Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Hugo J. Smal

Travelling to Jangbong-do I feel that I am good on boats. I stand with my back against the deckhouse. The deck goes up and down. It is nice to let my body become one with the elements. I do not make that move. It is the ship that carries me with the eternal course of the water.
My body is broken. My muscles seem to resist my relaxed hanging. With the ferry, we came back from Jangbong-do, an island north of Incheon, the big airport of South Korea. We went looking for the Eurasian Eagle-Owl. It is a beast with a wingspan of up to two meters. They hunt foxes and small deer that they eat on the ground. It had to be a big spectacle.

better on boats
Kim Young Soo climbs as if he is walking on a bike path.

Frightening steps.

It turned out to be a frightening one. Normally you should be able to walk along the narrow beach to the high cliffs where the bird is nesting. But it was high tide. The waves hit the rocks and just above that Kim Young Soo climbs as if he is walking on a bike path. Kim Jay Ho and I follow cautiously.

It is not high but every step is a choice. Which stone is sturdy enough. Which path do I choose? Slowly I struggle on. I have no eye for the environment, only for the stones.

It is not high but every step is a choice.

Suseok .

 That weird habit of collecting stones. Every stone has its own mind. I absorb them: the structure, the form. Then I put my foot on it. Would I recognize that stone on the way back? Would I choose the same path?

grat on boats
Kim Young Soo climbs up a bit but he has to disappoint us.

Eventually, we search the rocks for the birds. They are not there. Probably on the hunt, looking for meat for the young ones who are hidden somewhere. Kim Young Soo climbs up a bit but he has to disappoint us.

On the way back Kim Jay Ho stretches an muscle. We want to help him up. He proudly rejects. At a fish restaurant, we eat sublime sashimi, of course with a glass of soju.

I am on the wrong side of the deckhouse. The wind whistles around my head, but in the corner, it is just alright. I enjoy the view. The pine-covered islands, the green-blue sea. The wind causes Dutch foam heads and my body rests against the deckhouse.

Not explain or apologize, just be better on boats.

A young boy comes to me and offers me some chips. With a bow, I take it and put it in my mouth. From a distance he keeps looking at me: open, in my eyes, deep into my soul. He points to my cigarette, makes a disapproving gesture and says “please?” I bow gratefully for his care. It’s too bad that I can not explain or apologize. He disappears with his friends below decks.

I am alone. Kim and Kim are sleeping in the car. Separated from the deckhouse, my camera against my stomach, I stand firm and feel one with the ship. I do not fall despite the strong swell and are not forced to take steps. The sea legs, obtained in my youth, are still working. The wind pulls and pushes my body. I do not give up and let it come over me.

His flight, my stand!

I go deep into my soul and feel great on boats.

A seagull is approaching me up to half a meter. Hanging in the wind the animal looks at me with its bright yellow eyes. Deep into my soul. I allow it with a slight bend. There is nothing to explain, no apology to make.

My mind is empty. I no longer feel my body.  My muscles are calm. I hang in the wind like the gull. His flight, my stand, together, for a few minutes one. With a loud scream, he shoots away. Dives, with his mates, in the stern waves for fish. I stay. Alone.

good on boats
Cham Sung Dan. Turtle Island.

An older woman comes to me.

Points to the turtle island (Cham Sung Dan) and sticks her thumb up. She laughs. From this island, the arrow was fired with which the World Championship soccer was opened. A turtle is strong. See its round shield. You can build a house on that.

The woman slaps some dirt from my sleeves. How do I tell her about the climb, about the birds that were not there? I make a respectful bow. She says: “Americano” “Annia, annia, Holland”, I answer. She does not understand. “Hiddén-gûh“, I try. The granny laughs points back to the island and again, even more enthusiastically, raises her thumb. We bow and she walks away. 

Yes, I’m good on boats. The sea overwhelms my mind. The wind takes possession of me and my spirit dances on the stamping of the engines. Yes, I feel good at boats.

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