Annyeong haseyo, Korea!

29 May

Alright, well, again I push off the posting, and again there is so much to include in this post I barely know where to begin. I have been in Korea for a week now, after a month that was so chockablock full in every part of my life that I think I wandered around stunned for most of it. Work was, in brief, a crazy nightmare – there were so many people coming from so many places, and each of them needed flights, and itineraries, and visas, and changes, which then meant new flights, and new itineraries, and it was enough to do my head in. I have realized about myself that I’m more of a ‘big picture’ girl, which is a nice was of saying that I am not very good at details and organization. And this was the ‘big picture’ girl’s Waterloo – I hate doing a mediocre job at anything, but I have to say I wasn’t thrilled with myself on this one. A project of this magnitude requires organizational trees, it requires systems and master spreadsheets and organizational armor before you even think of beginning. And I should have spent the first three days setting all this up. And I didn’t. Ultimately, everyone has gotten here so far, with a visa (except for the late additions), so it’s not too dire, but still – note to self, next time don’t suck so much at this. Well, that’s a little harsh. But I’ve come to realize that in the big picture, Company Management is not for me. I knew this before I took the job, technically, but I had to find out for myself. And so the image I have now of working this job on this tour is of being in a crappy house in the best neighborhood in the world – you may not like your house much, but you only need to remember how much you love its context to stop complaining.

So, Korea. A strange place. You may have noticed that the title of this posting (which, predictably, is ‘hello’ – I’m that clever) is long and rather complicated – this stands in for most things in Korea itself. Everything is complicated here – the addresses and street system is so convoluted that even your taxi driver is likely to get completely lost and start circling the same block again and again. Meals are served with a dizzying array of side dishes, and are as likely to be cooked on a removeable fire pit in the middle of the table. And negotiations are equally complicated. In one story I love, we were told that one of the venues was so new that we would be the opening show in it. Except for The King and I, which would be there first. The hotel we are staying in offered the laundry service at 5,000 won per bag, but when they saw that people filled the (non-stretch) bag, they said that was too much, and that they would have to charge 1,000 won per item in the bag. Nothing is ever quite simple or straightforward.

That being said, it is a beautiful place so far. Our hotel is tucked up in the small mountains of Daegu, and my room overlooks a forest that reminds me so much of Long Pong it makes me ache a little. The air is beautiful and clear (in Daegu, at least, I’ve heard Seoul is different) and it has rained a few times so far (we are coming up to monsoon season), making the world smell fresh and flowery. The city is a bit of an odd case of Urban Sprawl – marked every once and a while by large housing towers, there seems to be no real center to anything, and the presence of small mountains on every side, and about sixteen buildings called ‘Lotte’, make it almost impossible to get your bearings when you’re walking around (sympathy on that point for the taxi drivers). And so far, it seems that Korea is not really interested in making friends. While Taiwan and its people were friendly, outgoing, and seemed to genuinely want you to experience their culture and to share yours with you, Korea seems a bit more like ‘Yeah? You want to come here? Well, we live here already, so figure it out yourself.’ I can’t blame them, given their history, but it’s tough to navigate right off the bat.

Next post – an update on food. And hopefully photos!

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