IT’S ELEVEN O’CLOCK in the morning but the tunnels below Seoul Town Hall are deserted; window grilles closed over dusty lace tablecloths and bags and shoes. I stop at a bank of beaten up phones and call the Japanese Embassy. No answer. New Year’s Day. There will be no visa from Korea for me. I set down the receiver and intercept Paul from Brisbane. I wonder if he knows of any cheap hotels. I have been told there’s a youth hostel in Seoul. There isn’t. I fill him in on my situation and he invites me to lunch with the Canadian diplomats. Turns out he went to Brisbane Boys’ Grammar. I boarded at Clayfield College. I tell him it was boys from Grammar who got me chucked out after eighteen months and he looks shocked and backs away from the topic.
The diplomats are planning a skiing holiday and meet over a mahogany table for twelve in the Seoul Plaza Bistro. I tuck my string bag under my chair and order the cheapest thing on the menu. My potato and leek soup is curiously un-swallowable. A lean and strapping French Canadian is seated to my right; to my left, a military man, tight uniform stretched over his tight body. There seems to be slight competition between them. Paul is holding hands with his new girlfriend and she is paying me a lot of attention. Clever woman. The rest of the party is made up of chatty office girls with Korean faces and voices that twang with American college education.
Already a subscriber? Sign in here
If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org