Sunday, April 27, 2008

The A380, A Movie Star, Jump and Being A Dick

Hectic morning after a very busy and productive week - photographed a delightful pixie-like model in my hotel room (with my interpreter and her friend in tow), and probably got the best pictures of the lot. She reminded me a lot of my girlfriend actually - very petite, short pixie hair, very petite (oh did I say that already). I think she said she weighs 43kg. She also has her own online store, and so the outfits she wore she is trying to flog online, so it was very current, and she also provided a lot more insight. So that went well.

I got a huge shock downstairs when my room bill came to W180 000. That's around R2000. Even my American Express choked on it. I must have just gone over the limit with a few books that I bought. Fortunately (and by some miracle) my ABSA card was in a better financial state.

And guess how I got those expenses? From making a handful of calls every day (no more than 5 lasting an average of 2-3 minutes each), eating from a small cylinder of Pringles each day, drinking the odd Coke and chomping on the odd Snickers. My biggest expense was using the internet during business hours (one time) - that sucked out a whopping W36 000. After that i could only use it for free after 22:00, which helped perpetuate already critical levels of jet-lag. I think I went to bed twice during the week after 3am (we had to breakfasted, and ready to leave by 8:30am).

That said, I had a limousine service to and from the airport, luxury accommodation (if only I wasn't so utterly stretched out from jet lag and a frenetic schedule) and all our daily transport, lunch and dinner meals paid for, bar one.

Speaking of which, by last night I was falling victim to the sandman...I even managed to get lost on a small little walking tour - not lost; I just lost the group, and basically went looking for them in every direction except for the unassuming alley they apparently took. I did run into a Korean movie star and snapped a few pictures of her, so maybe it was a fateful mistake ;-)

I was actually looking forward to Club Day and Hongdae all week. Thought I might show the group all the fun spots. As I saw, I was a bit ragged by Friday night, and because I was pretty pooped, a few things were bothering me more than I should have let them - like the fact that none of the 5 people I'd called in Ilsan had really made an effort to get back to me. I think I got one message. Pete (in Jeju) and I spoke a few times. David for example left a private message on Facebook and with the time ticking and having so many numbers to juggle, it just wasn't visible enough to be 'top-of-mind'.
I scribbled it in my diary, but other than Allalie's Facebook messages, there wasn't much new communication that would lead me to believe my Korean buddies knew anything different with regards to me being in the country. I didn't get hold of Wendy at all. I left a message with her room-mate, called again and just got this Mysterious Wall of silence. I checked the email I'd printed out and sure enough she'd said we should meet for coffee/beer.

Still it would have been nice to not have to schlepp all the way back to Ilsan after a Club Day night, and cruising around Itaewon. Kind've incredible that we were so busy that we didn't even do JJ's in the hotel itself. I didn't even get to swim in the Hyatt pool, and was way to poegaai to even think of using their in-house gym. I did sign up for a run but on the day - this morning actually - it was raining and cold. The weather was cold. One day went down as low as 2 C. I believe it's just as cold in Johannesburg right now.

I called Michael Hurt (one of the photographers I invited on the shoot, and an editor of a fashion mag in Seoul) from the hotel just before I left and had like a 40 minute conversation with him, so only had time to call Sarah before I left. We had a great first day together. After that I think I said something about me (a man) not seeing myself as a PA and it was construed that I discriminate against women. If I do discriminate would that comment even bother me in the first place (coming from a woman), would I want to tell the story of Korean women's fashion? Would I buy my girlfriend a handbag? It did bother me. So did some of the kimchi err...on the way out, if you get my meaning ;-)

On the bright side I've worked out that I'll probably be able to produce 12-14 quality stories on a whole variety of topics (From Korean Zen to The World's Best Airport 3 years in a row). Yes, even at Incheon I was running around shooting pictures. Lovely airport though.

It was also quite funny when I left the hotel (and the Lost in Translation Movie that I'd lived in the for the past week - seriously) the guy sees I'm wearing flip flops, my worn out green cap and a dodgy brown coat over camouflage trousers) - he asks if I want to catch the bus to the airport. A bit unusual for someone leaving the Hyatt. "Kannanan?" I say. (Poor? - gesturing to my clothes and general appearance) He calls a taxi closer and I explain the VIP service has been arranged for me. He motions me to a black Equus. During the drive we go by a Chrysler flowing with pink balloons (someone just married) and skirt plenty of the Han's massive red and green bridge structures. I enjoyed the 6 hours flying here, especially the last piece - flying at night - were some of the most beautiful and magical views over Singapore. Does this remind me of a story called Toni's Oil, or The Magic Lantern. Just lots of blinking lights, ships, and a city sparkling like an emerald at night, sinewy traffic diamonds flowing in to fill the Matrix with even more sparklers.

After touching down I glanced out of the corridor to see GIANT writing. The giant writing was in proportion to the plane - an A380. It seems - almost - to have the dimensions of a normal plane, except it is really a double-decker plane, and because of the additional heft, there is a wider wingspan, and bigger (and heavier engines). With the fuel prices going where they are, we have to wonder - will it work?

I have a couple of cost saving tips for airlines:

- no newspapers on board or in flight magazines
- no blankets or pillows
- no metal cutlery (Singapore Airlines still uses)
- energy bars/meals
- no flying duty free shop
- passengers exceeding a specified BMI should not be allowed to fly

This last requirement may seem absurd or extreme, but the opposite is true. Obese people are a danger to themselves, and often place a tremendous strain of resources, including medical, often because they require lifetime treatment for their self-inflicted symptoms. One is diabetes. The disease is often caused by a very unhealthy lifestyle, and then more money is spent treating the symptoms. The future needs to have some sanity in terms of learning to not only be more efficient on how we consume the lives of other creatures, but also how efficiently and effectively we can live our own lives. Up until now, the milk, egg and meat industries have favored making money at our (and the environment's expense) - that needs to change.

Wow - aren't I going off on a tangent!

In the plane on the way here to Singapore (it's now 17:44 SA time, 23:44 Singapore time) I watched JUMP. It's teen fantasy but I really enjoyed it.

On Facebook David - obviously a bit stung that I didn't get hold of him - left me this message: "You're a dick." I was trying very hard not to be. But you have to be careful of these South Africans. Isn't the preponderance of evidence that they're all a bunch of racist, discriminating assholes? I tried to meet a lot of people despite a very busy schedule. I did but I couldn't get around to everyone, especially if they weren't trying hard to get hold of me (eg. getting my contact number during the day). But just to be clear, although I've heard the sentiments loud and clear the name is actually Nick. But it's interesting that that can be the way someone is summed up when all is said and done.

Oooh well. I - scary South African that I am - nicked a pillow from my flight and I think I have been standing here long enough. Gonna get horizontal, listen to music on my iPod, read World Made By Hand, and try not to wish away a single moment. I'm still not sure if I want to go where I'm going.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

Nick,
glad to see you made it back safely. you didn't really think I wouldn't be checking would you?? impressed by your photography and your writing. i look forward to reading more. i'm sorry the schedule was so hectic to allow much beyond it but looking forward to reading more..
Dan

Nick van der Leek said...

Hi Dan

I've already finished my first article. Will work on two more tonight. Have a huge archive of images, and am looking forward to sorting these into some sort of order. I've already got the first 1000 where I want them. I'll try to load the article I've done tomorrow or Wednesday on this blog, and will put aup a lot of images over the course of the next few weeks.