As far as final impressions go, Korea’s had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
For myself and my girlfriend the past several months had been filled with the morning song from construction workers arbitrarily banging their hammers and shouting directions at large heavy goods vehicles apparently incapable of moving from A to B into the lot next to us.
For my last day it was no different, the routine wake up before six with the sound of construction and the daily shouts from the workers. Battling to attempt sleep, with the commotion outside and my mind beginning to process and organise my thoughts had me at a stalemate.
Laying down I was interrupted by a sound unique to the norm. Originating from my front door had the whole house shake with each strike. I ignored the merciless early morning beating of my residence as the windows shook and groaned with the pounding upon the door. After a while the vibrations and noise ceased and I was left with the ever continuing swan song of building. I took the brief respite as an omen to move from bedroom to kitchen and start the day. I set the kettle to boil and grabbed the only working mobile to send a text to my landlord detailing my departure and the door code for the apartment. With the water now escaping to a shrill I poured it over the last of the coffee and scanned the empty apartment. I ran some hot water for a shower and stripped down as my coffee began to cool.
Without warning the apartment began to shake once more to the pummelling of a small Korean’s fist again at my door. I ignored it thinking they’ll return from whence they came. But as I heard the door code being successfully entered I had to scramble to find some clothes. The fist belonged to my tiny Korean landlord as she sauntered in barely missing me in my birthday suit.
Apparently my text message explaining my itinerary had not been clear enough as she covered her eyes against sin. She soon left apologising, but vowing to return soon. With the possibility of a short term sentence for indecent exposure I showered and clothed in record time.
On her reappearance the landlord wanted nothing more than to go over the utility meters with me. We then said our goodbyes and she was gone. In 20 minutes, with my coffee drunk I had closed the door on my apartment for the last time and was carrying my backpack brimming with my life for the next nine months. A short fifteen minute hike to the subway, two stops then a change to the airport train was all that was required. The journey to the airport was uneventful, exhausting and sweat-filled with the maximum luggage allowance strapped tightly to my back.
Triumphantly though, I arrived at Incheon International Airport with the difficult part behind me I just had to make it to check-in. Grabbing the nearest trolley I removed the 20kg tumour from my back and wheeled it to the desk. Fifty passengers stood between me and unburdening my beast of a bag for the next thirteen hours. I took advantage of the wait and the free Wi-Fi to check e-mails. One immediately caught my eye ‘URGENT’ from my old boss. ‘John, your landlord says she has to pay 400,000w for the wallpaper and she wants you to pay for half’.
The wallpaper in question was covering the majority of the house that had become infested with black furry poisonous mould. The same mould that had my girlfriend sick with violent coughing, endless sleepless nights, headaches not to mention spending over a month’s salary on x-rays, blood tests and all sorts of medication. The same wallpaper that we had to rip down layer by layer finding several unsuccessful attempts at burying the loathsome repulsive dark fungus. The lack of circulation, warmth and humidity all had inadvertently bred a master race of evil spores. After finding these unpleasant treasures all over the house we informed our landlord who failed to understand the severity of the situation and advised us to take care of it ourselves. So we did, with a couple of pairs of rubber gloves, several litres of bleach, nail varnish and duct tape.
The war was fought and won during the Spring of 2011 with Alicia and myself being victorious. It took an incredible amount of time, money and patience but we had succeeded. And now a forgotten undecorated war veteran was being taken advantage of.
The only mobile I had was used to call the landlord who had sided with the enemy. As my voice uninhibitedly exploded down the phone at her audacious behaviour I became aware that the conversation was clearly not private. With an ever increasing amount of eyes the performer in me excelled on the attention and I was now the fist to the traitor’s home, rocking her world. I challenged the deceiver to justify what she had quoted to my manager, her explanation was inadequate for what she was expecting of me. I finished the call feeling redundant, going back to face her would be overwhelming satisfying but for £120 and the cost of a new plane ticket logically it wouldn’t be worth it but that sure as hell would be a story to tell.
I related the battle of mould and the lackadaisical attitude of the Judas to my manager, he empathised and after some back and forth between the two of them he was able to reduce the fee. By that time the check in was over and I had just finished with security and with just under an hour I was ready to wash my hands of the whole affair. I accepted the counter offer thanked my manager and turned off my phone.
© John Brownlie 2012