For those who like my writing and are interested in various food/animal/scenery pics (as well as a very long story) please read on!
The story of why I went to Korea in 2017 is an odd one. I was a full blown Koreaboo at the time and a devoted follower of Twice. My plan was to get tickets to see them at K-Con but, after Ticketmaster predictably sold every copy of the type of ticket I wanted to get to third party sellers the second they went on sale, I was left wondering where to turn. While driving home from dropping my computer off at a Fed-Ex to get repaired, I got a flat tire. While swapping out said tire I remembered that Twice was performing in Korea in approximately a month. After some quick research I realized that with the help of some family members, I could go to Korea and see Twice perform an entire concert for less than the price I would have paid for the pair of tickets I wanted to get for K-Con.
That’s when the light really went off in my head. Not only was Twice performing, but the Finals of GSL Season 2 were taking place the following weekend. I could go to Korea, see my favorite group and witness a GSL Final!
I immediately set to work. Within a week I had expedited my passport, booked a hotel room and claimed a ticket to the concert. One of my bosses at the time—Lichter (always eager to exploit cheap labor) suggested that I do some interviews while I was there. He put me in touch with the people at Afreeca and set up a pair of interviews with the finalists for that season. That was the extent of Lichter’s plan, but I had already cooked up another idea.
Back in November of 2016, when I wrote my first article on TL.net, I started speaking with soO. As pretty much everyone on this site knows, those conversations would eventually lead to a friendship which spawned a million and one articles. But before I ever wrote the first one, I became a moderator in soO’s twitch chat. During his streams, a random good Samaritan who went by the name verecunda, often translated soO’s comments into English, and they were quickly promoted to moderator as well so the posts would not get lost among chat as easily. I knew that I wanted to write an article about soO, but that to interview him on the scope that I wanted, I needed to find a translator. After contacting verecunda, they agreed. Little did I know that that innocuous conversation would spawn a friendship and eventually a relationship with the very person to whom I proposed just a few weeks ago.
Like most westerners, I assumed that if someone was on Twitch and liked video games that they were a dude. soO had his suspicions that verecunda might be female, but verecunda had never indicated anything of the sort. It was only in the week or so leading up to my trip that verecunda revealed she was, in fact, a girl. We agreed to meet on my first morning in Korea, conduct an interview with Leimmia (one of the leaders of the soO fan club in Korea) and then head to the FreecUp studio for the semifinal between Classic and soO, after which I would interview GuMiho (Maru was my second favorite player behind soO at the time and I was devastated that he lost to GuMiho as this meant I wouldn’t get to interview him) and whoever won the semifinal that day.
I don’t know how many of you reading this believe in the concept of love at first sight, but as I took the elevator down to the lobby of my hotel to meet verecunda and turned towards the entrance, my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t love her yet (obviously), but there was a spark there—this barely there awareness that this person could one day be someone I could love and that, what at the time was a very businesslike interaction, would never be enough. She would later go on to admit that she felt something similar, some kind of special feeling of her own. We reminisce about this moment often, and how it planted a seed that would eventually bloom into love.
That day went by in a blur. We conducted the first interview, went to the studio, watched some StarCraft (soO winning was incredible in its own right) interviewed GuMiho, finally met soO after talking for approximately seven months and eventually parted ways. Verecunda and I would reconvene soon after, however, and the two of us conducted a two hour interview with soO that transformed into a constant back and forth while I was in Korea as we transcribed the interview and I got to work. Verecunda was indispensable during the process and was essential in getting the tone correct for what became possibly my best article ever—Eo Yun Soo. We met up twice more that trip, first to attend the up and down for SSL and then to watch the GSL final together. soO ended up losing that day, but the two of us left the event together.
As we said goodbye on the street above Samseong Station, I really didn’t know what to do or say. Customs are different in the east and west and I didn’t know what was appropriate. The two of us reluctantly said goodbye, with her heading into the subway station and me remaining on the street. For the next twenty odd minutes I just wandered the largely vacant streets. I knew there was something between us, but I had no guarantee that I would ever see her again. My mind was restless and so I walked aimlessly in the vague hope some clarity would come. Curiously, she later revealed that she did the same in the station. Her train was not coming for some time and she two milled about, her mind as unsettled as mine.
I returned to America two days later and verecunda and I got back in touch to put the finishing touches on the article. It turned out to be an enormous success, but more importantly it got us in the habit of communicating every day. We typed for hours on Skype, exchanging thousands of messages across the weeks and months that followed. We had our ups and downs as we tried to figure out what exactly we meant to one another, but we eventually graduated to voice calls. Almost a year later I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she wanted to be a couple. That day was April 13, 2018 and as I nervously awaited her response I stared at my monitor hoping with all my spirit that she would say yes. Her eventual answer was tentative, but yes, she was willing to give it a try.
