Admitting a whirlwind experience has become redundant, maybe unnecessary from the start, considering the nature of these months. But as I sat in the taxi at 4 AM silently sharing orange slices with the driver and waiting for my host to meet up with me, heightened awareness gave way to relief after an all too eventful night. I had made it, so the harsh city lights dimmed and winter's breath didn't feel so close.
I remember hearing, “Don’t take flights that arrive late at night.”
Sensible but not necessarily practical. You do what you have to do when the world is big and your pockets are small. Normally I would have no reservations about arriving in such a metropolis so late, but I was worried that it was too much too soon. Less than 48 hours had passed since being cleared by an orthopedic surgeon to start unsupported walking—if you could even call it walking. After six weeks of immobility for my fractured fifth metatarsal, most of the time spent bedridden, walking did not come instinctively. I was actively forcing myself not to limp. Admittedly, any symptoms of cold feet were eclipsed by a need for a change of scenery. So walking unbearably slow and with a still visible crack in my foot, I headed to Seoul. I figured a touchdown on winter would help satisfy any Pure Michigan nostalgia.
This whole situation is quite amusing. I’ve always been one to rely heavily on ableness and a certain degree of athleticism to (at best) find courage and (at worst) fuel delusions of invincibility. Now, I literally cannot walk briskly, let alone run, even if I tried. There are so many new uncertainties. I feel more vulnerable than I ever have. But too much time is spent pondering nightmares that only exist in the mind. The odds of them materializing in the real world are close to none. And even if the course isn’t so easy or glamorous, as it so often isn’t, I’d have to expect the end to be that much more satisfying.
The address was not showing up on map applications, though I had a understanding that it was amidst winding back alleys characteristic of student ghettos everywhere. With no SIM, I would catch service and support from wherever and whoever along the way. I learned quickly that even though people here tend to mind their own business, friendliness is in abundance if one takes initiative. In short, you can expect a smile if you can give one. Bless all the people out and about after midnight on the streets of Seoul! And on a weeknight, and in 20F weather too! Everyone jumped on the opportunity to share their opinion and help direct me. So much so that on every metro and every bus there was a racket of conversation between the old and the young for what felt like forever before someone reported back in English where to go next. When the distance from metro station to bus stop felt too far, I rested at open restaurants and bars partly for assurance that the way was right but mostly because why not?
Still I was left completely disoriented after five hours of bouncing from metro to metro to bus and following locals through the city streets. At some point someone hailed a cab. I fell into the passenger seat with my backpack tumbling in close behind. As I searched the driver's face for positive signs, he motioned that we were only three minutes away.