Please welcome today’s guest writer, Ye In Oh (’15). Ye In studied psychology at Calvin and recently moved to start her graduate studies in one of her favorite disciplines, neuroscience, in her favorite city in the world, Budapest.
If the advances of the twenty-first century are said to have made wrinkles in the folds of place and time, I think airports and the internet would be at its most creased edges.
Where time, place, people, and planes pause, sometimes for a moment, sometimes seemingly indefinitely.
In transit. That’s one of my favourite phrases. It usually signals that you are stuck in an airport terminal, isolated from the city, nation, and its people, enjoying (or complaining about) whatever amenities the country cares (or fails) to provide its haggard passersby. From my experience so far, I think that the best experience can be found in ICN, S. Korea, and I can assure you that my Korean citizenship did not bias this statement. It’s hard not to enjoy Incheon airport’s plethora of conveniences and comforts, such as the spacious and beautiful architecture, cultural parades, a host of restaurants with decent food, free shower rooms, an abundance of power outlets, and free wifi that actually works (a feature that separates the best airports from the rest).
However, even when I’m paying for internet in an American airport that at the best is mediocre, kicking my bag along in a seemingly never ending line in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, hunting for a power outlet in the sweltering Cairo airport, or buying an overpriced postcard at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc, I still can confidently state that I love transits for the most part. I appreciate them for a similar reason I love the actual plane rides, road trips, train and bus rides—they allow for a time to pause. And think. And write in your journal for a luxurious length of time you’d have otherwise never afforded to yourself back at home. Wander around and explore foreign, but disconcertingly familiar, relatively safe surroundings. People watch. Get started on that list of movies your friends annoy you for having not watched yet. Stare at the wall, indulging in fanciful thoughts or philosophical musings that you otherwise would’ve pushed away. And explore the duty free shops with their endless supply of fancy chocolates and alcohol, cramming in some last-minute shopping for your loved ones.
The airport is where you can take a breath between destinations and deadlines as well as responsibilities and people that you don’t want to face yet. True, transits in modes of transportation (i.e. car/bus/train/plane) do offer spaces of in-between as well. However the time in an airport distinguishes itself from other transits by its manifestation, being a stable, solid, static place, not a dynamic, unbound vehicle. More than just a place, though, an airport is able to twist, warp, and fasten together multiple concepts of places. It somehow manages to narrowly escape being bound to the country’s definitions of borders, resulting in bizarre occurrences like the event The Terminal was based upon. The airport is also a space between many, many other places, not unlike the wood full of ponds leading to other dimensions in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. It creates this almost equally magical platform where multiple portals open up to an unimaginable variety of universes and lets their denizens mingle together. While people watching in an airport, I like to think about how two random strangers who would have never crossed paths otherwise can start a conversation and forge a temporary friendship in a place hovering above the country’s borders and life’s responsibilities.
Maybe these musings seem too romantic or flighty when you realize you’ll be stuck in the airport for another three hours after your flight is delayed. But I think it’s still possible, and pretty neat.