“As I ate chicken soup, the Western version of the Korean beef-bone soup, I was thankful that I could cook beef-bone soup for someone, and eat the soup that someone cooked for me.” – “Diaries on the counter” written by Lee Mi-yeon
I was an unwanted neighbor in Vietnam while I was there for news gathering in February. The number of COVID-19 patients was exponentially increasing in Wuhan, China when I left South Korea. The owner of our accommodation took photos of my passport page by page saying that he had to check whether I recently visited China. As the coronavirus started spreading so fast in Daegu, South Korea in mid-February, I saw many local residents who put up their mask when I told them I was from South Korea.
It was unpleasant when people treated me as if I was a parasite just because I came from South Korea. I thought I was lucky to leave Vietnam soon, and I came to wonder what it would be like to live there as a resident?
I read a story of someone who delivered chicken soup to his neighbors in harsh winter of New York while I thought about the lives of foreign expats in Vietnam. He works as a barrister in New York. On a winter day, the cold wave and the gale broke the window at the café he worked at and he had to put up a box on the window and work shivering with cold. A regular customer brought chicken soup for him, and he said it was so warm and delicious. He had a neighbor to share the warmth of chicken soup even in hardships.
I took a walk to the mountain behind my house. I took off the mask and cautiously inhaled air in the desolate woods as if I learned to breathe for the first time in my life. Fresh air reached the bottom of my chest. While watching new sprouts that endured winter were sprouting, I was spring budding with life. I hope we could share kind regards and care for our neighbors even though our hearts are frozen as if winter has come back again.