The final day and a bit in Seoul was one of INELI work and beginning travel. We were coming towards the end of an amazing week and there was a mixture of happiness and sadness. The last INELI day was very productive from a group project point of view. We spent the most of the morning in group conversation refining our scope and getting ourselves to an understanding on exactly what we are doing with our projects. That all sounds straight forward, but of course it is not when you have 4 people from different cultures, parts of the world and different desires around the outcome of a project. All groups have struggled somewhat in this space, and while on the one hand this has been frustrating for us all, it has always been probably one of the greatest learnings from the INELI programme so far. We all need to remember the point of the group work is the process far more than the finished document in many ways. This programme is about developing leadership that will leave public libraries globally with a bright future.
While we were working in the lobby area on our project, who should come along and sit only a few metres away but Psy of Gangham Style fame. Much debate occurred within the group. Should we say hello, ask for a photo etc? In the end, we decided that probably peace and being left alone was something he cherished and got little of. So we left him alone. Also, let's face it, we were a bit chicken.... Other parts of the day covered discussions about the library tours and also the next convening...
And then the formal part of INELI was over and it was time to begin our goodbyes. The bulk of us went to an Italian Restaurant for dinner in Insadong. It was a lovely way to have a final meal together and we all had a LOT of fun talking and eating. I had been planning to get as many souls as possible to go to Karaoke, but at the last minute the place I was going to use proved to be far too expensive. It was in the hotel and was certainly the most high end Karaoke joint I had ever seen. I had pretty much given up on this concept when the wonderful, lovely, amazing and interesting Lida took control, found a place and got us organised. Only 12 minutes from the restaurant, we wandered there after our meal, while some others went shopping.
If you have never experienced Korean Karaoke you really must. Private room setups are the norm and these places are full on. The one we went to had about 30 rooms of different sizes. 30,000 WON got us a room that took around 15-20 people for 3 hours, we paid and were in. Then the man from the front desk appeared with the menu. Discussion, confusion, more discussion, more confusion, then it became obvious we had to buy 47,000 WON worth of food as well. We had all just eaten, so were so NOT hungry, but to keep the room, needs must, so we bought the cheapest food on the menu. Plate after plate of fried potatoes done in various ways arrived. It was destined to sit on the table all night, but it got us the room. Beer of course was also as always, necessary in this situation.
It was in truth, a brilliant night. One of the best of the trip and a great moment of fun and bonding for those of us there. Both Global Libraries staff and INELI, mentor and Innovator, all taking time to laugh and enjoy the amazing experience of being on the other side of the world in a foreign country together. I really did not want it to end, but it had to of course. There was a lot of flying for all of us to do the next day.
Getting back to the hotel was not as easy as you might think. Although there were hundreds of taxis going up and down the road, it appeared that no one really wanted to stop. My taxi group, which saw me accompanied by the best of Scotland, Lancashire, Sweden, strategically walked up the road towards the traffic. This got us ahead of several other throngs of people who were also looking for a taxi. Eventually, after a bit of begging and smiling, a taxi driver stopped. He looked at us and held up 20,000 WON. Cheeky bugger, was indicating he was not using the meter and for the trip that was 10,000 WON at best, he wanted 20,000. We talked about it quickly and decided yes. It was only $20 NZD which for four of us, in a city which we were unsure how to otherwise get back to the hotel, was a price which we could accept.
The next day dawned and it was time for parting INELI's. Another early morning breakfast and Stewart (from Lancashire) and I caught the bus together to the airport, cleared immigration, hung out in the Korean Airways lounge and then said our goodbyes. After so much camaraderie over so many days, it was odd to suddenly be alone. There are though, many things worse in the world.
I spent my final hour in Korea, doing some last minute shopping and trying out the automated toilet/bidet in the Korean Airways lounge. Now that was an experience.... ;-)
The flights home were fine, uneventful and very pleasant as always when flying business class. I do enjoy the capsule lay flat seats Air New Zealand have and the service and experience on Korean Air is lovely. There is something quite lovely about being greeted with a bow by the head steward and welcomed aboard a Korean Air plane. I love the culture. Also, the woman who was looking after us on the 3 1/2 hours to Hong Kong was not only like a doll, but insanely beautiful too.
I loved flying into Hong Kong. The mist over the hills was amazing. Like so many photos I have seen over the years. It was immediately obvious I was in a transit environment that was far more geared to English speaking people. Again, some good last minute shopping in the airport for the nephews and nieces, and I was on the plane and on my way home.