It’s not the same, kor the kiddies; ever since I came to Cheonan-si! There is so much to say, so much going on, and absolutely nothing all at the same time. I’m only going to talk about the non-teaching stuff. That will be in another separate post. Here we go!
Flight OZ235: Chicago to Seoul
I made the executive plan to do EVERYTHING in my power to stay awake and busy all day so that when 23:55 rolled around I would be so exhausted that I had no choice but to fall into a DEEP sleep for at least 7 of the 14 hours of this flight. I will admit that I have made some bad mistakes in my life, but this was not one of them.
If you were tracking my progress on Facebook you know that I had some trouble getting my luggage down to the 50lbs limitation. We continued this fight up until the VERY LAST MINUTE. In the end my two pieces were 49lbs and 52lbs. Luckily the nice steward, who thought that I was 22 and going to Korea for school (he misread the 86 to be 96) let slide.
My mom went with me to the airport, Auntie decided to cry at home. This is not the first time that I have left home, but it’s the first time that I have left the county. I had my fears. What happens if the plane crashes in the water? What if they lose my luggage? And most fearful, what if something happens to one of them while I’m off finding myself six thousand miles away! In my old age, the iron gate, keeping my tear ducts from leaking has eroded. Needless to say, my mother was shocked to see me cry.
I will not bore you with all the details. Once I was able to let Mommie go, I went through security without looking back. Didn’t buy anything in the Duty-free shops. Found the gate easily enough and charged my phone and headphones for a little bit before boarding.
I was able to secure a window seat. Word of advice for all my Thicker than Snicker Readers. The seats on a B777 plane are not hip friendly. I was afraid that I was going to spend the entire 14 hours with the armrests digging into me. They didn’t go up all the way but I was at least able to get a little extra space. Luckily, it wasn’t a packed flight so there was none in the middle seat.
Shortly after take off they gave everyone this little pouch with slippers and a toothbrush in it. Then came the first meal. I opted for the Bibimbap.
After this, I went to sleep for the first time. I drifted in and out of sleep for a while. There was in-flight entertainment. I watched about five minutes of Wreck it Ralph before falling asleep; and when I woke up, I watched another 5 minutes before again falling asleep. I did watch a good portion of Swing Kids; Korean musical staring D.O. from EXO. I didn’t finish a single movie. I literally slept the entire time. I may have been awake a grand total of an hour and a half the entire flight.
The stewardess had to shake me awake, forcibly, for the final meal and decent into Incheon! This time I had Kimchi Dopbap. She once again asked if I was sure that was what I wanted as it is very spicy. She looked a little surprised that I was positive I wanted Kimchi, which has been the general consensus for the past week. After I ate, I took the twists out of my hair in preparation for the photo that I knew was coming when the Recruiter found me.
News Flash: Incheon is not on mainland Korea! It’s an island off to the north a little bit. How I didn’t notice this before, I do not know. Anywho, we landed, I got through security and found my luggage with no problems and thus began my first 24 hours in South Korea!
First 24 Hours
First thing I did was head to a currency exchange to get larger bills. I made a really smart decision in ordering foreign currency from Chase before I left and picked it up Friday before my flight. But I only got small bills so I traded some out.
Let me tell you customs is no longer what it looked like in old movies. There wasn’t someone with a clipboard asking where I was from, where I was going, what’s in the suitcase, nothing. Just hand the customs form over to the worker and keep it pushing, literally since I had a cart with my luggage on it. After passing through the gates of Arrivals, trying to look as close to a celebrity as I could I found a convenience store for some snacks and an adapter. I should have gotten more than one, I haven’t seen any since!
My flight landed at 4 am and the recruiter was not sending his proxy until 7. SO I had some time to kill. I got a sim card for my phone, $60 for 20 days of unlimited data and wifi. With this, I was able to call home and let everyone know I was alright. Mr. Kang, my recruiter’s proxy in charge of picking me and taking me to the bus that would take me to Cheonan, was early and found me around 6:30.
Ah, Mr. Kang, a great conversationalist that one! We talked about…absolutely nothing. “You Lauren? Stay here I get your ticket. Follow me. Sit here, I be back. Bus not for 30 minutes, wait here. Follow me. Bus take 2 hours. I take picture? Call Director when you get there.” I wish I could say I was paraphrasing but I’m not.
This bus might have been the most painful experience of my life. Not that it was uncomfortable or anything. It was actually a very plush bus with reclining chairs, personal air control and curtains at the windows. Not a city bus at all. A direct route from the airport to the Cheonan Bus Terminal takes about 80 minutes. But because it was early in the morning and everyone was getting off of overnight planes, they all wanted to catch some more winks before going about whatever their lives entailed. Ergo, all the curtains on the windows were drawn. I felt like a disobedient child peeping through the curtain trying to see and not wake up the lady sleeping next to me. Side Bar: The guy sitting in front of me looked like JYP!
Get to the Cheonan Bus Terminal and the Director of the School meets me there; in future posts, I will refer to her as Director K. I interviewed with her so I had seen her about a month prior but I wasn’t sure I would recognize her. Luckily, I’m pizza roll on a plate full of dumplings so I’m easy to spot. She did comment that I had a lot of stuff. I tried to explain that she had no idea what all had been left behind!
We took a cab to my very own 2 bedroom apartment. Yes, she is living in style! No shoebox studio apartment for me! I had been in contact with the previous teacher so I knew that he had left some things behind for me. However, since he left Friday and I arrived Sunday, the cleaning crew wasn’t able to come in and do a thorough cleaning yet. I would move some furniture around and eventually clean up. I do want to get a couch or a sofa bed of some sort for the living room. A couple of rugs maybe. A WORKING refrigerator…
Director walked me to the school pointing out different eateries and stores, where the old school was and other points of interest. She also got me a couple of pastries for lunch. After she showed me the school we parted ways and I went back home alone.
I learned something walking back. Two Sundays a month the two large stores near me are closed by order of the government. Their reasoning, I have no idea; but no grocery shopping for me. Which was fine, since I don’t have a working refrigerator!
I tried so hard not to go to sleep and to stay awake until my normal time. But not all plans work out as, well, planned. I blacked out around 8 and tried to wake up an hour later. I accepted defeat and slept for the rest of the night!
All in all it wasn’t bad. Eventually they will get my refrigerator fixed and I will be able to go grocery shopping and buy some other needed things like a stone bowl, some dishes, an iRobot type vacuuming device. As soon as I get my address in order and a Korean telephone number I’ll be able to start ordering things.
If there anything that you are curious about by all means ask! In closing…Please send Captain Crunch and Grits!