Welcome to South Korea!
Here I am in South Korea- excited for what is to come and ready to explore this new country that will be my home for the time being! I already love kimchi- their staple food- kind of like what french fries are to Americans or potatoes are to the Irish- it s a pickled cabbage that is spicy and Koreans eat this with every meal. I had it for breakfast today, was very good! Now let's backtrack and take a peek at what my journey getting here was like...and all of the thoughts involved with that:
Are you ready for this? Sudden Good-byes and the lack thereof
I knew that I was going to be leaving very soon, but did not know how soon and did not know how long it would actually be that I would be able to get a flight and be told to pack up and leave the country for a year. Let me tell you- it was very soon! I had 2 days notice to pack up and go to this exciting new land. Was I ready? Can you ever be totally ready for anything? I think you can be more prepared than I was, at least packing wise and getting everything in order and settled. I did not sleep that night- had to leave for the airport at about 3:45am and needed all the time I could to finish packing and everything!
I was (partially?) ready emotionally, (definitely time wise ready- was looking forward to this for a while and was ready to get here!) even though it was hard to say good-bye and leave loved ones behind.
What matters? What is this about?
But I don't really see it as leaving them behind, as much as not getting to see them for awhile. We will all have exciting new adventures this year and will have learned a lot. I plan to learn as much as I can while I am here- about the culture, about teaching, about listening and showing you care even if you don't speak the same language. About travel, about history, about people, about love. About learning and having fun and not worrying about what doesn't matter. About learning what truly does matter.
Traveling with Style- falling asleep in style? (bonus to who knows what this references!)
Back to the airport. I took 3 planes total to get here. Newark to Charlotte, NC. NC to Seattle Washington and then Seattle to Seoul, Korea! The first flight was 2 hours, second flight was 5 and half hours and the third was 11 and a half hours. The Asiana airline was defintely my favorite to travel on- it was a first class experience! They had large, comfortable seats and provided blankets, pillows, eye shades and headphones- I saw The Way Back- very good movie based on true events about a group of people imprisoned in a Soviet Labor Camp in 1941 who escape and travel about 4,000 miles from Siberia to India, passing through jungles and the Gobi Desert. I also saw Harry Potter the final installment- Part 1! And I saw some of Rango- which seems pretty funny so far and I would like to see the rest of it!
They served us two meals on the plane- for the first meal, you could choose Western or Korean. The Western meal was steak bits with potatoes and the dessert was mango mousse cake (sounded good, did not look very good though...)
I chose the Korean meal: Bi-Bim-Bab, a famous Korean cuisine, which is a mixture of steamed rice and vegatables and had bits of beef in it as well. They give you a sweet and spicy pepper paste along with sesame seed oil to mix it all together. This meal came with kimchi and some type of bread/cracker with the kimchi. The kimchi was in a small closed container, so when I opened it, the smell was very strong and potent. My seat mate on the plane had chose the western meal, so I can imagine his thoughts on it. This meal came with a side of fruit, which was good and refreshing.
"It is a dish that people from all over the world can enjoy. Without a doubt, it is a healthy food choice for all," to quote the packet about the food that Asiana Airlines gives you with the meal.
The second meal was a chicken pasta dish, which they quickly ran out of, so I got the seafood pasta dish, which was very good. It also came with fruit.
Tastes like Chicken?
For the first meal on the plane, I did not enjoy this kimchi as much as the kimchi I had for breakfast that the director of the school made for me. I used metal chopsticks for the first time, no forks here!
She also made some sort of breaded and fried food, that I was not sure what it was. My first guess was some type of potato pancake, from how it looked, and how it was fried. It looked like chicken, but was not spicy/did not have spices or anything. Had more of the texture of a potato pancake, but did not taste like it. It was served with rice, could not decide what it was, was hard to place the taste. I was able to use the chopsticks just fine so far, and also was able to eat the rice with them. The rice here has a different texture- more held together, so it is easier to eat it with chopsticks, you don't have to pick up grain by grain. Also had a chicken soup with breakfast. I am staying at her house for a few days, possibly the end of the week, until the last teacher moves out of the apartment that I will be moving into. It is very close to the school and have not seen either yet.
New friends at the airport
At the Seattle airport, I met a woman who was also going to Seoul and she was not sure where to go, so she went with me. She was very kind and told me about her daughter, who has been teaching in Korea already for over a year. She was going to visit her.
I saw her and her daughter at the Seoul airport after we got our luggage and her daughter was very kind and helpful - showing me around and helping me to get everything together for the bus and where to go for it. I was glad to have someone there who knew their way around. Her mom was very friendly and her daughter joked how talkative she was, as she started talking on the phone while still talking to us, which was cute and funny! The mother kept telling me where to put my passport and laptop and stuff- to be helpful about not losing it. The daughter joked about what a "mom" she was being, but I was glad to have them both there. Her bus left before mine and we exchanged info, so glad I met another teacher here!
I had to wait almost 2 hours or so to get my bus. I sat down in the front and when the bus driver got on, he said something to me, which I figured out was what to move to Seat 6, which was my assigned seat on the ticket. The bus ride was supposed to be 4 hours, but it was closer to 3, so that was good. I was falling asleep on and off, while trying to read. Not sleeping the night before had caught up with me and slept on and off on the plane, just in short amounts, as I kept waking up.
I noticed in the window of the bus that there was a Hello Kitty fan attached to the window. It started raining on the bus ride. It is fitting for it to rain my first night in South Korea. It is a kind of welcome, a statement that I belong here and I will be happy with my time here and will learn the new ways here.
The director told me that it is monsoon season, rainy season. It will be a year of new adventures, monsoons, storms, but also a lot of sunshine and stars and experiencing new things I have never seen before. Monsoon season, bring it on, I am ready!