Friday, October 29, 2010

Korea - The trip over

It's been an adventure so far!!!! I drove over to Jacksonville and checked into an inexpensive hotel that would let me leave my car while I was gone. Once I checked in, I knew why it was so inexpensive.... The room was tiny - only just big enough for the bed in the main room and a bathroom. Since I was just there to sleep, though, it didn't really matter. What did matter was that the construction didn't do a good job of sound-proofing. I could hear the guy next door yelling into his phone and the one above walking around. Ultimately, it didn't matter. I was so tired, I fell sleep almost immediately. And I was so excited that I woke up every half hour until a half hour before my alarm went off, I decided to get up anyway. A free shuttle took me to the airport where I checked my bag at the curb and got my boarding pass. Security was fairly quick. I was taking a carry-on and my purse on board - no naughty stuff except for the water I had in there. I chugged the bottle I had open and put the other two full bottles in the trash. And then I was through with 2 hours to kill. A Starbucks and my phone and just a little online time filled it.

The flight to Detroit was uneventful. There was a large weather system near Detroit, so the landing was a little bumpy but the pilots did masterful job of getting us down as smoothly as possible.

James was to meet me there. His flight got in close to the same time as mine and we met at the gate for our Seoul flight. James had been battling a sore throat and we had about a half hour before boarding began, so we found a coffee shop and bought him tea for his throat and a $9.00 sandwich to split between us. Just turkey on wheat, but the airport's got you when it comes to food and drink and can charge you exhorbidant prices!

James managed to get us both seats on an exit row right next to the bathrooms, window and middle. The aisle seat held a tiny Korean woman that I did my best to not elbow. The seats are ridiculously small and the food tray didn't even want to lay flat but rather form strange tent over our laps. James isn't particularly heavy (just really, really tall) and it was tenting over him too. It was long, long flight.

A man stopped by a couple of times to talk to the woman next to me, and eventually, she and I struck up a conversation. Twenty years ago, she married an American serviceman and moved to the States with him, finally settling in Michigan. I told her why I was going to Korea and we became instant friends. While James snoozed against the wall, Eewah and I talked and walked around the plane. She showed me pictures of her daughter making a presentation at the Korean War - and I pointed to her picture and said she was wearing hanbok. Eewah was surprised that I knew what that was. I told her that I would be wearing one at the wedding. I also told her that I had been trying to learn Korean, that I was able to pick out a couple of words when she was talking to the man - but other than a word here and there, had no idea what they were saying. That must have cemented our temporary friendship in her mind. We talked the rest of the way.

Dawon came to the airport to guide us to our hotel. We got on a bus, which takes about an hour to get into town, though it may have been longer because apparently Seoul's rushhour started during our trip. I've never been in a really big city's rush hour before. We kept moving the entire time, changing lanes constantly and it felt like we were way too close to the other vehicles a lot of the time. I hadn't really slept the night before and didn't sleep on the plane (I tried, but just couldn't) and according to James, I would completely lose consciousness for 15 seconds at a time and snore, then snap back to full wakefullness, then go out again just as fast. He said it was like I had a light switch and three year old was playing with it. Awake, asleep, awake, asleep nearly all the way in to the hotel. I do remember SOME of the ride. Matt called Dawon during the ride (he was at work) and she answered the phone: Yabo-seyo? After we got off the phone (Matt wanted to say hi to us), I asked her why she answered the phone saying "waiter" or "uncle"? She gave me a peculiar look and said it was they way they answered the phone. Apparently that word covers a lot of territory - waiter, uncle and hello? I wonder what else it means?

I have discovered that Korean is a very complex language - much of it is determined by intonation and how the syllables are said. I got another chance to use what I knew as soon as we got to the hotel.

When we arrived, Dawon's mother, uncle and wife, and aunt were waiting to greet us. Uncle is very generously providing us with our hotel room. There were hugs and handshakes all around, then we officially checked in and everyone went up to check out the room.

It's a marvel, I tell you!!! Korea is so far ahead of us in everyday technology that it really did feel like a different world. All you do to unlock the door is touch the key to a pad on the door. When you walk in, the key goes in a special slot next to the door and that automatically turns on the lights, which you can then control individually! The bathroom is a wonder with an electronic toilet. There are pushbutton controls that allow you to wash, dry and even massage your backside! I tried it out after everyone left, because the curiosity was killing me. It's a strange sensation.

There were also controls that affected temperature, air pressure, nozzle direction! The tub is nice and deep, which will be perfect for a lovely hot bath. The room also has a wide flat screen TV and a bedside master control that works the clock, the air conditioner, hotel notices (rather than that doorknob thing that says do not disturb or please make up room), and a master kill switch for the lights so you can get in bed and turn off all the lights at once!

James and I were invited to dinner at the hotel restaurant, which I agreed to if I could have a shower first. I really didn't want to fall asleep while we were eating (and snoring to boot if James is to be believed). The shower was amazingly restorative and I joined them downstairs about 20 minutes later.

Uncle is a gracious host. We had a marvelous buffet that would have turned Darling Man green with envy. I tried a lot of new things and enjoyed almost all of them. We also had a little wine. Initially, I turned it down fearing its affect on my severely tired body. I wasn't sure I'd even wake up the next morning! He seemed disappointed so I agreed to have a very small amount which cheered him immediately because he wanted to make a toast! Ah!

It was a very interesting dinner. Dawon speaks English pretty well as she is studying to be a translator. Her mother speaks somewhat rusty English as she hasn't used it in a long time (she lived in England for a while). As far as I can tell, Aunt, Uncle and his wife do not speak English much if at all. It was a very entertaining dinner, with Dawon interpreting and me throwing in what Korean I could. The first time I actually said something in Korean, there was a short, stunned silence, followed by a little laughter, which made me wonder if I had said thank you or I'm wearing purple underwear - but Dawon assured me that I had actually said it right. So I will take the laughter as delighted surprise. I was encouraged, and tried out a few other words, including "Good evening" when we were saying goodbye. I guess I got that right too, as they smiled and shook hands enthusastically, saying it back to me.

James made me laugh. He hasn't studied Korean at all while I've been practially slaving over it for the last month, but he downloaded an app to his iPhone that said it for him. He can scroll down his list of phrases, hit a button, and his phone will ask for another drink or where the bathroom is for him!!!! It cracks me up and makes me realize that we both looked at this challenge of communication through totally different eyes. He demonstrated this to Dawon's family and it made them laugh appreciatively too.

Dinner over, bellies full, James and I went back to our room. The last day and a half caught up with me full force, but James, who'd actually slept on the plane wasn't ready to sleep yet. He went exploring while I washed my face, brushed my teeth and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Thus ends the saga of our trip and arrival in Korea. Day one was amazing, but I'll have to tell you about it later. James is exploring again and I am ready to fall asleep.

1 comment:

ari_1965 said...

Exciting! Can't wait to read about your second day.