“Now I understand you just got off a long flight. So this may be the best chance for you to sleep before you begin.” The driver says turning to sit behind the wheel of warm and cozy, twenty seat van which I am the sole passenger of. Already I’m drifting away with my head resting on a steamed up window. Outside it’s a gloomy, struggling dawn as the cresting sun fails to fight through the clouds. I’m fading in and out to see industrial areas, fade out, see a tall hill, fade out and see rain in the distance. I’m woken up by the shaking of the van’s engine dying and the driver walking back to tell me it’s time. “You have two hours.”
Shaking off the sleep and stepping off the bus, the Korea cold bites hard. I’m not properly dressed for this but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Throw on my hood, zip up, ball my hands in the pockets and exhale walking through the bright condensation of my frozen breath. When the van drives away, I find I’m at some sort of cultural park with a misplaced, defunct, elevated railway to nowhere. The sun has started to rip apart the eastern clouds casting cold shadows of the colorful statues I must now cross. It’s a slow walk along a brick road to the gray and mystery ahead.
As I get closer to discovering the strange and massive shape through the morning haze, the brick road veers to the right and up an intimidating hill. Gradually I climb high enough to see the shape of a Korean War battleship retired in the harbor. While ascending, I’m looking down and left at the ship slowly fading behind and in the distance below. At the top of the hill I stare out at the harbor, behind me is a lone three story building I care nothing about right now. Like death, it’s still, silent, frozen. There’s a sudden and cold breeze from behind carrying snow flurries that flit by as I watch them fall down the hill on the battleship. Snow becomes sleet and decide to take refuge in the tall and lonely building. I turn gazing into the air to let the elements on my skin as I walk into the wind.
With the sensations of the fallen sky tingling upon my face, I approach the door and I see my reflection in the window as the gray sky creates a mirror of the all glass front. I’m stunned and smile to see myself of worse and better, more blissfully naïve days. I peek in while opening the door and cautiously make my way into a large and unlit room. “Hello?” There’s the faint sound of an informative video looping down the hall. Searching every room only to find Korean mannequins dressed in different types of historical and ceremonial garb. I find the elevator and push the button but nothing happens so I make for the door leading to the stairs. Looking up all I see is a dark, boring, utilitarian stairwell and hear the descending echoes of the door shutting behind me.
Slowly I turn the door handle to the second floor while looking through the small glass window before sticking my head in the room. This administrative area is also dark and still I don’t find anyone. I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t be here but feel the urge to explore further. I climb up to the third floor to discover a dark, large lounge area with an impressive, deeply curved floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall window providing a mesmerizing, panoramic view beyond the sea and overlooking the now snowy harbor below. The dark clouds appear malignant and crave to take the sun from the sky. It’s quite dim by the time I walk over to sit on the floor in front of the window, knees pulled to the chest, arms tight around the legs. There is no more evidence of the room in my peripheral view anymore. All that’s left is the view of a soul found in the unknown. I watch as the snow playfully dances onward, all around me feeling frozen in time and frozen in mind letting the world fall away.
It seems like when we are on an adventure, all the best things are found by accident.
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For the most part they have been found on accident. I would have regretted not knowing what was up one more set of stairs and behind that last door. Sometimes you just have to do it. Sometimes you just have to know.