Before I got back, if you had asked me to describe Incheon International to you, I don’t think I could have. It has been such a long time since I was last there, but I’ve been to Incheon more often than any other airport in the world. You’d think I’d remember more of it.
My beloved Team Six, part of which I met for the first time in that airport and have seen off in that airport, asked me to take a picture of the Gloria Jean’s coffee shop if I had the chance.
So I had a good look around when I landed, even though I was hurrying through.
Some places had changed, and I couldn’t find Gloria Jeans (Gone? Or did I just not see it?) but other places were there and the geography of the building clicked into place.
Click. And it’s like I was never away.
And that keeps happening, even though I’m in a part of Korea I’d never been to before.
But there are chains – Emart, FaceShop, Paris Baguette – that are the same everywhere. And things that I had forgotten, like using tongs to put your bread selection on your tray in Paris Baguette just – click – come back. And it’s like the past seven years away never happened.
How to communicate without language. Click.
The way vehicles look and traffic flows. Click.
Sidewalk stands of street food you find everywhere with oodang, mandu… even those weird fish-shaped things full of… was it red bean paste? Click.
How Korea smells. Sometimes great, sometimes horrifying. But even its neutral smell is uniquely Korea. Click.
Not understanding advertising. Click.
How hard people try to be helpful even though you don’t speak each other’s language. Click.
And it’s like I’ve never been gone.
And it’s so very strange how so very at home I can feel in a country that is fundamentally so foreign to what home actually is for me.