The fourteen hour flight from Atlanta landed and almost everyone in sight jumped out of their seat. Young and old grabbed their stowed luggage and clogged the aisle. Though the seatbelt sign was still on, passengers began bumping into each other desperately trying to get towards the front of the aircraft.
Was the galley on fire? Did every single person on the plane have a connecting flight in five minutes? Had someone in the back of the plane let an egg fart? I was so confused. I had no schema on which to build.
Even before I experienced my first touch down in Korea, I knew that this jaunt across the pond would be different. Unlike my previous, international moves (which, in comparison, were just extended trips), I wasn't searching for a hostel to let me change sheets in exchange for a dorm bed. I wasn't a kid on a gap-year trying to "find myself." This time my goals had nothing to do with growing dreadlocks or meeting moon-faced girls. I wasn't loaded with a romantic vision of becoming a travel photographer. I didn't have a dog-eared Lonely Planet in my possession. The words "mahalo" and "namaste" were well worked out of my everyday vocabulary. I no longer had a backpack strapped and musty stink rolling off me.
Instead, I arrived in Seoul with a beautiful wife, several suitcases, a folded issue of the Economist, and the faint smell of cologne. It occurred to me that this "trip" was different because I had traded one stereotype for another. I didn't come to Korea to travel. I came for a job. Feeling the bee sting of the realization, I rolled my eyes at myself and elbowed my way into the cattle drive and got off the plane.
Fast forward six years...
The farewells have been made or likewise avoided. A container full of the possessions that possess me is on its way to my new home in Tokyo, Japan. The camera gear is packed. The flight itinerary is on the kitchen table. My passport is burning a hole in my pocket. I realize that it is going to take a while to drop "kamsahamnida" and "juyseyo" from my lexicon. All of this excites me and makes me grateful. And again, malleable me is a new stereotype...
Stay classy Seoul.
I am so grateful to have been accepted and included by such a positive network of fellow photographers. Thank you Dylan Goldby, Jessica Marie Berggrun, Marco Devon, Greg Samborski, Sharon Heit, Jason Teale, Scott Rotzoll, Chris Cusick, John Steele, Jerry Sam, Pete DeMarco, Simon Slater, Lorryn Smit, Simon Bond, Mark Eaton, Roy Cruz and Damari McBride for your tremendous support. I am in your debt.