On the bus from Incheon~ Finally.
My flight was delayed last night, resulting in a wonderfully long conversation with a lady from GuangXi who told me many things about her area that make me reconsider my plans of location. See, I was just in London for an interview with a Saudi oil conglomerate, and simply didn’t get the job. No big deal to that effect. I had no expectations, just a glimmer of hope and in the interview, I did in fact fail at one or two of the grammar questions in a way that resulted in me being denied the 4-5000 dollar a month salary that I otherwise could have enjoyed. Maybe some other time. Not to worry.
So the delay also made me miss my bus home. As a result, I’m missing a day of work that I otherwise would have disliked as it is with a teacher who has recently changed her attitude towards me and is getting increasingly argumentative with her interaction. As such, I don’t mind in the slightest the fact that I missed her school’s day. And ultimately, it wasn’t my fault at all. I had the ticket to make the trip, and simply wasn’t able to do so on account of my flight being delayed for a full two hours coming out of Guangzhou, China.
The hotel that I was given was really nice. It had a giant room that was basically a small apartment. It was complete with a full-sized refrigerator, a washing machine and stove. Not the normal hotel room. They even gave me a meal ticket for the restaurant next door and covered my taxi on the way there (there was a free shuttle to get back to the airport in the morning anyway). So now I’m on a bus at 2:45 in the afternoon instead of landing back at my home 12 hours earlier. I had a great night’s sleep and am ready for work tomorrow. Should be good.
So London!!! Omagahd!
What a wild ride! First thing I noticed was that all the signage was purely in English~ I know, that may sound silly as a concept, but I’m used to English being a secondary language, if available at all. So that was super cool. I got off the plane, walked with the bunch through the corridors and eventually arrived at the queue for getting my passport stamped. About ten minutes into waiting, I realized that I had forgotten my duty-free bag that had all the things from Amsterdam that I had bought during my layover there! Of course, I consulted the nearest person, and decided to go back. The thing is, these corridors aren’t marked with numbers or names, as they’ve been created for one-way access, with no effort given to people’s needs on the way back. So I worked my way back through the winding halls to the final passageway to my airplane where a bloke was sitting with a newspaper. As I headed down the passageway, he called to me and I explained my sitch~ He said it was no problem, that he’d go and get it. So I wrote him a thank-you card on a Cambodian post card and felt the joy of reconnecting with my giant block of cheese and other random trinkets I’d picked up while wandering the Amsterdam airport.
Headed back to the customs line, I was a bit behind schedule. Maybe burned a half hour on it. So I was the absolute last soul to pass through the line, and made my way down the escalators into the Tube and on my way to my friend’s place in North London. The fare was a surprising seven quid and some change, which comes out to about ten US dollars for the international reader who hasn’t opened XE.com in the last few weeks. So, it was quite a lot to me, coming from Seoul where all trips, no matter how long are usually under three dollars worth of Korean won. But whatever, I had known coming into the visit that all things met would have price-tags larger than I would expect, that I should just pay them and move on with my day. And so I did.
Into the Tube! It was a treat to see such an old and legendary tunnel system. It was celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, not that I saw much more than the occasional note on a signboard with a 150 on it, but none the less, that is an old system!
It had stops that were war memorials reminding folks how the tubes had been used as bomb shelters in WW2. Others had interesting old-school wood-paneled doors that seemed to be interesting entryways that surely were cut off to the general public, but had served as something of a passage to authorized people. There were ads completely in English… Oh, what a treat to not have to try and translate!
The trip ultimately took about an hour and a half, including the bus from the station to the neighborhood that my friends lived in and the walk from where I got off the bus to their house.
When I arrived, my friend was just walking in from a friend of his having come by and was just leaving, so I was able to call out to him to leave open the gate. He was of course surprised someone would call to him, but when he saw me it was all smiles. He and his lady-friend live in a lovely abode in the back-garden of the home of her parents, who clearly built this space with their children in mind. The building was covered in camouflage and on the inside was absolutely a treat! The door opens into a large sitting room with thick, plush couches, covered in giant pillows of all sorts, walls covered in well-framed art of all styles and a thin but sturdy table six people could sit for dinner at, including the ends. Off from the living room was the kitchen, bathroom and their bedroom, which reached even further to an additional bedroom for guests like myself, and then on into a small office where they had a computer under a window overlooking the yard we’d walked through to get in, in the first place.
