I went through the wrong gate at Beijing Airport on my way back from the States, and instead of being released into the toxin bath of the Beijing night, and somehow locating my $50 hotel, was funnelled into the hermetically sealed wasteland of the cavernous departure lounge.
There was no escape; it was a long 14 hours. But after three Carlsbergs and the worst Chinese food I’ve ever eaten, I found myself oddly relaxed. It was quiet, mostly, the bathrooms were magnificent, and the ranks of machine-gun-toting goons you might expect to find at Beijing Airport were nowhere to be seen. I noted that Facebook could not be accessed via the heavily censored internet and très crappy wifi — probably for the best.
On Wednesday morning, after an hour or so’s sleep, I was enjoying the awe-inspiring crapper one last time when a fellow passenger let fly with the most tremendous hack-and-spit. Then another, and another. Unmistakably a Korean, and he was wisely getting it all out before we boarded our flight — ugh — “home”. Even Air China, whose attendants fling meals at passengers as though they’re slopping hogs, probably has rules against the hack-and-spit.
Stepping from the plane onto the Busan tarmac, I resisted the temptation to faint in the appalling heat, and the interior of the shuttle bus smelled like a garlic-harvest festival. Within an hour I’d experienced more garlic breath, prolonged public make-up application, copious tobacco clouds, nerve-shattering phone conversations and the much-missed homicidal Route 21 bus driver.
Home, sweet home.
At least my bed felt good — I’d be seeing a lot of it over the ensuing couple of days. Thursday, mercifully, was a holiday, and I looked forward to seeing “my” dogs. I’d asked Chloe, who’d contacted me after reading of their plight on TGTW, to check on them during my nine days in Upstate New York, and they were apparently doing fine, considering. I got up before dawn (breaking later, though it’s still hot as hell)…
..and stumbled, still jet-lagged, up the creek road with bones and water.
The dogs were gone. So were their kennels:
I was dumbfounded. Shocked — but not really, as this was the scenario I’d often told Kate I dreaded. I wavered, unable to comprehend it, pacing back and forth. Gone and…dead? Just relocated? Why move the kennels? The whole area was a trash pile; over here, people generally let things lie when they’re no longer needed.
I was at once flooded with rage and the most profound grief. It sounds pathetic, but those mutts — Kate and I had christened them Ginger and Mary Ann — were the closest things to real friends I had here. I’d been visiting them daily for months, increasingly blatantly, with food, water and affection.
Here they are the day before I left for America:
I’d taught them to sit before meals — it had only taken two visits. Many hot nights I would take a beer up there and sit with them a while in the dark. Their joy was so spontaneous and overwhelming, the big British pointer leaping onto her back legs, lunging at me with her front paws with such force that I feared she’d break her neck on her chain; the little Brittany setter, wheezing with the worms apparently constricting her heart, yapping with delight when I produced the bones, standing to “embrace” my leg, or just settling her head on my lap as I sipped my beer and went over and over my plans for their liberation.
Because — yes — that’s what Kate and I had been discussing for months: me freeing them one night, walking them to a vet where they’d get their rabies shots, then taking them on a monthlong adventure up the coast and back (there’s a 30-day minimum between the shots and taking dogs into America), putting them on a plane and transporting with me to Kate’s place and a life and freedom they couldn’t imagine. I’d been agonising over the details and the hazards for so long, and we’d walked through the plan at such length, it seemed a fait accompli.
With the dogs gone, there was no good reason for me to be here.
Just behind the kennel site, among even more weeds, trash and desolation, a miserable white pup, which they used to keep chained back behind the plant nurseries my dogs were “guarding”, was now imprisoned, apparently their replacement. The poor beast, nervous and wary, was not even granted a kennel in the searing sun:
I sleepwalked a hundred metres up the road, past two more pairs of permanently chained “guard dogs” (a service station and another nursery)* and stopped again with another jolt of not-quite-shock. The whole hillside had been razed:
Again, I’d predicted this. The red flags that appeared in the weeks before my departure…
..presaged more enviro-genocide.
Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of red flags over here, and they always signal approaching excavators and men in hardhats. If my guess is right, a new road and perhaps yet another bridge will soon adorn the doomed Daecheong. A lot can happen in Korea in a week and a half.
So I’m lost. I feel like giving up and splitting earlier than the December 31 conclusion of my contract. Right now I’m alternating between depression and murderous rage towards that rat-bastard owner and the whole fucking country. I know, I’ve always been like that here, but this is far worse. Anyway, I’ll see how I feel after school resumes next week. My judgment at the moment may well be clouded by the oppressive heat, disrupted sleep patterns and inevitable comedown following a fantastic stay with Kate.
Meanwhile, some happier news that will rock the world of lowbrow literature: I’m blogging again! Obviously. I needed that break, what with the busted laptop, my secret trip to prepare for, and THREE consecutive “English camps” (Konglish for vacation English fun for selected students and unfortunate ESL teachers). Here I am enjoying the final one, the day before my flight:
It was a draining six-and-a-half months for Kate and I. During that time we skyped every night and about a dozen ass-dragging weeks ago commenced our countdown. I went via Fukuoka and Honolulu and the two 5,000-mile legs across the Pacific did not do any favours for a recurrent back injury that flared up right before camp #3. We did a lot of driving through northern New York State and each time I’d step from Kate’s van unable to stand straight.
Despite that handicap, which is just about mended, we had a fabulous time. At a cost of $650 I got this machine repaired at the Apple Store in Albany (apparently carrying a laptop in your pack in heavy rain is bad for computers — news for me) and I am now bloggable. I have dozens of potential posts pre-America in the to-do pile, plus some unfinished sagas (Seoul; the previous New York trip, etc) — but look forward to six or eight or 10 American posts starting soon.
Highlights of the trip included:
~ Kate’s Place ~
~ Kate’s Badass Cat, Moecifer ~
~ A Family Dinner ~
~ Numerous Delightful Breakfasts (& Lunches & Dinners) ~
~ Strolls in Historic Parks & Gardens ~
~ Peaceful Battlefield Rambles ~
~ Numerous Graveyard Peregrinations ~
~ Some Forest Ambling ~
~ Return to Wing Road Farm ~
~ Tons of Photography (Whittled Down to 850 Shots So Far) ~
~ Kate’s Sister & Brother-In-Law’s Place ~
~ A Killer Adirondack High Peaks Day-Hike ~
~ A Return to Woodstock ~
~ Fantastic Beer! Not a Hite or (C)Ass in 10,000 Miles! ~
Honestly, leaving Kate, our excellent friends and her family, her dashing feline, cosy cottage and sunny, ramshackle garden, was hard. Throw in the most delightfully unseasonal — almost autumnal — weather, great food, excellent coffee and beer, shops and the greenness, charm and cleanliness of the mountains, parks and streets and forests of New York, and you can imagine how hard it was to return to grungy, in-your-face Korea.
I started this post, this return to blogging, angry and vengeful and tired and miserable. I miss those dogs so much and am wracked by guilt that I couldn’t save them and perhaps even (by my feeding runs and the unwanted attention I may have brought to them) caused their disappearance. But reviewing these American pictures, and having interrupted my writing for another skype with Kate, I’m excited about my post-Korean future and looking forward to writing up my little adventures over there.
Oh, and one more thing I must get around to covering:
~ But Wait, There’s More… ~
* Korea enjoys an almost comically low crime rate, yet these sadistic dickheads think their precious pot plants need guarding.
The Handsome Family, All the Time in Airports:
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote