I lie down across the aisle on my flight to Seoul, which departed the Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. The flight only had about two dozen passengers who were scattered across the 396-seat airplane; due
to the coronavirus pandemic, each passenger had the whole aisle to themselves. I slept for most of the 13-hour flight.
A traveler arriving at the Incheon International Airport installs a mandatory quarantine and contact tracing app Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Incoming international travelers must self-report symptoms using the app during a mandatory 14-day quarantine, either at a family residence or at a government facility. The app also constantly tracks the phone’s location.
A bus driver in coveralls prepares cargo space for my luggage Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. My transportation options were limited to a network of preapproved quarantine buses that takes incoming travelers to a coronavirus testing site before heading to their destinations.
A Bucheon city health worker screens me for symptoms of COVID-19 before sending me for nasal and oral swab tests Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. The coronavirus tests
are free and mandatory; the test results returned negative the next day.
I begin my 14-day quarantine in my room at my mother's apartment in Bucheon, my hometown, Friday, Nov
. 13, 2020. Everything is just as I left them two years ago.
Bucheon Community Health Center delivered a quarantine kit to my doorstep free of charge Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. The kit, which includes a sizable amount of foo
d, is supposed to last the entire 14-day period.
I wear a surgical mask included in the quarantine kit Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. I must mask up whenever I leave my quarantine space, even to go to the bathroom directly adjacent to my room. My mother must also mask up in her own apartment due to my quarantine.
I measure my body temperature and self-report symptoms through the quarantine app Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. I was required to self-report symptoms three times a day:
twice by app in the morning and evening and once by phone around 3 p.m. every day.
I look at the Bucheon skyline Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Excluding Seoul, Bucheon is the most densely popu
lated city in South Korea. It is also the city I lived in before I emigrated to America in 2005.
Rain pours down on Bucheon Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. It's a refreshing change of scenery — I hadn't seen rain for months due to a drought in California. The rain in South Korea, ho
wever, is acidic due to the heavily polluted air.
I browse Twitter on my phone Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. It still feels extremely strange watching the United States struggle with the pandemic from a country
which has effectively controlled the spread of the coronavirus months ago. “A global embarrassment,” my mother says.
The sun casts a shadow of my legs onto a close
t as I lie down on my bed Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Graduate school applications kept me busy for most of the quarantine.
I hang a roll of freshly developed film to dry Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. I had to find ways to keep my creative juices flowing, and the bathroom made for a great impromptu darkroom. I developed a few rolls I had shot weeks prior and posted the scans to my Instagram account.
I take a bath Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Days are starting to blend together. I start feeling a chronic fatigue, even lethargy. I exercise to keep myself awake.
I take a self-portrait Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. I start growing tired of the quarantine as my sense of time st
arts slipping. I think about what I want to do once quarantine is over.
I briefly leave my room to wash my face at the bathroom Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. I’m restless now that I am less than a day away from freedom. What would I do first? Where would I go? How has the city changed in the two years I was gone?
I wear a turtleneck sweater Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in anticipation of a winter weather that I have not felt in two years.
I reach for my shoe after getting dressed Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.
A KakaoTalk message from the city of Bucheon lets me know my quarantine is over Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.