"Sorry Conrad, But if you've been at the Hilton...

you haven’t really been there". Yeah, you all know where that quote comes from. And I always prided myself on not being “the Conrad” but this time, this trip, the Luxury Lotte Hotel in Seoul will be my Hilton and I will not exit but for a brief organized walk Tuesday eve, before hitting the taxi line and heading back home. This is a sad fact, but time’s limited, air con is nice, schedule jam packed and Korean hotel rooms difficult to get to grips with anyway, so it’ll be a day or two before I get all the luxury features. No need to venture outside into the hot and humid Seoul summer, no, not this trip, next trip.

It started when I was fumbling inside the door for somewhere to turn on the light. Pressed a button or two, no light, BUT, about an hour later as I’d undressed and had fallen asleep to compensate lack of sleep flying here, the cleaning lady started banging on my door again. (I’d heard something while showering, but not acted on that, some twenty minutes earlier.) Apparently I’d pressed the “Emergency house cleaning” button inside the door upon arrival, and now she advanced in, pulled the curtains open to allow the sun in, and began to change EVERYTHING in the spotless luxury room that I’d just checked into half hour earlier (and not messed up, thank you!). New linen, new everything. Ten minutes later, she offered to pull the curtains close again, bowed and left. I understood nothing, idling at the desk in the middle of my night as it was, and tried to get back to sleep.

Then, last evening, I fumbled around for the fifth time trying to find out where to cut the overhead lights as I was going to sleep proper local Korean time as well. Some five hours ago. With increasing anxiety, I eventually looked for the eye blinds I was given during my over night flight here, but then stumbled on to the bedside screen phone. Ah: “all off”, actually referred to the house lights. All on: The phone turns out to be the command and control center for the entire suite. The DVD turns on, the bathroom is lit and the Asian washlet starts spraying. All hell breaks loose, and I press All off again, killing the charger that’s pumping juice into my dying cell phone, but, what the heck, a guy needs to sleep if he is to present to government ministers.

The saddest part of this story is the Dell laptop I had to borrow to be able to do ‘proper’ Powerpoint presentations. OECD is not compatible with Keynote it seems, but more importantly my MacBook from 2006 is heavy and not reliable anymore, so I figured I’d travel light with a company loner laptop. What a mistake. I keep activating the light sensor as I try to type and navigate my screen here in the middle of the Korean night, up for the last five hour presentation meddling session at, local time, 2am. Skype (I installed after I understood the exorbitant phone charges) Blue Screens me about once every hour while just sitting idle in the background, and my palms are almost bleeding from the very sharp corners of the ‘raised’ laptop handrest ‘design’. Yes, this must be the exact copy that I was handed 30 months ago as I started at Vinnova, and promptly handed back a week later, to return to using my Macbook outside the company firewall instead. Yes. I know why now. At that time it was more of a platform conviction thingy, more of a statement and an unwillingness to re-learn. Today, the full physical discomfort hits me. I’m happy I didn’t see much of you the last thirty months, dear Dell E4300, but I pray I haven’t insulted you enough to kill me and my important PPT file in an electrical shock, not at least until I’ve delivered my presentation, told my stories, made my employer happy, the conference hosts satisfied and.

I want to come back here. The Maldivian Foreign Minister looked at me across the room and said ‘haven’t we met before’? No, but we’ve communicated via the Swedish Embassy in India about setting up a meeting, I volunteer. ‘Aah, that’s right, that is you Mr Nou, I’ll have my assistant set up that meeting, sometime tomorrow around lunch, ok?’

And. “I absolutely loved your Abstract”. Prof. Månson said as much as we spoke during reception (lots of great food!) last night. Professor Månson will be chairing the session I speak in tomorrow, so his opinion matters very much. The draft that I worked so stubbornly on and didn’t have time nor daring to share with many colleagues. The piece of text I was late in submitting, the text I thought was way below expectations. Good God what a relief. Now, Let’s hope my story telling tomorrow, my presentation (max 8 slides – now still at 25+) will be ok too. Then I will be happy. And less tired. And more experienced.

Peter Nõu @dkmj