Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seoul Music

I'm sitting in bed in a "hotel" room, aka "guest house," it being dark outside, not counting the street light, and no idea what time it is.  There are no clocks in the room, the TV doesn't work, and my internal clock is fowled up by the 12 hour flight from Seattle.  A car passes only very occasionally, so I guess its the middle of the night here, though time to get up back home. 

Two bulky drunks are waiting outside the door.  One appears to be English; the other mumbles too much to tell where he's from.  Now one is singing.

The first sign that they were there came when one yanked on the door several times.  I was awake, having just been jotting plans for the following day on the back of a card, so heard it clearly.  The door was stout, fortunately.  (It's a fairly spartan room, otherwise, but clean enough.)  I had slept for a few hours, earlier, which is good for the first day of a trip.  Then came the knocking. 

"Go away!  This is not your room!" 

"Where should we go?"

"Go down to the first floor (they call it that, here), and talk to the people down there."  (I assumed they were looking for their own room.) 

"Yeah, there's lots of people down there.  We talk to them, and they just mumble.  You're the first person who's talked to us like this in an hour.  Open the door!"

"I'm not going to open the door, but I will call the police." 

"Yeah, like that'll help.  You have three choices."

I waited to hear the three choices, not expecting to like any of them.  But the drunk could only recall one, got stuck on it, which turned out to be one I actually approved of.

"If I were you, I wouldn't open the door." 

He went on explaining why keeping it shut might actually be the better option, apparently trying more to reason for himself than to convince me, and ended in incoherence.

I did try calling the police.  But he was right about that, too.  There wasn't much of what you could call a phone in the room.  There's something you can pick up, without about 5 buttons and words in Korean next to them, and little lights.  The top buttom made a little alarm sound, not enough to bother anyone outside the room.  The next few seemed to do nothing.  The bottom one rang.  I tried this one with some hope, ten or so times, and at one point heard a man speaking a few gruff words of Korean.  After that, it didn't even ring much. 

I considered other options, should my neighbors find a way of openning the door.  Weapons?  I could throw the TV at them, maybe.  On further reflection, the TV stand seemed like the only remotely servicable weapon in the room, and it didn't look like it could fend off more than a very sleepy lion cub. 

Could I break the window, and escape to the street?  Kind of a last option, though we were only on the second floor -- looks like pavement down there. 

Now I begin revising my "things to do tomorrow morning" list. Ask for my money back?  Not only was my "sleep" interrupted, but even in a 4000 won guesthouse, they ought to provide a phone and a little security -- this place is like a death trap.  Go to the airport and tell the Info lady to strike this place off her list of places to stay?  All in all, I think I'll begin with the police. 

Heck of a way to start a trip.  Guess I'll just hope they eventually think of somewhere else to go, and don't locate a battering ram or a blasting cap. 

Mount McKinley was magnificent, anyway.  I've flown by it before, and drove with my cousin to the park, but never saw the mountain clearly before.  First some other alpine mass came into view, with a tall summit at the center, and I wondered at first if this might have been it.  But when Denali floated into view, there was no doubting it.  The summit was not far beneath the level of the plane.  Beneath it, lesser peaks, still sharp and snow-covered, were as grasshoppers. 

The only glaciers I could spy associated with the mountain were low elevation valley glaciers.  I wondered, is there anywhere in the world that sports a larger elevation spread over which ice rules?  A smaller but still tall  peak (Foraker?) rises to the south of McKinley, close yet distinct enough to count as part of the same mountain, or not, as your fancy leads. 

After McKinley, I spent hours in conversation in the back of the plane with Bill, a man about the build, age, and a little of the attitude of Bill Maher.  Not that he attacked religion -- he was grateful to the Christians who mended him when he got hepatitis in Pakistan or China.  His father had been CIA, so he grew up all over, and has traveled even more all over ever since.  (Preferably by bicycle.)  He said the CIA kids were the left-wingers, State and Military kids more conservative.  We swapped travelers' tales: if it was a contest, no doubt he won. 

Still singing out there.  As poorly as I sleep the first night of a trip, can I possibly sleep with those two drunks at seige?  Maybe I'll give it a try. 

I've never seen a "guest house" quite like this one.  It's on a city street a mile or two from the airport.  From the outside, it looks like an office building.  Go into the lobby, and there's a little "Travel Agency" room to the right, and that' where they sign you in.  Then someone gives you a key, shows you to the elevator, and after a long wait, you're on the second floor. 

Here the strange inner design of the building reveals itself.  There's a kind of atrium or courtyard at center, with maybe 15 stories of rooms that look like Tokyo rabbit hutch apartments rising on two or three sites, with walkways facing the atrium.  There is an attempt at a potted plant (plastic?) or two, but nothing of any charm whatsoever. 

Whistling now.  The sound of metal.  No battery rams, I hope?  High-pitched, wordless singing. 

An airplane sounds over head.  Early morning flight, I hope? 

I see this from two perspectives.  One is that of a newspaper article about something bad happening in a hotel in Korea.  The other lies in the past perfect perspective of an anecdote about a rough start to a trip.  (The bank hassle and missing camera yesterday being the harbinger of trouble.) 

In any case, I will not now be staying here three nights. 

(Postscript: I dozed off, after all.  Turned out so did the drunks.  Didn't see them again.  Someone said they were crazy, shook his head when I asked.  I told the airport girl, not the police.  Took the train to Seoul, and am now staying at a kind of graduate school / missions training center in South Seoul.  There's a hill above the center, in pine, ewe, chestnut, part of which I can see from my room, and no noisy drunks anywhere to be seen.  Korean lunch for $2 in the cafeteria!)

No comments: