Alban's Blog

Last Second Kind of Guy in Seoul

I am a last second kind of guy. Do you know people like that? Always late, not out of arrogance, but because there is always so much to do in the last seconds before one has to leave. And when do I plan to leave? Always so that I don’t have to wait – be it for meetings, concerts, trains, airplanes; check-in two hours before? Not with me! Security lines? I don’t care – I don’t want to arrive at the airport earlier than 1h10 min, with a maximum of 5 minutes extra time for disaster (flat tire, accident, traffic jam, missed train etc.).

That’s all very easy if you know where you are – but what to do if you depend on other people driving you and telling you what to do? Oh, I hate it, I want to be the chief of my own schedule (sounds a bit like a control freak, which I am not, I just hate to depend on others people insufficiencies). As it now happened before I left for Seoul:

I returned from Toronto on a Saturday, having the week-end off to do some serious “quality-family-time-spending” in Berlin (long trip on our now two motor bikes, go-karting, movies, food, games etc.). While browsing through the mail I saw a large envelop from Korea. Even though I had decided not to waste my time with the mail, I opened it: my visa application!

It must have arrived 10 days ago, but I had left already to the US. Who screwed this one up? Language barriers: the guy from the KBS orchestra (must be a Mr. Kim, every other person there is called Kim 🙂 ) had written an e-mail to my manager asking where he should send the visa papers. She thought these were the papers I had to bring to Korea for immigration, but he took it for granted that we knew I had to apply with these at the Korean Embassy in Berlin. Anway, they arrived far too late…

To make a long story short: There was obviously no time to apply in Berlin for it, since it takes at least 7 days to process, so I entered Korea on a tourist visa (after having had to apply for a new passport which I might have lost on my trip back from Toronto – this only took 7 minutes in Berlin, can you believe it???), and Mr.Kim took me upon my arrival to the immigration office near Seoul (the driver had no idea where it was, so we were driving around for one hour until we found it) where we spent my first 2 hours after a wonderful 14 hour journey waiting in line for an immigration officer. Whose fault was it? Definitely not mine ! Who had to pay for it? Yessss – me, slowly falling asleep after having spent a night on an airplane.

Now I just finished the second concert, live radio and TV broadcast, and I wanted to meet a friend after my piece (Schumann again) was over, before being brought back to the airport (flight at 0:20 am). I had a 10 minute argument with the driver who insisted that we had no time to loose, since it takes at least 90 minutes to drive to the airport, and I had to be there 2 hours in advance. I told him that I could easily live with 70 minutes while he threatened me with the tight security in Korea (having to take the belt off, as well as the laptop out of the bag – aha, what’s new…).

Finally I won, we left one hour later than he had insisted upon; and guess what? It took only 55 minutes to the airport, and we still got there almost two hours ahead of time. You understand now why I don’t like to rely on other people? I’d rather spend an hour on the internet researching how long it takes to get from x to y in order to save 25 minutes pretty, smart, hein? I know, I am stupid, but I don’t like to wait at airports!!!!

For all people who don’t travel so often: yes, they say “be there 2 hours before departure”, but this is for the “general” audience. If everybody would arrive at check-in 70 minutes in advance, they wouldn’t manage to board everybody, but be assured, there are enough people who are arriving 3 hours early because they are so scared to miss their flight, so there is no danger in arriving last 🙂 . And I haven’t missed an airplaned since 2000, and this was when the Paddington Express suddenly stopped for half hour (London Heathrow, everybody’s favourite airport ).

Back to today: at the end it was the fastest check-in ever as well as security check, 10 minutes altogether. Gave me more time to write another blog.


  • Josh Rappaport from Harrisburg Pennsylvania

    Do you ever get scared whenever you’re in a bigger city with a bigger orchestra on a bigger stage? This is why I wouldn’t want to be a musician, or at least not one in a place like New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Poland, or anywhere like that. The musicians there are way too busy and unfriendly? Do you think these people are as unfriendly as I think they are?

  • Alban

    Actually, most musicians are extremely friendly, and if they are not, I learned by now to ignore it. No, I don’t get more nervous on bigger stages, except in Berlin, which as my hometown always makes me more nervous than other cities, any stage there…

  • Josh Rappaport from Harrisburg Pennsylvania

    I’ve also recently discovered that when I most recently went to the New York Philharmonic, met the famous violinist Julian Rachlin(very nice guy), and principal trumpetist Phillip Smith(I got his autograph. Yay!). I still might agree that Avery Fisher doesn’t provide the proper safety and comfort needed, but it always is an enjoyable experience seeing a concert anywhere.


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