Exhaustion leadened my weary bones on the seemingly endless drive my first hour in Korea. Outside, only the towering of lights from skyscraper apartment buildings indicated life in the dark.
“In the day, you can see hills,” my boss told me as she zoomed past other cars.
I murmured something and attempted more conversation with a woman I barely knew—a long blur of vague flight details, the experience of my cousin’s wedding, what my family was like—until we arrived.
“Suwon,” she said as she turned down a side street, then another.
We ended up crawling down a bright street hardly two lanes wide with multi-colored awnings set up with a range of wares beneath: silvery fish set on ice, hills of cabbage, pots and pans, hair dye.
Another turn and we ended up on a barely lit street and parking. Without fully comprehending, I was jostled out along with my two suitcases that held my entire life and tattered Kipling backpack.
A woman with blonde hair came out to greet us. She helped me lug my suitcases into my small studio apartment. It was far smaller than I expected.
I looked around the glaringly white space and wondered if it could possibly really be that bright, that small, that empty.
“Are you exhausted?” both she and my boss questioned. “Want to grab dinner?”
“Sure,” I said as I followed them blindly out beyond my apartment and through the market. They sat us down in a chimaek restaurant—a fried chicken and beer place.