“Getting There”


This is a short narrative post I initially set out to write for Groove Magazine‘s “Share Story, Win Trip” writing competition. The call came out for ‘funny’ travel stories where a lesson was learned. The winning pieces would be read out loud dramatically. Frankly, there just aren’t enough of these kind of encouraging writing opportunities in Korea. I could say more but I’ll get distracted.

I started writing mine and about two paragraphs from the end I decided that it wasn’t a travel story. So I stopped writing. I came back about a week later and took another crack at it, tidied it up but left it loosely over the 500 word limit, which kind of left it for any kind of flash litt and too short to be considered anything else. Still it’s a good story. You’ll laugh. I hope. 

Getting There

When I was bundled out of the taxi by the Englishless man who collected me from the airport, it was exactly twenty-four hours after my flight had left Dublin. He left me there shaking hands with a tall, spectacled and skinny Korean man with a mane of hair almost comically emerging from the top of his head. He told me his name was Richard, or Reeechard as he did his best to pronounce the R sound fully. He was dressed smartly in black pants, a grey jacket, white shirt, and burgundy skinny tie, all of which seemed to shine magnetically in the heavy overcast sky.
Richard helped me with my bags as we entered a building and took the elevator up to the fifth floor. I was brought into the school where I would be working, where I was introduced to the director, a man shorter than most I’d ever met before, but he effused authority and shook my hand confidently. He directed Richard to get everything sorted and then vanished into his office.
We picked up my bags again and made for the elevator. I was told that we would go to my apartment where I could get some rest or have some food. I would be sharing my apartment with my co-worker and with the teacher who I was replacing.
When we made it outside, we walked into a large apartment complex of twenty-five storeyed buildings. To say I was dizzy wouldn’t explain it properly. I had left an Ireland where buildings rarely stretched further than three or four storeys high, and in my home town of Dunboyne (pop. 6,959) there probably wasn’t a building, other than the parish church, more than two storeys high. Seoul (pop. 10,581,728) seemingly had no room for buildings that small.
We entered one of these behemoths and walked up to the elevator. There wasn’t much chat as I was tired and nervous, and Richard seemed a little uncomfortable with small talk for whatever reasons. When the doors opened he punched the number 23. I gulped and blinked hard. With a jolt we rose and the numbers flickered higher and higher, until they reached 23 where the elevator halted with a lurch. Outside on the landing Richard confidently asserted that “finally, we are here!”.
He pulled out a key and went to the door where he jerked to a stop with an “unghh” kind of sound coming from his mouth. He stood rigid with key holding arm outstretched towards the part of the door where a key hole would traditionally be located. I looked around unsuccessfully for Medusa but quickly found the problem was there was no keyhole in the door. Instead there was a small electronic pad.
He touched it and with a beep it lit up with numbers. Again an “unngh” sound. He looked at the key, looked at the pad, scratched his mane, and then looked at me. I looked at him and felt like replying “unngh”. He then rang the doorbell, whereupon a young girl opened the door, and Richard asked her if foreign English teachers lived in the apartment. The girl said no they didn’t, and closed the door. We stood looking at the green metal door in silence.
Richard sprung into action. He pulled out his phone, dialled, waited, and suddenly burst out chattering, then stopped talking, asked me to wait a minute, then started chattering again. He then hung up asked me to please wait where I was, and then he disappeared into the elevator which subsequently plumeted to the ground floor.
And there I stood, bags at my feet, jet lagged and clueless on a tiny landing on the twenty third floor of an apartment building a good 8,000 kilometres from home, diligently waiting a minute.
Richard eventually returned smiling and reassuring me repeatedly. We took the elevator down stairs to the ground floor again, and left that building, walked around the corner and into a completely different building. Here we took the elevator to the eighteenth floor, where a door stood with a keyhole in it.
Richard somewhat less confidently than before approached the door, inserted the key, and turned it. There was a loud unlocking click, and he let out a huge sigh of relief, then looked at me with a beaming smile. We entered the apartment.
Richard left a few minutes later, and I was left standing in the middle of a room looking around my new surroundings on the eighteenth floor. The large windows brightened the room. The was a purr of traffic outside but all I could see was clouds and mountains in the distance. I took a deep breath. I had arrived in Korea, and it was good. I think.

Snowmadgedon…ish…n’t.


We were all warned about it (weren’t we?) so we all prepared appropriately. I made sure to put the car in the basement of our apartment complex and dusted down my big ould boots that I reserve for weather like this. Most importantly, I made sure that my phone had a full battery because I knew that this day was going to be a busy day, snowmagedon was on its way.

Last Wednesday Korea got its first real good dose of snow, and by Korea I mean the entire penninsula and not just the east coast and mountains. From around mid-day until six o’clock it snowed pretty heavily, and by the time it had stopped snowing I hadn’t taken half as many photographs as I had hoped I would.

Maybe I’m getting old or something but the idea of stepping out into the cold with no gloves on when I could be indoors drinking warm coffee and avoiding work I should be doing just didn’t appeal to me, so I chose the latter. Granted it didn’t really snow that heavily, but it was enough to make convenience inconvenient.

It’s quite lovely outside now with all its fluffy whiteness after another light fall of snow today and yesterday, but I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who didn’t have to drive to work this morning, and if there’s one thing I like about snow it’s walking around in it.

There’s something about being in the snow, but during and after, that makes the air so much quieter, but maybe it just is quieter; there aren’t that many kids around, the traffic is slower and less hectic, and perhaps the softness brought upon by the snow muffles the noises which would regularly bounce off usually rigid surroundings. Or maybe I’m looking into it too deeply.

Here are some of the pictures I took over the past three days (excluding the inevitable Instagram ones) from around my neighbourhood and workplace here in Suwon.

The snow begins on Wednesday

The snow begins on Wednesday

After one hour of snowfall

After one hour of snowfall

I think they put this pagoda up in work purely for people to take photographs on snowy days - there was even snowed cleared from around the base.

I think they put this pagoda up in work purely for people to take photographs on snowy days – there was even snowed cleared from around the base.

Snowy lamplit trees

Snowy lamplit trees

Yesterday morning, the main street almost looked like a river.

Yesterday morning, the main street almost looked like a river.

The carpark this afternoon

The carpark this afternoon

View of the main Yeongtong drag from the 20th floor

View of the main Yeongtong drag from the 20th floor

Thought this made a nice picture - should have held my camera straight...

Thought this made a nice picture – should have held my camera straight…

Walking into work this afternoon.

Walking into work this afternoon.

Slushy Yeongtong streets

Slushy Yeongtong streets

In Bandal Park

In Bandal Park

Main gate of Kyunghee University

Main gate of Kyunghee University

All photographs taken with my iPhone 4 camera because I’m lazy 😦

For more photographs please visit my flickr page.

 

Making do…


Woe of woes!

I was in town on Sunday and on the way into Itaewon from Jongno, my camera dissappeared! It wasn’t stolen, I don’t even remember when I had it last, but I know for definite when I didn’t have it!

To say that this is a shite buzz is an understatement.

Not only do I have no camera, I now have to buy a new one. And yes, I do HAVE TO buy a new one.

Fortunately there weren’t that many pictures saved on it but most of what I had planned for the next year in terms of taking pictures has now gone out the window until I can somehow land myself 1,000,000 won to buy a new camera. And yes, I do HAVE TO pay at least that much; it’s what I paid for the previous one four years ago.

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