Take it back........

The morning we left Korea was surreal. It was a moment I had imagined and waited for such a long time, the fact that it was finally upon me made it hard to exist in. After the 72-hour saga that was our escape from Bangkok, the few days of transition time in Seoul we still had felt like such a blessing. Dave and I both felt as though we had been through a war…of sorts….and we relished the sensation of feeling returning to what had been our numbed sense of security after all those weeks of travel. I suppose being trapped in a city with 500,000 other travelers while terrorists run amuck, cutting off all air traffic between you and the rest of the world would shake anybody’s sense of security. I was just so dammed grateful to be back in a place that felt “normal” to me after everything we had been through.
Take a minute to think about what I just said. Korea. Normal.
The irony of that still cracks me up.

Dave and I set off when it was still dark outside, miraculously found two cabs willing to take us and our mountains of luggage to the bus terminal, which would then take us to the airport. With the knowledge that we were heading home to surprise our families for the holidays, it somehow occurred to me that for the next 24 hours, no one in the world would be aware of our exact whereabouts aside form the 2 of us. It made me feel grateful to have him there with me.
The sun was coming up as we left the city behind us and the bus turned onto the highway towards Incheon. I swiveled my head to watch it shrink and felt this strange pang in my chest; no matter what else, I had fallen in love with Seoul.
I kept trying to take the moment in, kept trying to honor what was happening and really feel it….but I couldn’t. Nothing about it felt real, nothing about it felt genuine. Breakfast at the airport, going through customs…for the 138th fucking time that month…..climbing on the plane, and lift off……it all seemed like it was happening to someone else.

22 hours, 4 disgusting meals, 3 customs counters, 2 cities and one helluva headache later, we touched down in Calgary. Reality was firmly in place by this point and I was fully aware of everything I had just experienced. I fucking hate flying.
I cannot begin to express to you how bizarre it was. Everything was familiar. Everything was strange. Suddenly I could read the signs that were all around me. The money I was being handed by the currency exchange looked like it belonged in a game of Monopoly. My head started to spin after only a few minutes outside; my body didn’t understand why the air I was breathing in wasn’t saturated with pollution and yellow dust. We stopped at 7-11 for water; where were the bottles of Soju and bags of squid-flavored popcorn?
You know you’ve been away for too long when you’re not used to having 24-hour access to alcohol and fish-flavored oil by-product.
Dave and I had wanted to surprise our families together but it hadn’t worked out that way. We were due at a Christmas concert Dave had bought his family tickets for and was surprising them by actually being there, about 5 hour after landing. No problem. Dave had arranged tickets for a few of our friends as well so they met us at the airport, and lugged our luggage and exhausted asses back to Andreas place for showers, food and Tim Horton’s coffee.
And the choirs of heaven rejoiced…

The concert went off without a hitch, Dave’s family was appropriately stunned and we thoroughly enjoyed spending our first night back in Calgary with Stuart McLean and his vinyl cafĂ©. Dave went home with his family that night and I went back to Andreas, as we had arranged to surprise my family with a faux Skype call from Vietnam the following day.
Take a minute and appreciate the fact that those 24 hours that Dave and I were apart those first few days in Calgary, was pretty much the longest length of time we had been apart since leaving for Korea 16 months prior.
We’re still together.
And on the subject of things that boggle the mind was my family’s reaction to me walking in the door instead of appearing on a Video Cam somewhere in SE Asia.


They seemed marginally happy to see me I suppose…….

And then it was over. The reunion, the surprise, the concert, the plane ride, the reckoning, the goodbyes, backpacking, Korea.

It had all happened. It was all over.

Evasive reality strikes again.


vagabondshandi said…
I knew of your whereabouts for those 24 hours.
Anonymous said…
great to read this ....
thanks for sharing....

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