The car accelerated swiftly, as a parking lot filled with scattering foreigners faded into view. From my backseat window, I watched a sterile city skyline, filled with judicial complexes and science centers, become a chaotic mess of wires and tin roofs. Alongside a river, the car wound back and forth navigating spontaneous pedestrians, stray cats, and numerous other obstacles. Past the exotic smells of a traditional market, through steam spouting manholes, and eventually into an ally, the driver, my co teacher, one of two, performed several death defying maneuvers all while bantering with my other co teacher. Blocked from a hazy morning sun, the car stopped abruptly in a damp and dark garage.
From the car to the lift, we stood there in silence, as the moment gained steam. "Beep, beep, beep", a green light flashed on the lock box, as the handle gave way. On a cold patch of tile, I took in the room. A fragment of kitchen hugged the left wall with a washroom on the right. Through a frosted glass sliding door, the main room beconned, with a bed, a small desk, a dresser, and a tv stand. From there, the sandy grey wooden floor continued through another sliding door which concealed a laundry room. The space was small, but clean, and functional. Relief.
Rushed off immediately for a long list of errands, I returned to the apartment that night, and immediately fell asleep. The next afternoon, after a morning at school, I sat in the space, contemplating my next move. Based on my drive in, this area looked rough, but curiosity prevailed. Down the cold marble staircase, I descended from my third floor flat onto the first narrow street. In an increasingly heavy rain, I walked swiftly, splashing through puddles, as I found my way. Not ten steps from my apartment, and I'd already found a cafe. Another five, and there were two more, each with their own feel. A mess of telephone, internet, and other wires connected the brick, granite, and wooden facades above.
A right, then a left, revealed my first taste of lights. Down a cavernous brick road, I wandered, under a shower of multi colored raindrops against the flashing neon sky. Past restaurants and tattoo parlours, bakeries, and bars, a bowling alley, a batting cage, and a thriving outdoor market. Under the shelter of the "sky road", an umbrella of screens, I turned slowly in awe.
Back at my flat, I shed my wet clothes and layed on my yoga mat, warmed by the traditional Korean floor heater. With my window cracked open, I listened to the sounds of the city on that rainy Wednesday night. The tap of the drips on my radiator outside, the honks of the horns, the motors of the scooters, it was all right there.
Eventually, I showered, and layed down for bed. With my widow, and both sliding doors closed, the room was silent. But, as I closed my eyelids, and drifted into a deep slumber, I thought about how amazing it is to live it in person. For months, I'd researched Daejeon, but now it was real. No longer a two dimensional screenshot, or a place on a map, this city, and this area, was now a place I could feel.