Flying Without Wings

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Friday, 9 March, 2012

Ulsan, South Korea

I am back in Asia! Allow me to get you up to speed; since departing the continent last year, I have been surviving on the wage of a full-time popcorn sweeper and living with a man that doesn’t know how to tie his shoelaces. I love you, Why?!, but you’re twenty-one, you shouldn’t be new to the loop, swoop and pull method at this point. In short, I needed a fulfilling change – hello, South Korea!

To clarify, I have not been unhappy. In fact, far from it. Cinema staff know how to party, and the housemate that I am referring to has kept me highly entertained – I like weird and this guy takes the title belt in that regard. His day starts and finishes two hours earlier than the average person, not due to work commitments, but because he doesn’t like to queue up in the cafeteria. Seriously, what is not to love?

However, obviously reality, or my parents, wouldn’t allow me to live that way forever – therefore, I considered other options. A few friends have already taken teaching jobs in South Korea and offer glowing reviews. Basically, it felt like an opportunity I would be dumb to neglect at this stage, so, here I am: big adventure number two. I have set two priority goals: eat dog and teach my students the words to Marching on Together – complete those tasks and the trip can be deemed successful.

However, before I could even jump on the plane, I would be forced into a battle with my old enemy, the big boys at the bank. The red and white company that I trust with my hotdog serving, hard earnings, decided to screw me at the most pivotal point. I went into a branch in London and asked them to allow me access to my visa card in Korea, however, I was bizarrely informed that due to security reasons this request requires a phone call. What?!

To sum up, in the bank’s eyes there is a chance that I could have stolen a Danny Parker passport, provision driving license, bank card, and of course, his face – apparently, it’s not beyond all realms of possibility that I may have taken this passport into a plastic surgeon and said, “Make me look exactly like this guy, please.” Due to these reasons, this method wouldn’t be secure enough and a phone call is the only way to guarantee that I am not just out to steal from myself.

I left the store, made the call and failed the security questions. They didn’t inquire about ‘the amount of my last transaction’ or ‘the branch I opened my account with’ – as a normal bank may have done. Instead, I felt like a contestant in a quiz show designed to humiliate; they may as well have said, “Back in 1994, we asked you to confirm your favourite tinned spaghetti shapes, did you choose the Thomas the Tank Engine or Power Ranger ones?” My odds of a correct response would have at least improved in that scenario.

Oh, by the way, my inadequacy led to them blocking my card. Thus, the simple task of ensuring that I could use my card while in Korea, ended with me unable to spend money in England – talk about your all time backfires. I was in the airport terminal watching people walk passed me with a coke or a packet of crisps. I was left looking at the lonely five pence coin lying at the bottom of my wallet and the visa card that doesn’t work. That coke, those crisps, they just weren’t my reality anymore. Starvation, thirst – that is my world now.

Thankfully, a stressful afternoon was saved by a pleasant flight. The onboard sports channel was showing Tony Yeboah’s wonder goal against Wimbledon on the hour, every hour – a treat that allowed me to forget all about the day’s previous mishaps.

I mostly spent the other fifty-eight minutes of each hour reading my book, but I did also manage to find the time to swing by the in-flight map channel. It was here that I discovered a city in Japan called Fukuoka – which I have assumed is pronounced, Fuk-u-ok, plus a silent A. I just wish I knew of that city’s existence back when I was a young lad and needed to be subtle when insulting my little sister.

source // wikipedia

source // wikipedia

You know all the business blokes holding signs with names on at airport arrivals, well, yeah, I didn’t have that. No, instead I was greeted with a huge banner spanning from one end of the airport to the other reading, ‘Enter The Dragon’. Seeing this made me feel sufficiently welcomed.

In actuality, I didn’t get a banner or a sign. Instead, I just had a random man approach me asking if I was ‘Danny Parker’. I wonder how many other foreigners he asked before me?

The car journey to my flat was pretty interesting. With my Korean being pretty non-existent at this stage and his English fairly poor, I was content with riding in silence. However, he seemed to feel pressured into chit-chat – which went terribly. He is clearly a sweet guy who was just trying to make me comfortable, therefore, I won’t hold that painful fifteen minutes against him; but, man it was rough. In the end, he just put his Michael Jackson CD on and we spent the rest of the journey jamming to ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’. Ah, the universal language of music saving the world again.

Day two, and I was in a classroom – there really is no rest for the wicked. I also got to meet my new co-workers for the first time, one of which spent ten years working in Leeds; it’s a small world. I must say, it was pretty refreshing not being required to go through that agonizing game of geography cluedo when announcing my city’s name to someone while abroad.

Believe it or not, I had countless conversations on my last trip that went something along the lines of:

“Where are you from?”
“The UK.”
“Cool, which city?”
“Leeds. Do you know it?”
“Yeah, maybe. Is it near London?”
“No.”
“Oh, then I’m not sure.”

Always a fun exchange.

Our conversation naturally moved to excessive crime rates in Woodhouse (the part of Leeds I was living in only a week ago). Needless to say, this topic drew a few concerned glances from the Korean teachers – perhaps they saw this as a life saving trip for me, or maybe they were just worried I had a knife in my pocket? I’m not quite sure. I should probably work on rectifying my image a little bit in the weeks to come though.

My flat is all right; as accommodation goes it’s very reminiscent of university halls. The building is very modern though, with the entrance requiring a ‘code’ rather than a key – this has proven to be quite the memory tester. I came back from a drinking session at 5am yesterday and no matter how hard I tried to force it, the code demanded more sophistication than ‘1234’. I continuously typed the exact same code, certain that it was the machine’s memory which was the problem. Anyway to conclude, I needed to sit on the step and wait until the old lady needed her morning milk.

I’ve actually only had about three hours sleep since jumping off the aeroplane due to a combination of jet lag, meeting old friends, getting drunk and being a crap code breaker. Yet, I still found the time to give you a blog. What a hero! Anyway, I’m off to sleep. Laters!

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