June 19th 2016, Seoul, South Korea
Ok, there’s this virus hysteria going on. It is funny how naive people are to think those face masks will protect them from the virus. Youngsters walk the streets worry less.
I was writing the above the first day I arrived in Seoul. Two days later…
Here I am stuck in “The Korea” like they love to call it in quarantine. I am writing this from a government building where I cannot exit my well-furnished room. I am eating some mixed nuts which they provided last night in a Paris Baguette paper bag together with milk orange juice and some small octagon shaped sandwiches.
Yesterday I was watching the planes taking off from Incheon airport and I was thinking of my colleagues in the sky and me on the plane. Then some unrest started and so I felt that I was not going to leave Korea that night like I was supposed to.
A plane is flying just a bit higher from my window and I bend low to see the company as I drink some coffee from a water bottle. I have no glasses probably not to kill myself.
The building where I am facing the airport and there is an electrified fence to it.
Every 30 seconds there is a plane taking off and I wished I was in it.
After getting in my room and inspecting it a bit last night I fell asleep instantly. I had requested for some food so the Paris Baguette delivery knock in my door woke me up. I ate some tiny cut sandwiches and fell asleep only to wake up after 10 hours, at about 7:30 for my three times a day body temperature check and food delivery. I am not allowed to go out of the room and I can use the phone only to contact the staff that does not speak English.
There were books at the reception but all in Korean.
Internet is disabled as it is a govt building. Every 30 seconds a plane takes off, most of the Korean Air. The pilots are staying at the same hotel. The hotel I left rushing, packing in 30 minutes to join the quarantine. The truth is that when I left I only had time to announce my mother and to take a shower. I was expecting anything because nobody told me what was happening where I was going to go and for how long. When I got to the medical facility it looked like an abandoned hospital. I was already wearing gloves and the mask and a man wearing the same greeted me. We went to an upper floor and two more men joined. Except them nobody anywhere – reception was empty, corridors empty, silent and freaky.
I receive an Isolation Notice saying I am at a temporary isolation facility and failing to be in quarantine results in up to 1 year imprisonment or a fine of 10 000$. Then I get a paper with the information of the place, the meals, the rules, all in Korean. My colleague translates for me.
I find out I cannot get in contact with anybody and nobody can contact me. I was prepared for anything and this did not seem like a quarantine. I found out I did not have access to internet because it was a govt building, then that for the length of my stay I will not be able to contact anyone.
Probably my next job will be war correspondent/reporter.
3 Asiana Airlines and one Star Alliance are parked in front of my window. My only entertainment is to watch the airplanes taking off. I have a TV, but I don’t watch TV, I prefer my loneliness. Always, I mean. My room is at the end of the runway and if the planes wouldn’t lift, they would end up in my room.
Probably I had to live this experience, too. It is first time since I move to Doha that I am thinking about and missing my Bucharest, walking free in the Old City Centre and in the mixed architecture streets with a chic dress and my pleading robe in a high end store bag.
I dreamt of my cabin crew instructor the first night here only to show me that happenings like these are also involved if you want to fly.
I must admit there is a psychological impact. First, I felt that I am not leaving Korea. Actually, walking in the crazy streets of Seoul I saw tarot shops with ladies inviting you in. Normally I would be curious and get in, like I always do wherever I go, trying everything. But this time I said to myself – don’t go, you don’t want/have to know what follows, because I knew something was going to follow.
Another Air Asiana in on top of my bed. The colors are red yellow and blue, same as Romania’s flag. I remember the change of the Royal guards in the Palace yesterday and that world seems so far.
Be careful what you wished for they say, because it just might happen. So, here I am getting the extraordinary, the international, the unique, the specific, the life experience, the storytelling from around the world. I am where news happen.
By this time my colleagues should be in Doha. I was too tired to watch them go up in the sky, but I will watch tonight’s flight.
