Friday, June 30, 2006

Finally here

Let me just tell you, a 13 hour plane ride is an experience to be avoided at all costs. Not that the service wasn't great, because it was. Not because the food sucked, because it was the best airplane food I've ever had. No, more so just because 13 hours is way too much time for your brain to think up reasons why you should never have left in the first place and how horrible your experience is going to be. But for me, the worst part of the plane ride happened before we even left the ground.

So, when I checked in, I asked the guy for an aisle seat, preferably one with an empty seat next to it. (For those of you who hadn't noticed, I'm quite fat and find it difficult to be comfortable on flights of any length, let alone 13 hours!) He wasn't able to promise me that, but did offer to put me in the emergency exit aisle so that I could have space in front of me. (God, I can't even believe I'm telling this horrifying story!)

Anyway, so I get to my seat. No way. Not going to fit. Thought I had seen small seats before, but these are unbelievable. No crowbar, no greasing of the hips, no nothing would have made my ass fit in that seat. Plus, it was right next to somebody. And because it was in the emergency aisle, the arms didn't raise up at all.

So, nothing for it but to fetch a flight attendant and beg for her help. I explained that if I could just have a seat where the arm goes up, or one with no one next to me, I would be fine (of course, I was really hoping for an upgrade to Prestige Class, where I could have a La-Z Boy recliner for a seat). She understood me and went off to see what she could do. So. There I stood. Humiliated and waiting. Everyone staring. I'm not ashamed to say I was almost crying, but that would have just made everything so much worse. Eventually, the woman came back and pointed me to an aisle seat with an empty one next to it. Basically, this was the closest I could possibly come to the comfort of Prestige Class, and I was so grateful.

Let me also say that Korean Air has the best in-flight entertainment selection I have ever seen. They have the monitors in the back of the seat thing going on, and there are movies, audio, games, shopping, and more to choose from. In movies, there were about 20 different choices. I'm happy to say that I was able to watch: "Roman Holiday", "Nanny McFee", "Glory Road", "Memoirs of a Geisha", and "Failure to Launch". There were lots of new-release options, which was great. But, I did try to sleep, so that limited my movie watching. I think I got about 3 hours sleep total.

When I got to the airport, I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to find the bus. Now, I had heard that Koreans are very helpful to foreigners, so I guess I wasn't surprised when I stepped outside and a nice young man came right up to me and asked if I needed help finding the right bus. He looked at my sheet and then pointed me to the right kiosk. How nice! And, even nicer, the bus I needed was just getting there, so I didn't even have to wait!

The bus ride into Seoul was quite interesting. The tiny tiny shops, with a surprising amount of English in the titles...the huge market with stalls of fish laying out and baskets of spices stacked up...the Domino's Pizza with delivery motorcycles parked in front...the Popeye's was a blur of busyness.

When I got off at my stop ("Holiday!" as the driver shouted-short for Holiday Inn), there was another guy from America on there who was also getting picked up. We made our way across the very busy street to the hotel and there was a van waiting for us. It was all so easy! I was beginning to think that this was all going way too well.

And I was right! We got to the English Language Village and were show the building with our rooms. Staff live in 4 different dorm-type buildings, and from the outside everything looks great. My room is on the second floor, so I had to haul my heavy-ass suitcases up way way way too many steps, but I was lucky because the guy I came in with carried the Samsonite one up part way for me!

My room is slightly smaller than my dorm room, but it does have its own bathroom and a small balcony, which is nice. What is not nice: air conditioning is not yet working, no hot water, and my balcony faces into the mountain and overlooks the door where the boiler works are kept and where they are still doing construction. Very loud construction, until 11pm, desperate to finish before the first huge group of kids get here.

So, I get into my room and the first thing I notice is that the lights don't stay on. This is because there is a ridiculous feature where you have to have a special card to stick in a slot by the door, and unless that is in there, the lights will only stay on for a minute or two. And the heat/humidity is SWELTERING. Iowa, mid-August. I tried looking in my luggage, but I couldn't see because of the lights. I was exhausted. And the tv wouldn't work. And basically, I wanted to come home immediately.

However, I was soon given a key for the lights by one of the head teachers, and that made things better immediately because that actually controls ALL of the electricity in the room, so the tv started working too. My mood was much improved.

The bathroom is nice, but you have no separate shower. It's one of those deals where you can sit on the toilet and take a shower at the same time. Very nice.

I walked to the 7-11 last night to get some provisions for the evening. On the way there, I was accosted by a small girl who was out playing with her friends in the street. She kept following me and screaming "Welcome to Korea!" On the way back, she followed me all the way to the gate and then started yelling "bye bye!!!" frantically until I just had to ignore her and go into the village.

There is so much more to tell, mostly about my first day here, but I have no more time right now. I will write more later, promise. The internet is not working in my room yet, so I can only use the faculty computers. So far, I think things are going to be great. (This is based on my experience today, not my experience from yesterday.) So, don't be worried!

Talk to you all soon!

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