You were first to come

The Sun was just beginning to touch its horizon and I looked at the clock. Okay, it’s time to head out of work and I made a little quick search into Google. “Seoul metro map.” Images of the metro map quickly appeared and I looked for ones that were the most readable. I clicked on a few images and then let my mind examine the Seoul metro map. There were 9 different lines and each line has a color of its own. Where do I get on? where do I get off? more lines to get on? Seoul station was the one that I wanted to go to. After reviewing a few times, I tried to hold a mental map in my mind and I’d try to depend on my ever reliable memory and I walked out of the office.

I got to the Seoul station without too much problem, though there was a bit of walking to do and during the rush hours, of course, subway cars were packed and I could see that smartphones especially the iPhone 4 was quickly finding its way into the Koreans’ hands and hangul characters rapidly flashing in front of them. Even when I got myself to the Seoul station stop, there was still some walking to do, to get to the tickets booth area where KTX was. Step after step, stairs after stairs, escalators after escalators, and there would be the humid air that blew at your face as soon as you got out of the subway, then you smell the sweats of those pedestrians. You wonder if you smell like them too. I got myself into the line and being deaf myself, out of habit, my eyes tried to gaze to find a service desk for people with disabilities and see if the line was fewer than the one I was in. There was a bunch of old people and it seemed like they couldn’t quite understand their ticket stubs or were demanding some kind of a discount and needed further assistance like a personal guide. I decided to stay in my line anyways.

I finally got a KTX ticket and I was getting a little excited because I’d be getting on one of the fastest trains in the world, in fact, only one of three trains that can go over 300 km per hour. Japan and France are the other two. The wait wasn’t too long so I killed time by strolling around the convenience store and see what food I’d like to have on the go. Also one of my habits was to do some people-watching, especially women and why that woman is more attractive than others. It’s amazing how far Korea has come. When I first visited Korea in 2002, 18 years later since I was adopted, I don’t remember there was that many women who were well-dressed. But now? it’s more than I could count. Ugg boots, short shorts well above thighs, short skirts, tight jeans showing their long legs, sunglasses, watches that glitter, high heel shoes, and purses made by Prada or Burberry. Women seemed taller, slender, their hair beautiful and shiny. You could see that they took care of themselves well. I suppose they do have a motivation, in hopes of attracting guys or maybe they’ve already got boyfriends who treat them well. Either way, it’s not the same as it was in 2002.

I seated myself in the train and still more beautiful girls came abroad on the train, often carrying their favorite handbags. I glanced through the windows and I saw different kinds of people like businessmen, couples, and some guys in solider uniforms. I popped a beer can, Hite by Korea, that I had bought from the store and gulped some. The train finally started to pull and by then, the Sun had disappeared into the horizons. The train rolled easily and we’re zipping through the city of Seoul and across the Han river. The train had a TV attached to the top ceiling–I think there was 3 or 4 TVs per car. The TV would show different news, weather, and there was one show with a magician doing different tricks. Also, it had an odometer at the top right of the screen and I’d look at the corner to see how fast we’re going. Once we passed Daecheon and onto the next leg towards Daegu, that’s when the train started to really speed up and the odometer finally hit 300 km per hour. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that fast at the sea level before and it was a cool feeling, seeing how quickly things get passed outside the windows. It reminded me of the lights in the subway tunnel that would keep flashing at you except you’re moving 300 km per hour. It took only about 2 hours and 40 mins to get to Busan, the second largest city in Korea and that’s where my sister and her family lived.

The air felt even more humid when I stepped out of the train, though seemed less windy than it was in Seoul. I basically followed the crowd that was getting on the escalators, then stepped off and walked down the floor. I tried to look for my sister and her family and somehow, they were right there in the exit area.

“There you are! You’re really here!?” said my sister and we hugged. Her husband, also deaf, said welcome to Korea, we’re happy to see you again. I replied yea, me too. Then I saw my niece and said hi but she was shy and stood close to her mom. I asked “she doesn’t look like she remembers me?” My sister said a few words to her daughter and she shook her head. I said well, I guess not. And we all walked out of the Busan station together.

In their small home that’s up on the hill and close to the bay water, the house was of a Korean traditional style and we all sat on the linoleum floor as there was a little furniture around. My sister was serving some kimchi and rice. We were having some tea and we chatted in sign language. I was trying my best to remember some Korean sign language but not really having much luck and realized that I’d still have some ways to go before I could talk with them at ease. But we can understand each other just fine. We were just trying to alter our radio frequencies till we find the right frequency that we could understand in.

We chatted for a while, then out of curiosity, I asked my sister and her husband if anyone else had made a visit to their home in Busan? To my own surprise, my sister answered no, just friends, no relatives or family. I said you mean I am the first to come visit you in Busan? my sister nodded. They had been living in Busan for about 4 years. It’s just hard for me to believe that I’d be the first one from family to come visit them. That’s when I thought about our deafness and it was strange in many ways like it was the reason why I was given up, it was also the reason no one else in our family wanted to make a visit and yet it was my deafness that brought me back to Korea and made the first trek to come visit them in Busan. It was at that point that I made a decision I would learn Korean sign language more fluently and would start with finger-spelling first. I said I’m glad to be here and I will be visiting you guys often since I will be staying in Korea for one year. Then my niece jumped in with her doll and wanted to introduce her friend and we played.

-nathan

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. Kent

    Reads like these make the morning brighter. Thanks for the share! It’s amazing how deafness both ostracizes and connects. What a tangled web.

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