Friday, August 24, 2012

Emmigrating Part II

Thursday, August 23 - 10:45PM in Seoul (brain too tired to calculate any other timezone...)

Well, I arrived!! My flight landed at approx. 5:20pm, which was 3:20am in Houston. The flight was long, but also kind of short. I only watched the one movie, and attempted to nap (only succeeded once or twice, very short amounts of time). I ate next to nothing; I don’t trust airplane food, and this was particularly questionable. I drank 2 cokes which ended up being a problem... later they handed out sandwiches which I believe were Ham&Cheese, but smelled like they had mayo, so I didn’t eat that either. The last meal (they fed us alot, huh?) was “lunch” and I had chicken with rice. The chicken was less than appetizing, but I ate the whole portion of rice... with another Coke. 

By that time we were like 2.5 hours from Seoul, and the lights in the cabin were back up. I gave up on sleeping. We passed over Japan, and I think I saw Mt Fuji! I could be wrong, but it was by far the biggest in the vicinity that the map said we were near to the volcano. Anyway, you can see some photos I excitedly snapped. 

First sight of Japan
I think this was Mt. Fuji

When we got over Korea, we were so high and the clouds so thick I couldn’t see anything. Finally we lowered enough so I could see. I saw the bay area that is to the west of Seoul & Incheon. 

As you can see, Korea is not as pretty as the Japanese waters!
When we exited the plane, I headed straight for the bathroom (there was ALWAYS a line on the plane!) After that was Immigration, which had zero line for us foreign passport holders! They were so nice and gave me a stamp, even though I already had a visa (or maybe that’s protocol, I have no idea). 

Then to baggage claim! As soon as I got to the carousel, I saw my bag that I gate checked, so ran that down. I got a cart and then almost immediately saw my small suitcase (the original carry-on). Then I waited for my big suitcase, the REALLY bright floral hardshell that no one in their right minds could mistake for their own. And I waited... some more, and finally the carousel stopped going around. 

I asked a guy that I was pulling off unclaimed luggage, and he pointed me in the direction of “Lost/Found” - I filled out a report, giving my Director’s name and phone number. I think it’s pretty funny that this happened since while sitting in SFO waiting on the flight, I read all these great things about Incheon Airport - one of them being their excellent baggage handling stats. It claimed that the likelihood of getting your luggage lost in Incheon was 0.0001%, and you had a greater chance of getting struck by lightening. And yet... no bag. I was surprisingly not mad or frustrated or distraut. 

I headed to customs, claimed nothing, and got some money changed. I headed out of the doors, and immediately saw my name on a sign. The guy looked right at me and nodded his head like “yes, I can totally tell this is you, American girl!” Then he explained to me, in Korean, that there is another girl we were waiting on, and to follow him (No, I did not understand a word he said, but managed somehow to figure it out). We walked down the terminal a few gates, then he taped her sign on the pole, and told me to wait, that he would be back in 1 hr. This “conversation” took a lot longer than I am describing because as I said, it was conducted exclusively in Korean (and some Sign Language). 

I waited for 45 minutes, until approx. 7pm. The girl, Jamie, finally came out the gate and saw her name. I explained to her that the guy would be back very soon, and mentioned my lost bag. I said it was funny because the bag is so OBVIOUS; she asked what it looked like and I explained to her. Her eyes lit up and she says “I’m pretty sure I just saw that bag on my baggage carousel!” Ahhhh! Her flight was also from San Francisco, only on Singapore Airlines. 

I trekked down to Asiana Customer Service, but they only understood “lost bag” and wanted my ticket stubs, which I had already given when filing my report. She didn’t understand that I wanted her to call back to the baggage claim guys and just have them check the other carousel. Oh well, they assured me they would call tomorrow, so I’ll just have to wait until then. 

Jamie and I found our cab driver, who took our bags out to his van. We had a long ride into Seoul; probably an hour and fifteen. Tons of traffic - by the time we got into Seoul it was around 8pm, and it looked like rush hour! When we finally got to our destination, he carried our bags in and we got our motel rooms. Sean, the other new hire, was also there. He took us to go meet Kellie, the girl who is leaving in a week and training us / helping us transition. She took us to dinner around the corner from the motel at a traditional Korean  BBQ place. 

At this point, I had a “moment”. And by that I mean, Jamie and Kellie are talking about work and food and where’s the closest this-and-that and I’m sitting there wanting to throw up at the thought of spending a whole year here. It didn’t hit me on the plane, or saying goodbye to mom, but sitting in that restaurant I wanted to cry. Kellie just thought I looked tired (I”m sure I did!) but it took everything in me not to cry. Somehow I managed. I was starving but I could only manage to eat 1 slice of BBQ - it had SO MUCH fat on it! The kimchi for the table was RIGHT in front of me, and while I didn’t mind the smell so much, the look and thought of eating it made the feeling of “what did I get myself into” even worse. 

About 10 minutes later, 3 other teachers walked in to join us. This did nothing to appease my fears. They were all chatty BFF-ish and I felt more alone and overwhelmed than ever. Kellie mentioned that Jamie would be taking over her classroom of Kindergartners in the morning, but Sean and I would be working with the slightly older kids, anywhere from 7-13, in the afternoon. When she told me that it was Sean, me, and another guy and girl that were not at the table, I felt better. I’m not sure why... everyone was so nice. But sitting there made me feel out of place, and knowing that there were only 4 of us to work afternoons together made it better. 

After that I tried something on the table to eat, a rice paper wonton wrapper thing, and while it was certainly not a meal, it was something and I was trying. I do have work tomorrow, but I won’t have to go in until 1pm, which is my usual start time. So, while I had my first moment of regret and fear, I overcame it, talked myself down, and did not have a mental breakdown in the middle of a family restaurant in Seoul. 

After dinner, Kellie showed us the local 7-Eleven only 2 minutes from our motel and our future apartments (which are next door to each other). We came back to our rooms, and I got a shower. I think that shower has been my favorite part of the day. Haha! Now I have gotten my iPad charging, my sound machine working with the converter, and have determined that I am a genius for bringing my airport express, since Kellie mentioned that you must hardwire ethernet into your computer in the apartments (no wifi available) - so, I’ll just create my own! I love being an Apple nerd ;) 

My alarm is set for 8am, so I have time to get a shower and look decent, find food, and maybe get some wifi to post this :)


  1. Happy you got there safely! I couldn't imagine how you felt not being able to communicate at airport I wanted to cry when my teacher would speak Spanish for an entire class period lol. If you ever feel sick like that again or sad or lonely feel free to text me anytime of day :) love you and miss you!

  2. Greetings from Sean's mom. I look forward to reading about your adventure's in Korea!

    1. Hi Sean's Mom! We're in the same boat! I'm Chelsea's Mom... I'll be reading your son's blog as well. :)

  3. We (The Lock family) fully get your feelings. I think for a few weeks we all wanted to cry, bawl, both at least daily. it is so NOT America. Remember though-Our minds are a powerful thing. Positive talk and self-encouragement helps a lot. we finally "allowed" ourselves to enjoy the experience. Those years in Japan became memories we will talk about for a lifetime. You will too. Stay positive. Lots of people are praying for your safety and success as a teacher in Korea... Love ya...

  4. You are the most amazing person that I have ever met in my life. You will overcome the difficult spots and enjoy the experience, I am sure of it. Think of all the amazing stories you will be able to tell your kids one day. I love you so much. Missing you every minute. xx.
    Love, Katie


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