(Personal) When life gives you lemons….make pictures

About a few days ago concluded probably one of the worst weeks ever for me. Here's what happened. Who knows, it might save your life or another's (no, really!).


How it all started

So I was in the Florida and had to go to Jeju, Korea. That's 3 flights for you, with the longest one being about 13 or so hours. Got a toddler and a 2 year old. Having seat request tickets, I have go when the time is right, some days are better than others to go. The week I was supposed to go my baby got sick, and I mean sick. Fever was high, nasty cough. The best day to fly came out to be only a few days after the fever kicked in. We went to the doctor and they said we could go, got a bunch of medication and off we went.


The flights were…..absolutely uneventful, everything went well. You gotta understand, those screens in front of the seats are a parent's best friend. No problem. Oh sure because the kid needed attention we probably went with about 2h of sleep but hey we arrived in Seoul. In the airport, I went and used my Korean bank card. All is fine, so far.


A few minutes later…..I couldn't find it, I lost it.


I looked everywhere for it and just hoped no one had a shopping fever if they found it. I would report the card on the spot but I have no idea what number to call and not all korean systems do English pretty well. The soonest I can fix this issue is only after a few days when at my branch (that only exists on an island). From then on I only wanted to see my hotel room. I Call them up for their airport shuttle. It looks like their definition of “airport shuttle” meant something to be reserved in advance, every other hotel I ever used whom had a shuttle, you simply called when you arrive.




Buzzed out of my mind, drunk with sleep, I folded and used a taxi at the airport. $50. I paid as much for the taxi as I did for the room. I am a very big believer in having as less bags as possible. For me that means a backpack and a suitcase. The total count this time around was 8, bunch of small bags and all. I don't even know why I accepted to travel in all of those in the first place, but I sure regretted that then.


Getting all of the suitcases up was a pain. In the room I called up my USA card issuer so that they know I am traveling in order not to block me. We slept and headed for Gimpo, a local airport. As soon as we entered we knew there was a problem, there was way too many people. I started sweating, my toddler started sleeping and had to carry him and push the bags.


Seems like kids really want their comfort at the worst of times. Both of them were whining so I put them down with my wife and tried to get us in a flight. Shoot, I forgot, I don't have korean money! I went to a global ATM and tried to withdraw some cash from my american card. Declined. Another card. Declined. Good grief isn't that the point of calling your card so that they don't block you? I really started to break a sweat, one bag was overweight for sure, how would I be able to pay it? Would I would probably be denied boarding, kids are sick dang it! I played in my mind over and over how I would beg the hostess to please let me board.


When it was my turn, there was no need to explain anything. Flight cancelled. Pretty much everyone was stuck, hence the whole crowd in the airport. I'm so tired I'm trembling, my wife is tired, we didn't sleep and our body wants us to shut down. The baby needs constant supervision for if the fever gets too high he might have a seizure. I just book a hotel online. Thank God the stupid card worked there at least.


I had to pay premium for it because the hotel was near the airport. Once at the hotel and take my bearings, it started to dawn on me I only had about 20$ worth of Korean money on me and no idea where to get more. I need an ATM that accepts foreign banks, the one at the airport doesn't work. Called up the card issuer once again. Made them swear everything would work. I was afraid of using up all the cash I had in trying to get some money. I braced myself and I went to the airport once again, but this time in the international terminal, I mean it should work there for sure because it's international. Card worked, amen!




Oh and by the way, while returning at the hotel, what do I find starring at me in the face? A global ATM, but since it was in a case and so close to the street, I never saw it. But now another problem. The kid is getting worse. He is vomiting the medication, fever still high, we are running at about 6 days on Advil, and it's not recommended. My wife orders me to go to the hospital. When the kids are sick I am always cool, i know they'll get trough it, but this time I had to face the fact that this was no common fever and cough.


To find a hospital…..It's not as simple as it might seem to be. We had to find a close-ish hospital that speaks english. I called one and they said to go to another bigger one. We settle for Yonsei Hospital, in the taxi, the baby is getting worse, he seems to be out of it. The toddler is starting to act up too, he wants attention and he wants it now. I went to the ER once in Jeju, and with Xray, I believed I paid about $20 for everything. We were supposed to go to the doctor once we arrive in Jeju. But this is Seoul.


The guy wants me to cough up $200 just for admission. My countenance changed. If he is asking me for 200 just to put his name in…how much is the whole thing going to cost?


That part that can save a life


They call us and they examine the younster…..after an xray we get called back. It's pneumonia. This might be a good time for me to tell you, be careful with the flu. Music artist Prince recently died of it and a family member did too. If your coughing is weird or way too long, you never know. Go see a doctor and ask for an XRay. If we waited too long, we could have lost a child.


