In this 21st edition of the Kindness on the Road series, read the contribution sent in by a reader.
Evelyn Gaa Cezar, from Silang, Cavite, is a mountaineer, nature lover, wanderlust, and a trying-hard runner.
“I came across your blog recently when I was researching for some travel tips to northern parts of the Philippines. I enjoyed reading your articles and searched for you on Facebook where I found some more of your interesting blog posts. One of those posts I found is the “kindness on the road series.” I was one of those who were blessed by the kindness of strangers on the road. That’s why I would like to share one story. It didn’t happen recently but so far it’s one of my favorite experiences.”
Here’s Evelyn’s story.
A Soldier’s Kindness in Korea
One time I traveled from Chungju City to Seoul during Chuseok to visit friends. Chuseok is a major harvest festival holiday and one of the biggest in South Korea.
I got so excited to meet my friends there that I forgot to buy a return ticket. Usually during big holidays, it’s always advisable to purchase a return ticket or at least make a reservation especially for long trips even if you’re just taking a bus or train. A lot of people travel to their home provinces especially during Chuseok.
On the last day of Chuseok, I decided to return to Chungju — about 2 hours travel by bus from Seoul. Since I had no return ticket, I was advised to queue as a chance passenger for the last direct trip to Chungju but the person in front of me got the last seat.
Frustrated as I was, I checked an alternative route to Chungju. Just then a guy came to me and asked me in Korean “Are you a foreigner? Are you heading to Chungju?”
I could tell that he was not confident to speak in English. I can read, understand, and speak a little bit of Hangeul and told him that I missed the last bus to Chungju and I really wanted to go back that night because I have an appointment early the following day.
Surprisingly, he offered to travel with me to Chungju on a different route, only it would cost us more. I was hesitant because he was a complete stranger and besides I only had a little extra cash aside from the bus fare.
Sensing that I was in doubt and perhaps he noticed a trace of fear written on my face, he asked for the telephone number of my host which I gave him right away.
I know in my heart I have prayed if I could possibly get back to Chungju that night but I did not consider this stranger to be the answer to my prayer.
He dialed my host’s number and talked to him. After a minute or two, he handed me his phone and told me that my host was on the other line. The latter told me that it was okay to travel with him.
In spite of the assurance from my host I was still scared and nervous but out of desperation as I did not want to miss a very important appointment the following morning, I followed him to the ticket booth to purchase our tickets. He paid, by the way.
We boarded the bus bound for Cheongju City and I got one of the front seats (the one right behind the driver). I was surprised that he sat next to me not on the seat (because all the seats were taken) but on the floor of the aisle close to the steps near the entrance of the bus.
I knew that was not allowed even in the intercity buses but I wondered why he was not even reprimanded by the bus driver. I heard a short conversation between them but I didn’t understand what it was about.
When the bus was moving out of the terminal, he told to me (in a way that I would understand easily) that we were to get off after an hour and 30 minutes to take a taxi from Cheongju to Chungju and that the ride would take another hour and a half before we reach the destination.
The stranger continued to amaze me but still I was nervous and afraid. I was thinking…what if…what if….
When we got off the bus he bought drinks and snacks but I kept them in my bag. He insisted me to at least drink but I just graciously said “thank you” and told him that I wasn’t hungry.
The truth is, I was hungry. It was late in the evening and getting cold because it was already early autumn. He even went to withdraw cash and he paid for the taxi.
Thirty minutes before we arrived in Chungju, he asked me where to get off. I gave him the address and that’s when I realized I did not ask his name nor I have introduced myself to him because even at that point I was still scared and my brain was busy processing the “fight or flight plan.
The familiar sights and landmarks as we approached the city gave me comfort. Finally, I mustered the courage to ask his name and introduced myself. I asked for his email address and promised to pay him for the bus and taxi fare.
It was already 1AM when we got off the taxi. My host was outside their home waiting for me. Park Min Ho (not his real name) shook hands with my host and me then bowed and then left.
At that time, I was so concerned what was my host thinking about me, coming home in the wee hours of the morning with a guy who is a complete stranger, but as we were walking towards the house my host, who seemed amazed, told me that guy was an angel.
He explained that the guy came to Seoul to spend the last day of Chuseok with his parents and that he was a soldier. He was supposed to board a bus to Busan (his assigned post), which is located in the southeastern part of the Korean peninsula and around 3-4 hours by bus.
He went out of his way instead to go with me to Chungju just to make sure I got home safe.
Afterwards, I called and sent him an email to again thank him for going out of his way to help me that night. I asked for his bank account but he never gave it to me. I thought then that my host had paid for me so I went to ask, but he said no.
I may have forgotten the soldier’s name but I could never forget the kindness that he had shown me that cold night in Korea.
Do you have any stories of kindness on the road? Send them to me and I’ll include them in a future post!