Waking Up in Seoul


A blur of events…

You jam everything into a suitcase. In my case, that’s not a whole lot. The last few months have been a flurry of Kijiji sales and friend-to-friend giveaways, and my life has been compressed into a single suitcase and a backpack containing my MacBook a pair of headphones, a power adapter, and a few other assorted personal care items.

And that’s it.

The next step is chaos: a drive to the airport, emotional goodbyes, the unendingly irritating demeanor of US customs agents (we had a stopover at JFK, so we had to go through customs in Halifax before getting on the plane).

And three hours later I find myself standing outside Terminal 1 at JFK, the Manhattan Skyline off in the distance, smothered in smog but somehow alluring and beautiful all the same. I’ve never been to New York, or had too much desire to go, but now that I’ve seen the jagged peaks of the downtown, I’m strangely drawn to return someday when I have the time to walk among the towering giants. I can see the Chrysler building, calling for me.

The airport terminal quickly fills with Asians. They are mostly Koreans, in this terminal, and some Japanese. They flood in a few hours before the flight, and suddenly I’m a visible minority. Katie and I are almost literally the only Caucasians on the flight.
Korean Air is incredible, and ironically, for a nation of smaller sized individuals, has more legroom than any other flight I’ve ever been on. Movies, TV shows and games on your own personal video screen. Hot towels handed out by the flight attendants.

I sleep for eight hours, and suddenly we’re flying over Alaska, and across the Pacific. Not too long afterwards, I find myself standing outside Incheon airport, nervously chain-smoking cigarettes and waiting for the driver the school has sent.

Mokdong

And now I am sitting in an apartment in Mok-dong, just south of the Han River, the residence of Katie’s sister. She is off to teach for the day, and Katie and I are adjusting to our new, surreal surroundings. Hangul signs are everywhere, the heat is starting to set in. The pedestrian traffic is much less than I had expected, but cars are everywhere zipping in and out of tiny alleyways. There are quite a few signs in English, but Hangul characters are ubiquitous. My first purchase in small convenience store is two cans of iced coffee (Nescafe, of all things) and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. The total purchase comes to $3.50 Canadian.

Hello, Korea. It’s good to finally meet you.

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