When I arrived in Incheon International airport I had not slept for 24 hous, but I had a coffee and went to Seoul. I came back and slept good, but woke up early to go in the city again. By afternoon ad walking few tens of km I was exhausted. And when I say this, it means dead. I was on the 45 min train back to Incheon sleeping and I had this premonition of something happening which turned into a fear of having missed the flight. So imagine when I got back into the room and saw two envelopes with messages from some unknown name asking to call some people. I panicked! Then I the call craziness started for about 3 hours. Everybody was calling me, I was trying to call everybody I have to. Apparently the craziness started the night before and the real craziness the same morning. Thank God I left and got to have a wonderful day in Seoul. I found out I cannot leave “The Korea” tonight and no mentioning of when I will.
Indeed, I am in a hotel actually, everything comes at my door, so room service, my daily allowance is still running and all I have to do is rest, but I’m not a plant, so I have to question why this happen, do I need to think things over, am I doing something wrong – spiritually, in my work, towards the people next to me, am I not appreciating enough what I have?
I hear another plane and my thought go running to Bucharest again. I am writing and watching the planes Korean Air, Asiana, Thai Airlines, Air Asia, Air France.
I Feel like Robinson Crusoe. Nobody to talk to not even a Friday to learn together a new common language. The truth is that I loved the story and I wished to live it when I read the book. I wrote for hours and thought what my mother is thinking now. It should be 2:30 AM where she is, she does not know anything about me and I’m wondering if she is sleeping or thinking whether I am fine.
I open my suitcase to see my pretty things and arrange them, maybe to find something to entertain me. I take the traditional Korean costumes magnets and put them on the fridge. Then I remember of Robinson. Every 30 seconds a new plane takes off.
Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry. Alone.
Hey There Delilah plays over and over in my head.
I’m waiting for lunch time to ask to give a phone call. 30 minutes before 12 I am asked if I want the rice or the sandwich. Rice please, last two meals were sandwiches. I ask for telephone. Later. I ask for someone else speaking English. No, all isolated ones are Korean.
Now I have a message in English saying that someone speaks English and I can call. Outside calls? No.
Ok. I dial, but of course the phone is not working. I am outraged about this situation, but there is not much I can do.
When the planes are not taking off, I can hear the birds singing.
I just received a cell phone from my company (which I consider absolutely adorable and made me love them more) and the news I have to stay one day more. I already missed the law conference for which I signed up, but what I hope I will catch my Cape Town flight.
I got my dinner – Korean food – and a newspaper and a book. I actually appreciate all the efforts being made to make my stay comfortable and my room with a view to the runway.
My stay was supposed to be for two days and as of now I am here for almost 5 days. I cannot go out of the room, but I explore some more Korean food and I write my Seoul journey blog post and Beirut city break impressions.
You see why I explore everything and I’m not cheap for traveling? Because, like I always say, I might die tomorrow – because of this virus, for example.
This is why I spend every minute of my existence and all the resources I have for my evolution.
The city continues its busy pace as I am here in a quiet room overlooking the airport. The truth is that I had pushed the gas a little too much even for my taste and these days help me remember who I am and where I stand, what I want and where I’m heading.
I have time to think things over, to reorganize my thoughts and plan for the future. Lately I’ve had this unrest about it, but now I confirmed what I knew already. I will travel this world until the time will be right.
I guess I had to live this experience, too and be able to tell my nephews someday that I once stood at a phone and said “Helo, my name is Sevim, my code is … and I am in quarantine in Korea”.
I woke up in the middle of the night and called mother, whose time zone is 8 hours before me. Or I am 8 hours ahead.
I remember my instructor repeating: “you’re going to travel to some crazy destinations!”
Another sunset, planes taking off in front of my window, the majestic sun going down melting between the clouds, same silence. I have a TV, but I didn’t even turn it on. From the other rooms I hear Korean TV drama. I’m supposed to leave tomorrow after midnight, but there’s nothing sure.
For lunch and dinner they call me before to ask me what I want. The offer McDonald’s or KFC, I ask for Korean food.
– Aaaaaaaw! Koreeeeeean fooood? They ask laughing and being surprised.
Yes. After all, I’m in Korea and it’s the only thing I’m allowed to experience here. I’m still not sure I eat it correctly, but I’m trying all combinations.