Staying with them added such a wonderful dimension to my visit; it’s hard to imagine what my trip would have been like without their pleasurable company and physical presence. That being said, we began our collective adventure by heading out to a classic English pub, as that is on my short-list of things needed from my life’s first foray into the island’s life. So they took me to a spot that was in the neighborhood of 400 years old as a pub, and had a kind of draft-beer I’d never seen before, and I don’t just mean the brand. The way it was taken from the keg was by a pumping that reminded me of a hand-pump that brings water from the ground. It was that. There was no secondary gas providing the pressure to bring it up, just the pump. I thought that was cool. So we sat down in the old seats provided at tables that looked like they’d come from the middle-ages, only well-thickened by years of polishing. It was cool, definitely cool. But alas, British pubs close early in North London, and we only had time for one pint before the house was ready to see us out. None-the-less, achievement unlocked! A pint of local beer in a 400 year-old English pub~ hell yea!
We weren’t done though. We stopped by a store on the way, grabbed a few more and headed back their lush pad for the remainder of our evening. We proceeded to crack out the bottles of soju that I’d brought as a house-gift and we proceeded to play games and share life-goals and chat whimsically into the wee hours when we fell into our respective beds, I waking in exactly what I’d worn the day before, and none the worse for wear for it. Rather a nice factor. So, hangover-free, I began to sift my real logistics about the project of being in London. I isolated my clothes to wear, text-messaged my second friend in the city, and dove into my email where a spot of information was waiting for me to help prepare me for my interview the next morning. By three o’clock I was ready to leap into the city and agreed to meet up with my hosts later in the evening with the help of my second friend whom I planned on meeting at 5:30 that same day. As I ventured out, I felt the mist. It was a pleasant, mild mist that hung in the air not falling or rising, just keeping all things ever so slightly damp for the English ambiance that it allowed. My trek to the train station was a good 15 minute walk and I had a plan to stop in on a computer shop on the way to print a few documents that were needed for the meeting in the morning. Otherwise, I was all about just checking out the little bits around me, like the markets that had bowls of fruit for a pound and the folks waiting for double-decker buses on the left side of the street. At the computer shop, I read an email that shared there was no need for the printing, so that simplified my bits a bit. Then I stepped up and finished my tromp to the station. In I went, and down I sat to watch the walls buzz by me. I was to sit in the tube for just a few bits, maybe 20 minutes, then shift to another line and travel one or two stops up to where my second friend would be meeting me.
During the transfer, I was able to again enjoy the unique architecture of the London Tube. Its walls were old, red, laid-brick that showed its age yet was certainly not going anywhere soon. Its solidity was surely tested a generation ago when the German bombs echoed above, and it stood through that, so no summer breeze was going to chip that last crumble, that’s for sure. So as I popped into the second train, and then out into the sunlight above, I was taken by a sight of great achievement. In front of me was an open-air atrium-like area that was a vast expanse and was clearly a newly redesigned space. Directly in front of where I stood was a building that was likely a hundred years old or more. A straight-bricked, cream-painted large jut from the ground who’s upper floors were hidden by the new-age wide, rolling roof over the square that was constructed of round tube-steel and was twisting and curving all around. I took a quality panorama-shot of it. The photograph almost looks fake, but isn’t at all. Maybe I’ll be able to attach it here for posterity.
Ah, okay. There it is. It does fit nicely here in the writing. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’m up to nearly 3,000 for this (really only 1,878).
I decided to head directly for my friend’s location as I figured it would take plenty of time to find and I could just mill about for a bit. So that’s what I did. To the left from where I stood at the point of the photograph, there was an information booth where a fellow was able to look up the name of the hotel and point me in the right direction. I was only about three blocks from where I needed to be. So I thanked him, told him that my students were super big-fans of his and explained that I was honored to meet the famous Simon from the legendary Simon-Says game. He laughed and I headed out.
Eventually, I found the hotel, a modest but elegant one located across from a park with questionable occupants, but a tall fence, and I noted the time. It was five o’clock, which gave me 30 minutes to burn before our planned meeting. Remembering a pub around the corner, I headed that way, bought a pint and sat at a window booth in the mid-afternoon sun to go over some of the notes that were sent to me the previous day regarding my interview in the morning. As my clock ticked on, and my notes grew longer, I finished my pint, shut the lid of my laptop and set out to meet my friend. When I arrived, I found him sleeping in a large leather couch with the look of a fellow who’d just finished a large holiday meal and has fallen asleep during the football match following it. There he was, feet up on the table, mouth and arms open for the world and quiet rested in the room. My greeting was laughter at the sight and we began to catch up.
From here, I will begin again later as my computer’s battery is about to fail. A good day it was.