My hands moved mechanically, as my heart flushed. I was folding shirts into compression cubes, following logical packing protocol before an upcoming trip, but I kept hearing a loop of the night before, my voice rising above the acceptable volume for a Thursday night train in Tokyo. I got so worked up — and over what? Gender parity in the media? Tsk.

Inside my open suitcase, none of the tidily arranged rolls and zippered cases betrayed the inner chaos of their owner. There was another emotion I was feeling, I realized, besides embarrassment. Pride? Relief? In a way, it’s good to know there’s still a little fight left in me; these days I’m not sure if I’m losing my cool or losing my heat, or how I ought to feel about either.

The next afternoon, emotions and socks all tucked away, I left for Seoul. A plane, bus and train later, I arrived in Gwangju, in the southwest of South Korea. When I got on the train, it was cloudy; when I got off, buckets of rain were slamming the ground. Where the capital was gleaming with the trappings of new wealth and government investment, Gwangju was crumbling and neglected.