I did feel relief, at least we know what it is. They give him an IV and we wait. Well I can't. How much is this stuff going to cost again? I'm freaking out. Remember it was 200 for just the admission! I tried to ask the nurse but she doesn't know. It ended up being $750. We get a bunch of medication. Jet lagged, tired and just keeping an eye on the baby's fever we spend another miserable day in Seoul.




We go to the airport, our goal is near. But right about 1 hour before the flight's departure, my sick one found it the perfect time to throw up the medication. Wonderful. Do we go or not go? We still decide to go, the flight is only an hour long, and we feed him the stuff he wants to eat. Bananas, eggs seem to fit the bill. We give him the medication and he keeps it. Yay!


We take the flight, touchdown! Once in Jeju I hail a cab and go to my place. Trip over.


Or so I believed.


A day after the nightmare was over…..”Where's my bag?” My wife asks. No. No I didn't. Remember that part where I say I like to travel with the least bags as possible? Well THAT's why. Exhausted, I didn't notice i left a bag on the pavement as i was loading all of them in the trunk of the taxi. Shhhhhhoot. That bag has my wife's digital artist stuff (laptop and fancy electronic pens) and good grief no, THAT! It was in the bag too? A bunch of health stuff worth about 1k.


I went to the lost and found, hopeful that it would be there, Koreans are extremely honest people. I look around. Shoot. Nothing. Bag lost. Leg between my tails I go back. I felt like crying a few days ago already but now I really did. That was the last straw. Tired out of my mind, sick baby and a toddler that constantly wants attention, the bills and now losing the bag? A few tears came down I have to admit.

Make pictures….

So. Sad story. What's this about? Yeah sometimes life sucks, but I think that's why there's photography. It's a God given therapy. I don't know about you but when things go over my head, when I make pictures it feels right. I think everyone needs an outlet to chill out, for some it's working out, others it's drinking and smoking and other it's good ol' art and photography and I am grateful for that.


I'm not saying photography is going to fix anything or that it will replace your faith if you know what hits the fan. But I think it is good therapy. A long time ago, my son had a seizure and photographing the whole experience really kept me from freaking out while still being involved. I think it has to do with permanence. Life passes by but photographs seem to stay, they seem to transcend the moment they were created. It's like being a thief of time, keeping the memory of things from erosion. Those are my views at least.


So, as life goes on, good or bad, make pictures. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.


Update: Went to the lost and found again, found my wife's bag =) JOY!

I would also like to personally thank for everyone that reached out. It means a lot and thank you for your humbling offers!


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14 thoughts on “(Personal) When life gives you lemons….make pictures”

  1. Olivier, so glad you and your loved ones made it through all those trials. What you say about photography is so true. When my first wife was dying with cancer, I found much solace and restoration in photography. It is a sort of medicine, God given.

  2. Oliver, Sorry to hear about your nightmare, hope your baby is ok now. I gave a cheer when I read you found your wifes bag. The little victories in life make a big difference when things are a bit rough. All the best.

  3. Hello Oliver, Sorry to read this, but being a person who has strong altruism in people and in my heart also (buddhism) it teaches one how to extract..the inner most feelings of another level of patience and love, and you have it. we need to go through these bumps in life to understand how far can you reach and test your inner feelings..Just keep going forward. and all tis will mean something good down the road..
    1- love
    2- honesty
    3- patience
    4-being able to not ask or complain but trusting your heart when everything was lost.

  4. This: “I’m not saying photography is going to fix anything or that it will replace your faith if you know what hits the fan … Life passes by but photographs seem to stay, they seem to transcend the moment they were created. It’s like being a thief of time, keeping the memory of things from erosion.” LOVE it! So glad it all worked out but most importantly that your baby got through, praise God.

  5. Olivier, I thought I WAS a bad traveller. Your story is an absolute, breathless thriller. I was on the edge of my seat. What we put ourselves through?Eh?

    I think, the worst bit is the feeling of anger at oneself, almost to a point of pathological hatred of your own being: just for being out of the moment for a split second, and mislaying the credit card, or the plane ticket or the boarding card. i recently went through security at Malaga airport: I had everything with me, and as i made my way to the duty free hall, i realised I no longer had my boarding pass, which i was holding just SECONDS , before: literally. The only place i could figure i could be after i had shaken my self down a few times, was at security. They seemed very amused as i turned totally freaked out. They were all laughing as they handed it over.

    So my whole hearted sympathies with you, my friend

    1. I tried to write it as interestingly as possible (vs a list of all that happened =) )
      You have it right! That part of self loathing where you feel like you can’t blame no one but yourself! Plus the bag part sheesh!

  6. Hi Olivier,

    I’m so happy for you and your family that all finished well. What a damned week. Yes, you are right, photography can be a good medicine for the mood. I realy hope that your children are now in shape. Wish you all the best…

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