It finally happened.
Some how or another I have managed to go almost a month now living in this country and I haven’t gotten properly lost.
This is thanks of course to Korea’s fabulous transportation infrastructure, and the fact that I can read Korean.
But last night it finally happened.
I walked out of my apartment around 6:40 to head to the bus stop. I was going to meet some friends for dinner and planning to take the same buses I always use. There are two that go past my apartment which I can take to get to the “downtown” area that we were headed to and just as I walked over the big hill by my house, I saw both of them leaving.
I only would have had to wait another 8-10 minutes for the next bus, but I didn’t want to be late for our dinner (it was a friend’s birthday) so I figured I would just walked down to the slightly busier intersection by my house and try to hail a cab. The closer I got to the intersection the more I realized that there were no taxi’s around.
You can tell an empty taxi by the little red words in the front window, and there were none to be seen. So I kept awkwardly walking to the different corners of the intersection hoping that one would appear, but no such luck. After a few minutes I realized that I was now standing next to another bus stop and I thought maybe I could just hop on another bus from there. A few moments later a bus with a number that I swear I recognized pulled up and I got on.
That was my first mistake. I was assuming that it was going to turn right at the intersection and onto the main road. But of course it did not.
It kept going straight, passing the last of anything I recognized in about 30 seconds and before I knew it we were going through a long tunnel under a mountain.
All the busses I’ve been on here stop very frequently. They never go more than a few minutes without making a stop. But of course this bus just seemed to keep going and going. As we kept going further into the tunnel I started to very quickly realize that this mistake was possibly a little bigger than I realized.
Eventually we got out of the tunnel, but it opened up into an area that looked like nothing I have seen in my city yet. It was really open and there were hardly any buildings around. I heard the next bus stop called as some kind of energy plant.
Torn between getting off as soon as possible, and waiting until we got to a more populated area, I decided to jump ship at the next stop. Another mistake.
It’s not that the area wasn’t busy, there were tons of cars. It was right during what looked like rush hour. But of course not a single open taxi to be seen.
So I walked over to a bus stop and waited there for a while. Only to realize that they were going in the wrong direction of my area or the area that I was trying to get to.
I saw a girl who looked to be about my age walking with a rolling suitcase so I decided to, as non-creepily as possible, follow her. I thought that surely she must be going to another bus stop close by. Because the road ahead was very long and very empty and I figured she wouldn’t be rolling that suitcase along the whole way. So when she crossed the street I crossed also and started walking in the same direction careful not to look like some kind of murderer.
But as I’m sure you can guess, it soon became apparent that she was in fact going to roll that suitcase along the entire road. So I decided to swallow my pride and try to ask her in Korean where I could get a cab around here. I also kind of just wanted her to know that I wasn’t stalking her.
So in my very broken Korean I tried to ask here if there were any taxi’s around. She said no there aren’t any around here. Then I asked about a bus stop. And she pointed back to the same bus stop I had just gotten off of. I told her the area that I was trying to get to and she said something about crossing the street to go the opposite direction.
Despite not understanding much of what she said, I thanked her and walked back to where I had just come from. I decided to try to take her advice and cross to the other side of the street to get a bus going in the opposite direction.
And I’m not going to be able to explain this well, but when I got to that bus stop (which definitely was on the other side of the street) suddenly busses started pulling up going the opposite direction of the other traffic. Of course.
So feeling very desperate I crossed the street again, back to where I just was, and decided that I was just going to wait for an empty taxi to drive by. There are tons of taxi’s in the city so surely one would drive by sooner or later.
I was standing on that corner alone, now very hungry, and cold trying not to let myself get overwhelmed. I’ve mentioned before how my “anti-anxiety” strategy here has been to tell myself that I just have to survive this moment. And then the next. And the next.
So I reminded myself of that again. Took some deep breaths and kept looking at the cars passing hoping to see the red “empty” letters. And of course after a few minutes (which felt like hours) they did. I’m not entirely sure that where he pulled over to pick me up was legal, but clearly neither of us cared and so after explaining to him where I wanted to go, I was on my way. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and forced myself to relax my shoulders.
I looked at the time. It was only 7:30. The whole ordeal had only taken about 30 minutes. As we drove back into the area that I’m familiar with I got a text saying that they hadn’t even gotten to the restaurant yet.
At about 7:45 I walked up to my group of friends standing outside a 7-11 waiting for me.
We ended up having a really lovely evening. I finally got to eat Kimbap for the first time since I’ve been here, and we went to a welcome party for all the new EPIK teachers in my city hosted by the teachers who’ve been here for a while. After some good food, drinks, and company the ordeal was quickly forgotten.
I suppose that it had to happened eventually, and I glad that it happened only a few bus stops over from where I live. I definitely could have just walked back if I really had to.
In hindsight it wasn’t really that bad. And somehow things always seem to work out in the exact moment that you need them to.
Thanks for reading!