Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A little backtracking

OK, so I know I've made it safe and sound back to the old country, but I do want to take a moment to write about my last few days in Seoul. Time flew by so quickly...before I knew it, I was waking up Monday morning in a bare room, my 6 month existence completely erased from the surface, as though I'd never called it my home. I hope, though, that all the happy moments that happened there will live on and bring positive experiences for the next person. Goodness, why am I being so new-agey? Could it be the San Francisco air is taking its toll? Entirely possible.

Anyway, I wanted my last weekend in Seoul to be spectacular, but, as ever, when you really want something to happen in a certain way, it invariably never does. As I think I already wrote, graduation was weird and a bit of a let down. Kane's show was great, but he didn't win, and the dancing afterwards was in a near-dead bar. sigh

Saturday night, I went for dinner at a Greek restaurant, called Santorini, in Itaewon. I'd been there before, and I was dying to snork up a gallon of their tzatziki one more time before I left. So, I made plans to go with Daniel, Bron, John, Mary, and Kyle. Tragically, Kyle ended up having a dental emergency and wasn't able to come with us. He really missed out.

When we had been before, the restaurant decor was charming and the food delicious. This time, the atmosphere was just impossibly romantic, decorated with twinkly white lights and lanterns. The food was equally delicious, if not romantic (hard to find garlic dip romantic). :-)

In spite of Kyle's absence, we had a really good time. :-) Our waitress was super-sweet, in addition to being one of the biggest Korean women I saw in all my time there. (Which is honestly not saying much, considering that the rest are mostly the size of a bicycle spoke.)

Sunday was my designated day for packing and room cleaning. God, what a fucking trial. I truly didn't realize how much stuff I had acquired until I attempted to pack it all. Thankfully, I was able to foist many things off onto my generous co-workers. Daniel took the brunt of the foisting, though. :-) Thank you Daniel!! And thank you to everyone who stopped by to say goodbye. You guys are great!

Too soon it was Monday morning, and time to say final goodbyes. I hate goodbyes, almost as much as gym class and shrimp. But, they had to be done. It was really hard to say goodbye knowing that, more than likely, I won't see most of my friends again, despite our intentions. The statistics are just against us, even though I don't want them to be. Here's a note to all of my SEV friends: you are welcome to look me up at any given time, whether it's when you're done at SEV, or 10 years from now, and I will be ecstatic to get together or have you come for a visit wherever I am. Even if we've lost touch--no hard feelings, promise.

Kyle called for a taxi to take me, Ryan and Daniel to the stop for the airport bus. Unfortunately, when the taxi arrived, the driver had, shall we say, a mentally challenged look about him. And, unbeknownst to us foreigners, he had discussed my bus plans with one of the security guards while we were loading the car, and they had made new bus stop arrangements for me!

So, we take off, Daniel and Ryan in the back, buried under the luggage that Kyle artfully arranged. Soon, it becomes evident that the driver is not taking us to Suyu station, the nearest airport bus stop. We tell him "SUYU please" and many other varients, all involving the word SUYU being stated quite clearly and at varying degrees of panic and volume. All the man does is laugh and say "Gireum!" Which is a station further away, and a place where we have no idea how to get to the airport bus.

We assume there must have been some misunderstanding. We're a bit panicked. I remember shouting something about being hijacked. And all the while, the man just kept laughing at us and shaking his head, like, "Boy, are you guys some fucking foreign idiots or WHAT?!" Eventually, Daniel got Kyle on the phone and had him talk to the man. Lo and behold, the man knows where the airport bus stop is at Gireum and it's a much better choice than Suyu because it's not on a busy road. Well! If only someone had told us that, I wouldn't have been shouting at a mentally challenged cabbie!

The real tragedy of the story is that Ryan was there, when he should have clearly been in bed, mending his flu-like symptoms. Instead, he had generously made the journey with me specifically because of his knowledge of the Suyu bus pickup spot, knowledge rendered entirely useless by the change of plans. I'm sorry Ryan, and I hope you didn't catch your death standing out in the cold!

Eventually the bus came and it was time to say the saddest goodbye. Daniel, I'm going to miss you so much!

Then I got to enjoy a bus ride through the ugliest parts of the city. I remember thinking, "Could I come back here? Make a life here?" The answer, surprisingly, was yes, depending on the circumstances. It was unfortunate to have that revelation on the bus to the airport, but there it was, unbidden.

And then, thanks to my flight being delayed, I had 4 hours to kill at the airport.

Plenty of time to eat at the Ritz-Carlton of airport restaurants, where I paid W12,000 for the privilege of eating the most delicious kimchi chigae (or however you spell it) that I had in all my time in Korea, as well as an extortionate W5,000 for a tiny glass of milk to help quell the spiciness. It was wonderful. :-)

Plenty of time to sit and think about all the things I would have done differently in Korea, given a second chance. Risks I would have taken, words I would have said, things I would have done...all the wasted time. Images floating through my mind of good times, and bad, and thinking about how they've changed me. The people I've met, and how I hope we're all able to keep in touch, beat the odds. Just enough time spent reminiscing to make me wonder if I've made an enormous mistake.

Damn it all.

The 9 1/2 hour flight was pretty decent, despite my complete inability to sleep and the occasional random crying fit. But, as I said to Bron, I don't mind people thinking I'm a tragic international woman of mystery. It's all in a day's work.

Now I'm in San Fran, and my outlook is brighter. Sort of. Seeing my brother is really nice. But, I'll write more about that next time. Right now I need to sleep... Goodnight!

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