It has come to my attention that I am far to busy to be able to pump out the book that I had promised myself I would write. The book about meeting and being friends with Shawn Matthews from our days in Korea until the day he died. I actually have a good deal of it done, but with this project and that project the final push is just not coming together like I would have liked...isn't that life.
However, I have thus decided that I would put the complete first chapter for sale on Lulu so that people can at least read parts of what is happening. I would put it for free on the website, but it is a true story and so, it might not be totally suitable for everyone. I know the format and the information that should go into the completed book, I just have to have time to do it. I am sorry for that, but here is the address for the chapter if you would like to have a read.
PS, I republished a previous post to refresh the memories of those who might be interested. There is another preview on Lulu with some more information.
An Unlikely Meeting
Despite the fact that I had recently returned to smoking, I hated these PC Bangs for their dense smoky air. It was one thing to smoke a cigarette yourself; it is another thing altogether to smoke 14 packs of other people’s lung discharge. I would not have been in the PC Bang at all if my home internet would have been operational, but as with most things with a Macintosh, the internet also was not totally compatible at all times. Since I had only been in Korea for a couple of months, I was spending large amount of time writing massive emails to my family and friends about my every sneeze, shit or success. Maybe to them it was wildly entertaining; it was all very entertaining to me as well.
Despite Seoul’s size and happening night life, DoBong Gu did not have much to offer, and DoBong 1 Dong had even less than other areas of Dobong Gu. It was very cold and I did not know any other foreigners in the area. Hell, I did not know the area itself. Every night I ate at one of two restaurants; the Chinese restaurant under my apartment or the fried chicken and beer restaurant across the street from the Chinese restaurant. The street was not much of a street at all; only one car could fit through it at a time, which was more than enough space for the Chinese food delivery man or the coffee girls to putter through on their scooters. I was not really ready for much more of an entertainment schedule than what I had. While everything was so different from what I had become used to in America, the small amount of regularity and “security” in my life after work was necessary to keep me sane.
I was not a trained teacher in any respect. I had just been given the ticket to this place because I had a white picture and a passport. In some way, my arrival in Korea felt like fate. My former professor had suggested that I travel abroad to teach English or some sort of computer course. I thought that this sounded like a relatively good idea despite the objections of my family. To do this, I had to get the passport which was supposed to take two months to process without paying the extradite fee. I was poor, as are most 24 year old volunteers, so I could not justify this added expense. I applied for every job I could find on the internet, registered at every ESL café I could. I do not know why, but I never found Dave’s ESL Café until I got to Korea. Mostly, I was interested in going to Japan. Like every other American, I had been force fed the Japanese and Chinese culture through movies and even school text books, so I searched mostly for Japan. But, I was just interested in going anyplace other than the place I was at that time.
I sent resumes to anything I found, even a job in Karachi, Pakistan. In response to that my mom just said, “You’re crazy if you think I will let you get on the plane to Pakistan.” For a month after applying to all of these websites and services, nothing was happening, not even Pakistan. But in September, one month earlier than scheduled, my passport miraculously appeared in the mail. If this was not enough, the next day my email had a message, “Greetings From Korea.” The message was from a Canadian man, David Snow, working as a recruiter in Korea. Of course he informed me that they could probably find me a job, but he was not sure. This negative talk was able to keep me from looking other places, make me unsure of my ability to get a job overseas and make him necessary to me. After talking to him a few times, he told me that his real name was actually Eric Sommer, but he used David Snow for one reason or another. After my arrival in Korea, I learned that he was trying to start up some weird organization to create a society where people could live for free called the “World Suitors.” He was also working on some software he thought would be great-but this is another story.
Immediately, as anyone familiar with the Korean ESL market can imagine, they had a job ready for me and were asking me to come to Korea. I sent my diploma, official transcripts, resume, notarized this-and-that, twice. It seems that the first one had gotten lost in the mail. Then, they sent me a VISA letter and I was on my way to Seattle to get the VISA put into the passport. In les than 2 months, I was ready to go with the plane ticket in hand. Two days before the plane was scheduled to leave, my first package of documents returned to me in America, with a stamp that said Seoul on it. The documents had made the trip, they just couldn’t find a more precise target than Seoul.
I booked the cheapest flight I could, through the seemingly reliable American Airlines, but as I got into Vancouver to change flights, I found out that they were anything but reliable. They had not confirmed my trip, even though I paid for the ticket and thus, I was stuck in Vancouver begging the people to put me on the flight. I found out about 5 minutes before take-off that they had fit me onto the flight. Since this day, I have never used American Airlines again. The adventure of the trip was not over however, but rather just beginning.
When I got off the plane, to my shock, nobody was waiting for me. I waited in that airport with my massive bags, sweating like crazy for the longest 45 minutes of my life. I could not figure out how to get the payphone to work, it needed some odd card that I could not figure out how to buy. I sat, aimlessly thinking, “What in the fuck have I gotten myself into now? You are in some foreign country without anywhere to go you dumb ass! What are you going to do, sit in the airport for the rest of your life? You better get active and get out of this situation.” An astute Korean man had noticed the troubles I was having and offered to use his cell phone to call the number I needed to reach. This turned out to not be too helpful, “It is not the right number.” he said to me after he had called it.
“Your kidding!” was all that I could muster to say. Now I felt like I was really up a creek without a paddle. I guess I would be able to easily buy a ticket back home, but it seemed a bit early for that. I continued to try to use the robot-phone with the space aged card to no avail.
Finally, a balding white man, thin with age and joints like bedknobs asked me in a bellowing voice, “Are you Jake Harding?” “Yeah!” “I am Eric Sommer and this is JiHyon, sorry we are late, but there was a lot of traffic.” Immediately, I felt that they were not overly concerned with my situation, that of going overseas for the first time ever, or they would have figured out how to be at the airport on-time. It was not much comfort to know that the only thing that was causing my heart failure, sweating and all-around discomfort was a group of cars and people who were not thinking ahead. Yet, I was certainly relieved that I had not be conned into coming to Korea and that there was actually something for which I came. “So, we are here now and you appear to be a little tired so lets go over to this little shop and we will get you something to drink, we have some things to talk about really quickly.” Eric said, taking control of the situation with his bellowing voice that most certainly needed to be coming from a man with a younger looking frame.
We walked to the little convenience store, me dragging all of my bags, the maximum amount possible without having to pay extra baggage fees. Eric was the man in charge at this point, and thus, took the liberty of buying our drinks as well as choosing what they would be. I was craving a cold soda, but got a warm Korean ginseng drink in a small glass bottle, not very refreshing, but I gutted the liquid and pretended that it was fantastic. As I was forcing down another swallow of the warm juice Eric began to say what he had been intending to tell me, “Well, the good news is that you are in Korea, but the bad news is that the job that we said you have is no longer available.”