Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Playing Go (Baduk) With Korean Fishermen

The TSMY Apollo (my home for nearly six years) was docked in Safi, Morocco (known for its sardine fishing). I was 16, and the year was 1973.

It was common, almost traditional, to wolf down our food at mealtimes and then go for a walk on the dock or the breakwater (if near enough to our mooring).

In keeping with this tradition, I was walking with some friends during lunch one sunny North African day, and passed by a Korean fishing boat which was moored behind us. I noticed several grizzled, fiftyish fishermen sitting on deck having lunch (bowls of rice with fish on top), and playing a board game I knew by its Japanese name, "Go". In Korean, it is termed "Baduk". The Chinese call it "WeiQi".

I knew a little about Go (having played it myself), and told my friends what I knew of the game, pointing as I explained. The seaworthy fellows on the fishing boat noted this oddity (a 16-year-old, freckle-faced redhead explaining an ancient Asian board game to her companions), and found this intriguing (or at least entertaining).

So they invited me to come for dinner and play Go with them.

They spoke no English. I spoke no Korean. We determined by pointing to our watches and pointing to bowls of rice and pointing to the Go board that I was to come by at 6:00 for dinner and a game.

Six o'clock arrived, and my friends from lunch accompanied me. Chopsticks in hand, I sat on a low stool set at the board, and ate rice with fish. I played Go with one kindly fellow, his weathered face a study in courtesy, while surrounded by four or five others. They stood behind me and helped me to play. And of course, they let me win.

You know what would be really nice ? I would so enjoy finding these fishermen whose lives crossed paths with mine that day in Safi, sharing another meal and playing another game (and this time, losing). They were a fine group of gentlemen.


Blogger gregarious monk said...

Awesome story! Quite often I find that I prefer not speaking a language. We can still communicate the essentials and still enjoy the company of someone. Not being able to talk politics and religion virtually eliminates arguments.

3:58 PM  

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