From Busan

On the fifth floor of the elementary school there’s a long gray hallway with a number of windows that overlook a nearby cement canal, which is usually choked with sewage and pollution if it flows with any liquid at all, and beyond that, a highway where cars often pull U-turns at breakneck speed, and beyond that still, vast fields of sand with tents scattered here and there where little dark figures of people can be seen running around or playing baseball, and past that, a great flat marshland which reeks so heavily of dog shit in the summertime that the air inside the school’s hallways seems to turn brown, and, farther still, the airport, the gateway to freedom, and at last the mountains, where towers and tenements and miniature Korean cities are already nestling themselves, the green forests disappearing tree by tree to feed a great hunger for the orderliness of roads and highways.

Sometimes you can watch little workers waddling around and shoveling dirt on the cement canal and at other times the airplanes and attack helicopters taking off from the airport fly into the sunset—but the greatest view I saw from these windows occurred this morning, when the fog was so mercifully thick that I couldn’t see any of these monstrosities at all. For the first time in seven months, one week, and two days, while walking this hallway, I laughed.

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