I met Lydia when I ventured out of Australia and arrived to my Airbnb in Jeju, South Korea. She was beaming with energy from the moment I met her. She spoke English which was a huge relief after the taxi ride to her place was comprised of back and forth phone handoffs displaying rough google translations. She made me feel so welcome in her home and had sticky notes all around with helpful instructions on how to operate the essentials like A/C, shower, etc. At first, I thought our interactions would only be brief as she was staying in a separate part of the house; however, on my first night she mentioned that she also did tours of the island and that she had an opening on Thursday if I would like to book her. I jumped on the opportunity and it was the best decision I could have made. Traveling the island with Lydia was an experience unlike any other. She took me to lava cliffs, waterfalls, and my favorite part of all the Green Tea museum. I am a huge fan of green tea and I shopped around the museum like a kid in a candy store if that candy was tinted green with Matcha.
As we continued our journey, I asked her how she speaks English so well knowing that she has never travelled to an English-speaking country. She told me she learned English from customers during her tours. I was very impressed! In seven years, she was able to learn a language through intermittent conversations alone.
At the lava cliffs, she taught me that it is tradition in Jeju for women to dive for delicacies. We stopped halfway on the trail where we sat down to share freshly caught sea squirt also known as sea pineapple catered to us by the local female divers. Before trying it, I asked her what it tasted like and she jokingly replied, “The ocean!” I loved her sense of humor especially because it was on point! The sea squirt definitely tasted like the ocean. I was not a huge fan of it by itself, but once I dipped in chili sauce and garnished it with a piece of garlic, I really enjoyed it.
While we ate, I learned that she too enjoys diving but because of the rough waters surrounding the island, she prefers to dive in Thailand or the Philippines. I told her I had recently dived the Great Barrier Reef and she was ecstatic saying that diving the reef is on her bucket list. What came as a shock to me as it might for you is her favorite part about diving is not the animals or the sea life on the ocean floor, but rather her fascination is with the ocean’s rocks. Yep, you heard me right, rocks! Lydia has a master’s in geology and hopes to pursue a doctorates degree with hopes of one day becoming a geologist herself.
I know she will accomplish all her goals with her go-getter attitude and contagious spirit. I hope to cross paths with her again in the future, and if you are lucky enough to as well, you will understand why the world should know how much Lydia rocks!