Overall, my loved ones did not quite match my excitement about accepting a job to teach English in South Korea. And I can’t say that I blamed them. Korea hardly calls to mind ideas that put Americans at ease–the DMZ, Kim Jong-un, nuclear missiles hovering just miles above our heads. Not to mention raccoon cafes! (You know, coffee shops where you can play with raccoons?) Once my loved ones adjusted to the idea of me hopping on a 13 hour flight that took me THAT MUCH CLOSER TO ISIS and rabies, they got excited, too.
Fast-forward four months to July 5, one month before I’m scheduled to leave, and my visa falls through. In an amazing display of the stereotypical rigidity I had secretly associated with Korea, Korean immigration rejected it: no exceptions, no grandfathering in. Nothing I could do.
Brace yourself for whiplash, because one week later, I accepted a position teaching English at a small private school on Oahu.
Of course, I went straight back to my loved ones and told them the news about Hawaii, practically foaming at the mouth as I did it. This time, my excitement found its match:
“HAWAII! I’m visiting!”
“I’m looking at flights right now!”
“That’s my favorite place in the world! I can’t wait to visit!”
My sister, who feels uneasy about traveling on airplanes and flat out told me there was no way she would make the flight to Korea, responded to the news with, “Hey, I’ll come visit you there!” When I called my State Farm agent to ask what I should do with my car insurance, she practically bought a surf board and invited herself to come stay with me. Even my doctor chimed in positively on the change in plans: “Korea would be interesting, but Hawaii… I think that’ll be better,” he remarked as he removed the stitches from my butt cheek.
Wow. So even my doctor was harboring secret doubts about Korea. GOOD TO KNOW!
Not a single person asked me what made me pick Hawaii. It’s pretty obvious. Beaches? Sun? No polar vortex? Mountains? Tropical paradise? While South Korea calls to mind images of crowded cities and high rises, the word “Hawaii” itself blooms with images of a yellow Jeep sailing and winding on a coastal highway, taking its time to reach the perfect surf point at sunset. Frankly, if a person had asked “what made you pick Hawaii?” I would have grabbed them and high-tailed it to the nearest therapist.
All this to say, I felt excited for Korea. Throughout the months, I learned about the culture, and found out that while crowded skylines were no anomaly, neither were beaches and warm people. It would have been a big adventure, the biggest of my life. Maybe it will still happen some day. But Hawaii is an adventure, too. I can’t wait to have so many visitors.
“Okay, let’s use our magic powers. Everyone visualize the door opening and how much we’ll laugh when it pops open. Close your eyes. Ready?”
This is not something you want to hear your Airbnb host say.
“We’re doing it!”
This is not something you want to hear yourself saying in response, especially not with sincerity.
Nevertheless, it’s what my friend and I found ourselves doing one fine morning on our road trip. Our home for the night had been an Airstream trailer in our host’s backyard, and now we were stuck. And I had to pee.
Our stay in the trailer had started fabulously. We had hauled our luggage up the stairs, tossed our backpacks into the aisle, and collapsed on a daybed padded with throw pillows. (It was time for our daily siesta, after all!) Our host had explained through our email correspondence that the trailer didn’t have a functioning bathroom, but we could use the restroom in their home. We considered this nothing but a minor issue, especially taking into account how delightful our little spot was. Windows surrounded the bed, allowing the afternoon sun to warm my legs and the baby blue curtains to tickle them as they fluttered in the breeze. Pure bliss!
Unfortunately, my friends, bliss does not a story make.
The next morning, I woke up around 8:00 desperately needing to use the bathroom. I tip-toed over my friend, turned the trailer handle, and pushed.
No problem, I thought. Just push some of these levers. Surveying the locks and buttons on the trailer door, I might as well have been looking at an airplane control panel. There was one metal post sticking out, a “step on” switch (which I could only assume lowered and raised the trailer stairs), and three sliding locks scattered all over the general door region.
I messed with these as quietly as I could, my friend’s peaceful face only inches away from the chaos. I pulled a lock, turned the handle, and pushed and jiggled the door until the whole trailer shook. I walked away (as if trying to fake the door out into thinking it had a break), then ran back at the it, kicking and karate-chopping and throwing my being against it until it shook again and I thought my bladder might give out.
After a few minutes of red-faced, frustrating struggle, I resorted to waking my friend up. Half-asleep, she tried the handle and pushed. “Call our host,” she said, and turned back to sleep.
Twenty minutes later, an ethereal woman with a pile of brunette hair pulled into a giant looping bun walked into the backyard waving her arms. “What happened?” she called. “You’re locked in?”
“I don’t know what happened, but we closed the trailer door and now it won’t open. Maybe there’s some trick to un-jamming it?” I added, trying to not sound like the hysterical idiot I felt like.
“No, this has never happened before, and I don’t have a key,” she said, hands on hips, surveying the scene. She jiggled the handle and pulled, the rocking waking up my friend. That’s when she said it: those fateful words that told me we weren’t getting out anytime soon. “Okay, let’s use our magic powers. Everyone visualize the door opening, and how much we’ll laugh when it pops open. Close your eyes. Ready?”
“We’re doing it,” we responded. And we really were–with gusto. (Our swim coaches used to have our team do this while preparing for big races in high school. The idea wasn’t so different here, right?)
“Shoot,” she said. “Alright, I think there are some keys in the shelves beneath the sink. Why don’t you look there and drop them to me through the hole in the back closet.”
Twenty minutes and lots of rocking later, she surrendered. “My partner is on a bike ride, but he’ll be home in 45 minutes. He’s a man, he has keys; he’ll figure it out.” My friend and I agreed this sounded like a good enough plan and assured her that we had enough air.
Little did she know, air was not the issue. I didn’t want to come right out and admit to this perfect stranger how badly I needed to go to the bathroom, but unfortunately after another half-hour of waiting, I could bear it no longer. Next thing I knew, our hostess was attempting to shove a jar up that same tiny hole in the bottom of the trailer.
Another painful half-hour passed before her partner returned, first trying the keys, then busting out the power drill in attempts to remove the entire door. When that didn’t work, he tried lowering the trailer, but not before he popped up in the window to introduce himself. “Who am I rescuing here?” he asked. “Oh, hi! Nice to meet you.”
Down, down, down went the trailer, and my friend and I exchanged nervous glances as it pitched side to side. Is this really where we’d die? Not in a car accident or a plane crash, but in a tipped Airbnb?
Finally, our hostess decided we could USE THE EMERGENCY EXIT THAT HAD BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME, a process that involved nothing more than removing a piece of tape to release the back window’s screen. Whatever. We emerged triumphant but haggard like the rescued Chilean miners, tossing our backpacks out ahead of us and into the garden. Sweet freedom!
Our hostess thanked us for coming and apologized again for the inconvenience. We apologized for breaking her screen, which I suppose is just the Minnesotan in both of us, apologizing for something we really shouldn’t. Overall, I’d still consider our stay a good time, even one of my favorite places on the trip.
I do have to wonder if her guests for that night had to crawl through the back window, though.
I’m curious to hear about others’ experiences with Airbnb. Do y’all love it? Have you had a wild experience? Please, tell me!
Before I sign off, here are just some highlights of the trip, photo-style.