Today I slept a lot and when I was not sleeping I took pictures of airplanes taking off or read the book I received – Insurgent.
I feel this is a life training getting me closer to my call. I know there will be many interesting stories following.
I am not bored, I’m looking for hours at this Korean Air destination map and fixing my capitals and country location knowledge. There’s two things I will buy when I get back: an offline translator and a world atlas. This map I’m examining will go on my wall to remember these days.
I don’t know if I feel like Robinson or like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. I wanted to learn patience and here it is. Like every time you have limited resources I started digging and I discovered the ebooks I have downloaded in the lonely nights spent in the darkness of my apartment in Bucharest, looking at the traffic outside and waiting for a sign to change my life.
I am waiting with my ears and eyes wide opened for divine signs and they do come. For example when I booked a tour in Bangkok that I missed I understood that my travels have to be unique and off the beaten track. I lost the money, but insisted in losing more calling to the provider in the States for the price of another tour ticket. As I should have understood, I am not for guided tours. Then, insisting in keeping connected to law. I am vice president of a law association which I was going to present at an international law conference in Doha for which I requested days off and moved my flights. However, I got stuck in quarantine for 3 nights and I was still going to make it until I found out my stay here must be prolonged with one more day. Ok, got it, I’m not insisting!
Now another sign is here, in Korea, a few isolation days making me think of what I want for real in life and what I should fight for. I have few materials available and those are not by chance. A book about “one choice can transform you – or it can destroy you”, “girl forced to choose between her routinized, selfless family and the adventurous, unrestrained future she longs for”. This seems familiar, but what am I talking about?
I have already made my decision long ago. I went a little by the society rules and yes, I have a plan B forever to go back to an office and be a damn good lawyer. But I want to fly and discover the world, see sunshine on remote islands and be deafened by the sound of Indian or Tokyo stations at peak hour, feel the waves and strength of the ocean waves, use chopsticks to try new food, get my stomach twisted during take-off, run in the hot storm, drink my coffee by the Mediterranean and have breakfast at night.
What did I not read in these days, mainly all the samples I had in my ebooks – news presenter star biography, Arab Spring studies in English, French and Spanish, Dan Brown’s Inferno, Paolo Coelho’s last hit Adultery in Spanish, love poems, The Financial Times.
I turn on the TV in my (hopefully) last day in quarantine. On CNN there is news about the MERS in South Korea and the quarantine. No need to tell me that, I’m here.
Next news: World Cup bribery scandal on the 2022 cup in Qatar. Qatar, my home! Qatar is where I want to be.
I watch CNN traveling shows ads and I want to watch them all because I will go to those destinations. I remember watching CNN rarely from the hotel rooms we stayed in during holidays. I was just a little girl dreaming, hoping one day I will get a job that will take me around the world, staying in fancy hotels with king size beds with soft pillows and perfumed amenities, imposing lobbies and available tourist city maps.
News are rolling about Iraq. I know, but I don’t know why I don’t do anything, why I stopped…
They are talking about the upcoming G7 summit and the last month’s Soci meeting. I remember following that on same CNN from my Moscow hotel room. The truth is that 10 years ago I didn’t understand why they presented the weather from all over the world. I mean, who actually needed that? Now that I have around 7-8 different cities’ around the world weather updates on my phone, I know. Before, I thought only a few people would travel a lot, either for business or leisure, but now I realize the amount of people on the move, of people dividing their time between two or three cities on different continents, of people being today in Africa, two days later in Europe, then in Asia. Now I’m one of them.
They are showing a beautiful sunrise in Phuket. Yes, I saw it two weeks ago, right there on the beach, by the ocean. There was nobody on the beach at around 6 AM but two dogs. The red flags were up and crossed, meaning no entering in the ocean. I just wanted to get my feet wet, but two short dogs appeared at my legs. They came from far and stopped by me, circling my legs covered only by a very colorful canvas and I was hoping a dog will not bite me there in Phuket. However they didn’t get away until I got away from the water. The went around me and in circles around themselves until I got at a distance from the ocean. Then they continued their walk.
As I continue my walk in life…3