September 1, 2008
Dad, this is me, on the runway for real.
Here we are the airport! I thought these flags were cool so I asked my friend Brooks to take a picture of us walking past them. And there's John and the huge Boeing 747 that delivered us. Let me tell you about Korean Air. It is fantastic! The flight attendants are these beautiful Koreans who are all smiles and dressed exactly the same way, including the hair, waiting on you hand and foot practically. It was kind of nuts. And the plane was comfortable, despite the length of the flight. Fourteen hours is a long time to be sitting down. Anyway, we were fed twice, and the first time we had a Korean meal! It's called bibimbap, which is vegetables mixed with rice, sesame oil, and a spicy red pepper paste. Delicious.
I thought our flight path was kind of interesting. We flew north-northwest from Chicago, across Wisconsin and over just the tip of Minnesota into Canada. We then flew northwest across Canada, along the northern shore of Alaska and the very edge of the Arctic Circle - get this- across the Arctic Ocean into Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula (the Russian half of the one-time land bridge between the continents). We weren't in Russia long, though. We flew south once we were over Kamchatka into the Pacific Ocean, down over Japan and then across the Korean Peninsula where we landed in Incheon International Airport. (Incheon is right next to Seoul). Just so you know, northeastern Russian looks brick red from the sky, with lots of topography. And rivers. But no vegetation.
So we landed! The airport was like the future. I'm serious. Absolutely sterile, automated everything, soothing female voices from the PA system. Oh, and SmarteCartes are free there. We exchanged our USD for KRW (Korean Won) and were out of there. Customs barely looked at us.
Our co-teachers were waiting for us outside the airport. Some of us were shoved into a picture, and then whisked away to the car. I'm telling you, everything in Korea is rush rush rush! Hurry up and wait! My co-teacher;s name is Park Jung You . I call her Ms. Park. (In Korea, the family name comes first, then the generation name and the first name but I'm not sure of the order) So Ms. Park and Mr. Huang, a science teacher at Daeshin, took my bags and rushed me to their car, and then we rushed out of the parking lot, and then we rushed to Yeoju.....during rush hour. So mostly we sat in traffic. I think it takes about 2 hours to get to Yeoju from Seoul/Incheon. At one point we stopped at a rest stop (they're huge in Korea!!) where I actually requested some coffee because I was nodding off in the car in my first few hours in Korea. Then we stopped again closer to Yeoju at a cafeteria for food. There I had my first taste of bulgogi, which is beef dressed in this sweet-tasting sauce....so good. It's a favorite dish of mine, actually. I tried using the chopsticks but I think Mr. Huang was in a hurry because he told me, in broken English, to just use the fork. Haha. He's actually a really funny guy - you should have seen how upset he got when he saw the traffic.
Anyway, then I was taken to the E-Mart, which is sort of like a SuperTarget, for some breakfast foods (on them!) before they took me to my apartment (it's in a high-rise called HyunJin, or Evervill in English) High rises are very desirable in Asia. They tried really hard to get my internet working for me, but we inevitably failed, and we were all exhausted, so they left me with the keys and instructions to meet Ms. Park, who lives in the same building, early the next morning.