We arranged for her to come to America later that Summer and she visited again the following year. I tried to come see her in Korea, but Covid made the trip, arranged for March 2020, impossible. But, all the while we talked every day. We shared everything about our lives and forged a connection stronger than any I’d shared with anyone. We could talk about anything for hours at a time. For a reminder to those who might not remember some of my earlier blogs, I have bipolar disorder and I experience a lot of anxiety. Spending time with her in person, or even just talking put me at such ease. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world to lose myself in our discussions and temporarily forget all of the problems in my life. We struggled at times, as all couples do, but our long distance relationship endured.
Then, earlier this year, South Korea finally lessened its travel restrictions—removing the 14 day mandatory quarantine period that made visiting a real challenge. We immediately set to work figuring out when I could visit and eventually settled on March 2023. By this time we had already discussed the long term goals of our relationship on many occasions. We knew we wanted to be together forever and that we couldn’t imagine life without the other. So, when I boarded the plane to Korea, I did so with a ring in tow. We were both so giddy at the prospect of the proposal, but I still had to figure out when I was going to actually pop the question. Simply put, we found the right moment and when I did, she said yes. I can’t even word how happy I was to hear those words and how happy she was to say them. But, now that I’ve gotten the big sappy love story out of the way, I can start to get into the details of the trip, which quickly turned into the best two weeks of my life.
First off a massive photo dump that captures all types of stuff from throughout the trip…
So—the food. I’m fortunate to have a really high spice tolerance and an adventurous palate, so we were able to eat at a wide variety of restaurants. I had multiple types of Japanese food (including the best Toro I’ve had in my life by a mile), Bibimbap, Bulgogi, Korean BBQ, two types of fried chicken, a really great Chinese course meal, some Korean seafood, shaved ice with bean paste and a bunch of other really delicious stuff. I have to admit I was glad to get back to my normal diet of chicken breast and oatmeal by the end of the trip, but it was an amazing opportunity to have a variety of cuisines I would never get to eat at home. And, pretty much all of it was delicious.
As far as places we went, we visited the Leeum Museum, which I recommend to everyone going to Seoul as it’s free (you just need to book a time), we went shopping in Cheongdam, visited to the Coex Aquarium, met up with soO at Seoul Station, explored the streets around our hotels, randomly stumbled upon an exhibit of Junggi Kim’s work and got to visit one of the biggest palaces in the city. It was an incredible experience, especially since last time I visited I pretty much just stayed inside my hotel (either writing in my room or in the gym) except for the times when I went to the Twice Concert or left to go see some StarCraft.
Verecunda was an excellent guide and showed me parts of the city I’d never seen before. Meeting her family went really well and they were incredibly kind in welcoming me into the family. I wish I had more to say, more specific memories to recall, but it was just a wonderful two weeks that blurred together. The only stressful part of the trip was finding out that my flight had been canceled due to crappy weather in San Francisco, but the end result was two more days with my fiancé and I have to say I’m really glad it turned out that way.
The last day was difficult. I remember standing in line at the airport after my fiancé and I shared a final meal together. I kept looking back at her, feeling tears forming in my eyes. The first time we had said goodbye in person, I had no idea if the two of us would ever see one another again. Six years later I did so knowing that I would never go four years without being by her side again. It’s a wonderful thing to have found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and to have those feelings reciprocated. And, as I think back on how we first met and the role Team Liquid and StarCraft II played in us first coming into contact with one other I can’t help but appreciate how unlikely the whole thing was.
In the spirit of the old Magic the Gathering tournament reports I used to read, I’m going to include a props and slops section to do some shoutouts.
Lichter- for exploiting my labor and helping me meet verecunda the first time
soO- for being a good sport and hanging out with us before he met up with some friends
Korea- for having excellent food and warmer weather than I would have had to deal with at home
My fiancé's family- for picking me up at the airport and welcoming me into their family
The random seafood place I visited again after enjoying it so much six years ago- for having so much delicious octopus for so little money
verecunda- for being perfect in every possible way
Shitty San Francisco weather- for giving me another two days with my fiancé
My parents- for looking after my doggy. Big Annie fighting!
My aunt- for getting me first class tickets for both legs of the flight
The hills around the hotel- hills suck to walk on
Korea- for being so far away. 18 hours of flying sucks even if you’re in first class.
The Mizuno section of the mall we visited- for not having the Alpha’s in my size