Monday, May 11, 2009

Adventures In (Mis) Communication

We had planned on saying our good-byes to Mrs. Kim and her husband on Saturday, April 11, and traveling back to Incheon to spend the last days of our trip with Ok Hwa's little brother and his wife. So, that's what we did. We hated to leave them, but, we also very much wanted to visit with "Mike & Julie", as I called them.
We took the express bus back to Seoul, and the Metro out to Jemulpo Station in Incheon. At the station we caught a taxi, and asked him to take us to a good hotel. On the way to the hotel we went by what she thought was littler brother's new apartment. We knocked on the door, but, no one was home. We figured he was still at work, and she was out with her church group. So, on to the hotel we went.
The driver first took us by one hotel that I liked the look of, but, we eventually ended up at a different one, probably because he thought it was cheaper, or, maybe he was just tired of dealing with us. Anyway, the hotel we ended up at was obviously a "Love Hotel". There were pictures of scantily clad ladies on the walls, beaded curtains, plants everywhere, and very much ornate clutter. When we got to the room, the bed was round, another sure sign of a love hotel. Oh, well, a place to park our stuff and relax.
After we got settled into our room, we went out for a walk back over to Mike & Julie's apartment, to see if they had gotten home yet. It had gotten dark by now, and many of the sidewalk vendors had taken in their wares, but there were still plenty of people about, as it was early on a Saturday evening. I shot this video on our walk up to their apartment:
They still were not home, and we were beginning to get concerned, but, we figured that they were out with their church group, and would be home later. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a nice little restaurant for dinner. Back in the hotel we got cleaned up and I figured we were in for the evening. I was having a drink and watching a movie on my computer when she said she'd like to go check on them once more. I didn't want to go back out, and she did, so she decided to go on her own.
She went, and came back in thirty or forty minutes, very upset. At Mike & Julie's supposed apartment, someone finally answered the knock , but it was not Mike, or Julie. There was a different guy living in the apartment now, and he did not know where they had moved to. He even still had the unopened letter that Ok Hwa had sent to her brother about a month before, telling him of our impending arrival. Well, this was an unfortunate turn of events. I was wondering if Mrs. Kim knew where they had moved to, but I couldn't call her to find out, neither could Ok Hwa. We spent an uneasy night at the hotel.
Next morning we were determined to track them down, but we first wanted to change hotels. We walked a few blocks over to that other nice looking hotel we'd seen the day before. They still hadn't cleaned all the rooms from the night before, so we could not get checked in yet, but they let us stash our bags there for a few hours.
Our plan was to take the Metro into downtown Seoul, and find Mike & Julie at their church. It was Easter Sunday morning, but neither of us knew it at the time. Their church group of deaf folks usually went out to the Han River Park after service, and we thought we'd be able to catch up with them there. When we got to the area where their church was supposed to be Ok Hwa could not remember where it was. We were walking along the boulevard that runs by Han River Park, and could look over the railing and see that the park was undergoing a renovation, and no one was playing in the park that day. We stumbled on the huge Catholic Church in downtown Seoul, just as Easter Sunday service was letting out. The whole area was packed with people. We decided to rest and eat lunch at the food court at the Korea Tower building.
While we were eating, Ok Hwa got a guy next to us to telephone Mrs. Kim, to try to get some information on Mike & Julie. Mrs. Kim is probably very used to getting calls from strangers relaying messages from Ok Hwa and her two deaf brothers. Anyway, the guy tells us that Mrs. Kim said that Mike & Julie are at her house in Gangneung! Wow, we just left there yesterday to come over here to visit them, and, now we find out that they've done the same thing. Amazing!
Well, we now have to go back over to Gangneung as soon as possible. We were just a short Metro ride away from the Express Bus Terminal, but, our bags were back at that hotel in Incheon. That meant an hour's ride back out to Incheon to retrieve our luggage, and an hour's ride back to Seoul's Express Bus Terminal, and about three hours travel time back to Mrs. Kim's house. What a mix-up! Oh, well, that's exactly what we had to do, and we did it.
I was so frustrated about the whole affair, that I didn't feel like taking any pictures the whole day, except one. The picture above is the only picture I took the whole ill-fated trip back to Seoul. It shows a guy selling cotton candy off the back of his Daelim motorcycle to all the Easter Sunday strollers by the Han River Park. You can see the park in the background, torn up for renovation, with just a few people walking along the fenced off pathways.
The kicker of this whole mix-up is that, when we finally made it back to Mrs. Kim's place, Mike & Julie were not there! Mrs. Kim told us that she has not seen them in three years, and does not know where they are! Why didn't she tell us that before? Why haven't Mike & Julie been to see Mrs. Kim? Too many questions, and not enough answers.
Mrs. Kim was very upset, and crying a lot. She was obviously at a loss, and was counting on us to track down her son for her. After all, she is eighty-one years old, and traveling back and forth to Seoul is probably out of the question for her at this point. She depends on her three sons to come visit her, and it looks like they are all letting her down. She said that the middle son comes over once a year, at summer vacation, and the oldest son is so unpredictable that, who knows when, or where he'll show up. What a crying shame. Really. Well, we can't find them now, but, we all will have to try harder to get in touch, and stay in touch with each other. With the communication barriers between me and this family, there's not much I personally can do. It will have to be up to them. The only thing I can do at this point is to get my wife back to visit her mom as often as possible.
The official website of the Republic of Korea:


  1. That is a shame you guys did not get to see Mike and Julie after all your efforts. But it is even more shameful that her sons do not make an effort to come see their elderly mother more often.

    I dont understand how Mike did not even give his mother his current address or phone number. What if there was an emergency and they needed to track him down?

    Maybe with the help of internet he can hopefully e-mail your wife provided ofcourse he makes it back to his mother's house and obtains her e-mail address.

    Best of luck to you guys.

  2. MsBelinda,
    Thanks for your comments. As of this writing, May 15, we have been back from our trip for a month, and still no word from any of them. My wife sent her mom, Mrs. Kim, a letter, and we are awaiting a reply. More on this matter in future posts.