Korea so far

I arrived.

I’m in a penned off area between baggage claim and the outside world. This purgatory is populated by Asian golfers, Polish teen gymnasts, a Dutch photographer, and several men doing all they can to escape to beer or scotch.

The police man the entrance and a table where, for the sixth time since landing, passports and papers are checked and rechecked.

We’re all destined for government housing while we whittle away at our fortnight quarantines. If I understand things correctly, once were delivered by government transport we will not see each other or anyone else for quite some time.

The fellow to my left is the elder of the group, meaning he was here when I got in, and I’ve been here on this bench longer than most. He’s got his phone charging, he’s standing to keep the blood flowing, and he gives me hope that the bus will soon arrive.

But now another smattering of foreigners wait at the cordon to get into this waiting room just in the edge of freedom. The Asian golfer dude just tried to escape using the new entrants as cover.

He failed and received a stern talking to for his troubles.

The Polish gymnasts are fiddling with their suitcases. There is something wrong that a YouTube video was needed to solve.

The waiting area is split into two halves. The other half is all men. My half (I’ve taken ownership we’ve been here so long) is me, the old timer, and all the ladies. I’m not sure why that is but I’m not complaining.

One of the newcomers is sent to our side, a man, throwing the delicate balance off. He reminds me of a jolly fellow I knew in Tokyo. I can’t see him well what with face masks and all.

Another new batch is arriving. I think we’re shipwrecked here until all the international flights arrive.

Our scarlet letter is a red tag we all wear around our necks. They outwardly signal the red dot placed on our passports and the mark on our souls.

We can be escorted briefly to use the bathroom. That seems the only temporary respite.

Our cozy habitat is now invaded by an army of travelers of all stripes. Some have a jaundiced yellow tag around their necks. I wonder if they’re part of a tour group or theater troupe. It’s gonna get crowded up in here.

Some of the new entrants are laughing. They don’t know the limbo they’re entering into. I feel for them. I was once not long ago an innocent like them. That was in the before time, about 90 minutes ago.

I’m hearing Russian from the guy next to me. He’s on a speakerphone FaceTime call. Joy!

There’s some confusion at the desk, but the police are undeterred and processing these doomed souls with efficiency like I supposed St. Peter does at the pearly gates. Or the hell equivalent at the River Styx. Is that how that works?

The first guy who looks like an American has arrived. He’s shabbily dressed with a backwards ball cap, a sheep skin lined denim jacket and one of those backpacks that bulb out at the bottom. Dollars to donuts he was in a fraternity in his glory days.

Someone just escaped! The police are not amused. The guy (who knew?) is wearing a mustard yellow hoodie and got yelled at as he returned. He does not seem to care.

This one guy keeps standing at the entry talking to another guy in a ball cap on the other side. I think he’s placing an order for stuff from the 7-11 just out of reach behind me.

We have our first non-Asian non-Caucasian contestant as more new souls trickle in to the pen. I’ve been in Korea now for 2 hours.

Something might be moving. The police are going through the pen counting. Folks are standing! They’re gathering things! A queue is forming!

Maybe peace will be ours at last, the sweet release of government mandated housing.

UPDATE: The news of my release is in error. They only took the far side people. The Russian FaceTime guy found out we could be here for another hour or so. My thumb is tired but I’m otherwise in good spirits.

There is a dog barking in a high pitched yap. Lights in the exit hall are being turned off. We remain. More people try unsuccessfully to gain special dispensation to visit the 7-11, but the police aren’t granting any.

It will be a shame to shoot that dog. It will not shut up.

The Dutch photographer left to the ladies with all her gear in tow, like anyone could steal it here in this pit of despair … I mean, Forbidden Zone.

A fresh batch arrived. There are so many people wearing sweatpants in here.

The app we all have to install to make sure we’re doing all the quarantine things we’re legally obligated to do is always on in the background. It’s eating battery like mad.

We’re all talking on speakerphones now. That’s a fresh addition to limbo.

Correction: the guys behind me are Ukrainian, not Russian.

Coming up on hour three and not much to report. Still in the purgatory pen.

All those yellow tagged people are being sprung. They might be from lower risk countries. The Dutch photographer is asking how much longer.

It does seem that the sorting hat is source airport based. Had I come from New Zealand I would have gone to a light prison … er, quarantine housing. Coming from the U.S. I get supermax.

The yellow tagged folks are queued just outside the pen. They’re as stuck as they were just with different scenery.

Two American women are arguing with the police at the gate. They do not want into purgatory. They want to talk to a manager! The police guy is confused and keeps looking for his colleagues to help, but there is no help to be had.

I should have brought snacks and drink from the plane.

We just got counted. Hopeful sign?

The yellow tagged team got gone.

We’re all lined up in parallel. The Americans are having a family thing about birth certificates and stuff. I think the daughter is being quarantined and her adoptive folks are melting down.

On the bus! My suitcase was brought in from the under us storage for … reasons?

Still no idea where we’re going.

By Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

1 comment

Be nice with what you write.