There’s a part in any adventure where things get a little complicated, or even a bit scary. Yesterday was one of those times for me.
Friday night, my boss took all of the teachers out for dinner. We all sat around talking about the students, cultural differences between America/Canada and Korea, and we swapped idioms in both languages. Pretty great evening. After dinner, just the teachers (school director/boss went home) hung out for a bit longer. Around 11, I decided to get a move on and bow out for the evening (I have asthma, which makes Korean restaurants a bit more tricky for me–smoking is totally allowed in many of them).
Heading out, I hailed a taxi and jumped in. Showing him Jerry’s address written in hangul, we were soon on our way. A few minutes later, the cab rolled to a stop outside of Jerry’s apartment complex and I handed the driver money. I put my wallet into my tote bag before thanking and bidding the driver farewell–in Korean! 🙂
Flash forward about eight hours and Jerry and I are both awake, getting started for the day. Jerry wasn’t feeling especially well, so I offered to run down to the minimart nearby and grab something to help. Walking to my tote bag, I look inside for my wallet… and it’s not there.
I look in my purse. No, not there either. Back to the tote bag. Purse again. Pockets. Nope. Nowhere. I took out everything from my tote bag, blankly staring at the empty bag wondering why my wallet couldn’t be found.
And that’s when my heart stopped. Where was it?
Jerry helped me look for it, reassuring me we’d find it as I struggled not to panic. After a few moments of hysterically crying on Jerry’s shoulder and him reassuring me it was somewhere, we’d find it together, we go downstairs to try looking for it.
I pull it together long enough for us to get downstairs, walk the length of sidewalk between where the cab dropped me off and where his apartment building was, looking to see if it’d fallen out of my bag on the sidewalk. We couldn’t find it anywhere. I burst into tears again because I really am appreciating the weight of what happened–EVERYTHING I could have needed was gone… money, credit/debit cards, my driver’s license and my passport. BIG PROBLEM. I had no way to get anywhere, no way to access my own money, and no way to prove that I am who I say I am, much less verify that I’m legally in Korea on a work visa.
Jerry moved into problem-solver mode, hugging me and reassuring me that we’d find it together. “We’ll call cab companies to see if anyone turned it in…” This alone is enough to make me feel overwhelmed–how many cab companies are in Cheonan? how many of them will have someone who speaks enough English to help us? “We’ll figure it out. I’m right here and we’ll figure this out together, okay?” he says evenly. I stop crying and try to take a deep breath… Okay.
We agree to go back to my apartment, where I knew I’d be getting internet installed that day, so we know we’ll have an internet line to use to start looking up what we needed to do next. A cab ride to my apartment later and we’re waiting (less-than-patiently) for the internet guy to come. (Note: In Korea, you MUST have alien residency in order to obtain internet for yourself, however, my school is really kind and has taken on the task of having the accounts set up in their name for all of us new teachers so we have a lifeline to reach them in off hours–they did the same thing for our cell phones. When the bills come, they’ll come to LangCon and they’ll then deduct the amount from our paycheck. Easy peasy.)
The guy arrives and installs internet in my apartment. About 45 minutes later, we’re online. I’m looking for anything that can be helpful, including phone numbers for cab companies to ask if they have a lost & found. I find online forums where people are addressing similar problems and swapping ideas–is there really a centralized lost & found phone line for items lost in cabs in Korea?
Best I can tell, this is certainly a solvable problem… The cash is gone for good, but it’s going to be quite a feat to replace that passport… I’ll need to go to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul (double trouble: I have to figure out how to loop the school into this so they know I’ll possibly need to miss work to square everything away), hope they don’t print “Dumbass” on my future passport somewhere and wait a few weeks for it. The credit/debit cards would be the easiest part because I can cancel them online. In my mind, I’m already determining that I’ll have Bank of America send new cards to my parents’ address and then ask them to FedEx them to me… Not “easy” really, but compared to the passport, a lot more feasible. My brain starts to wrap around the lengthy to-do list in front of me to get all of this completely squared away when…
My cell phone rings–one of my coworkers is calling.
“Hey, Robyn… Are you missing something?”
My voice goes up about a zillion decibels as I shout that my wallet is missing and I’m trying to find it. Brian patiently waits for me to finish my sentence before telling me that the wallet’s been found–the cab driver spotted it last night and had the good sense to look inside where he’d found a business card belonging to the school–I had casually tucked it into my wallet THAT DAY after trying to figure out what’s the best way to get mail. The driver contacted the manager to let her know he’d found it and verify that it belonged to one of their teachers.
“Where can I meet him? I’ll go anywhere!” I shout, relief washing over me. Brian explains to me that the cab driver isn’t working again until Monday (and thus, can’t drive it anywhere as mileage needs to be accounted for on the cab), but that he’s able to come to LangCon and meet me there to drop it off then. Brian then tells me that, just as a heads up, typically when cab drivers do this, they ask for compensation for the length of the cab ride to drive the missing item. I enthusiastically tell Brian that that’s MORE than fine–I couldn’t care less because in my mind, I’m happy to pay him fivefold considering how much money and time he’s SAVED me for trying to replace it.
What had bothered me most about the whole thing was that even though I knew everything would be fine–the school’s got copies of my identification that I can use temporarily, Jerry was so helpful and supportive–there was a letter tucked inside that my Grammy had written to me before I left for Korea telling me how proud of me she was, how excited for the adventure she was, that she was holding Jerry and I in prayer while we were gone… I had kept it in there since she gave it to me–I read it on the plane and several more times since she’d given it to me. The thought that I had lost that was rather upsetting, to say the least.
Best I can tell, in the dark cab, I must not have seen where I had ACTUALLY placed my wallet and that it slid out or off of my tote bag when I grabbed it to get out. But I could not believe that not only was my wallet safely found, it was accounted for less than 18 hours after it went missing.
Korean cab drivers, man… I TOLD you they were awesome.