Thursday, August 30, 2007

my hairy arrival into south korea

my journey to korea was smooth until i got to seoul airport
and another new-hire teacher who was supposed to meet
there was nowhere to be found. i had four suitcases,
two of which were ENORMOUS and HEAVY, which kept
falling off of my push-cart into the sea of rushing
people. i finally got myself and my belongings to a
payphone and tried to call my contact at the
university - but it was to no avail. with all the
traveling i have done, i was humbled to not be able to
figure out how to use the phone! SO, i made my way
outside into the 100 degree humid summer heat to the
bus terminal. i had to cross the street and of course
in the middle of the intersection, my bags went
flying. i was dripping sweat and cursing every ounce
of me that had decided to come on this journey. after
getting my cart loaded up again and after much
confusion i finally purchased the correct bus ticket
to daegu. at this point i realized i had to go to the
bathroom possibly worse than i have ever had to before but
there was NO way i was going to haul my luggage back
into the airport. so i found a nice looking woman and
got out my lonely planet korea book and pointed to "i
have to go to the bathroom" in korean. then i asked
if she would watch my bags. she started waving her
hands in the air and saying very loudly, "no, no, no, no - bus
is coming." my eyes were wide as saucers, i imagine,
and my heart sank. the bus was not scheduled to come
for 20 minutes! no way could i get on a bus that was
going to travel for 5 hours without going to the
bathroom first! i stood there frozen for a couple of minutes
trying to figure out to do. finally i turned to the woman again and
started rubbing my stomach and making faces and
repeated what i'd said before. then, before she could
wave her arms again, i RAN! i ran to the airport and
found the bathroom. i was back in 3 minutes flat and
she was looking very disgruntled but relieved that i
was back to claim my mound of baggage! i felt worlds
better, even though i was on my way to somewhere i've
never been, with no one knowing i'm coming on this particular bus
and no one at the other end to meet me at what would
be 1 o'clock in the morning.
after we all got off the bus (by the way the buses in
korea are immaculate. so clean and beautiful!), i was
left standing alone in the middle of a bus parking lot
with 4 bags and not a clue as to where to go or what to do.
but not for long! suddenly i was surrounded by 7 taxi
drivers, none of whom spoke ANY english (except to
say, "nice to meet you!"). in any other situation i
may have felt scared for my life, but i felt pretty
safe in this case. there is a respect built into this
culture that is a deep relief for me. after having a
confusing and rather hideous mime conversation, i got
into one of the taxis and was taken to a motel.
ironically, "the white house" motel.
(i later found out from a korean friend that MOTELS are places
to meet up with sexual partners!!! oh dear.) as soon as i got
into my room, i collaped into tears in a heap on the
shiniest linoleum floor i have ever seen. i cried
until 4am - sure that this was the biggest mistake
i'd ever made. no one on earth knew where i was in
that moment. the phone in my hotel room would not let
me use my phonecard, so i could reach no one. i was
all by myself in a strange place with a rock-hard bed
and heat that i was sure would kill me.
i woke up every half hour in tears and panic
feeling anxious and afraid. when the morning light
finally came in my window i got up, showered and felt
alot better. i got ahold of the university and the
coordinator of the department picked me up and
took me to my new apartment. from that point on it has
been nothing but kindness and connection and wonderful
treatment. i no longer feel that i made the biggest
mistake of my life!

No comments: