty muffler to give the little engine some oompf. My little green bike was with me until I left Korea and regretfully I had to leave it behind.
Every day that passes puts more distance between myself and the times that I rode it all over South Korea, over mountains to remote villages, dodging taxis and buses, and weaving through lanes with the jjajangmyun noodle delivery men. The scenery of the country passing by comes back to me every now and again and kicks my mind into remembering a time when I was totally unhinged. Where I went on my bike is impossible to recall. I remember unordered tidbits here and there; a hill, a corner, a mirror where I stopped to look at myself, or a cafe where I ordered an Americano.
I never crashed on my bike but I had two or three close calls that were close enough that it sent my heart racing and filled every inch of my body with adrenaline. There is something about riding across the Han river and through the tunnel under Namsan while weaving through traffic that tempts karma to do its work. It felt like penance.