Saturday, March 12, 2011

The departure and arrival

My flight left at 8:30am for Chicago where I had an hour and a half layover and then straight onto Seoul. I fell asleep almost instantly on the plane but for some reason kept having horrible nightmares about missing my connecting flight. Luckily I made it to Chicago in one piece and made it to the international departures with plenty of time to spare. I was told the flight was delayed a half hour, but we only took off 15 minutes later than the scheduled time. During the 14 hour flight I was able to watch 3 movies and we were served two meals. I think Korean Air is now actually up on the list of my favorite airlines along with Southwest. The flight attendants were so friendly and they certainly never stopped working. I guess it's the Asian mentality.
Chicago to Seoul
Well, to make a long flight short, we landed in Korea at about 4pm on Wednesday, March 9th and I was completely confused with the day it was. I quickly went through the airport following the other people to baggage claim and immigration. Then there was a quarantine area. We were told to go through one and a time and look into a camera (well, at least I think it was a camera). Everyone went through without a problem and then I was stopped. The woman asked if I had caught a cold on the flight and I told her no. She then proceeded to stick a thermometer into my ear and I instantly felt like I was heating up and maybe I had a fever. It was all in my head though, she smiled and said "you're all set". I then continued onto immigration and that was a quick process. The man questioned the pronunciation of my last name and made some small talk about me teaching. I then went to baggage claim and got a cart for all my bags. My bags came quickly as well. Everything seemed to be a pretty painless process. I then changed some of my money and got thousands and thousands of Won! J

As I got to the exit I looked for someone from the recruiting firm, but no one was holding a sign with my name on it. I started to think about how I never talked to them about where they would pick me up they just said they would be at the airport to welcome me. When I didn’t see anyone for about a half hour I decided to use a pay phone. I thought luckily there is some English on the payphones so it shouldn’t be a problem. Well, that wasn’t the case so I struggled for quite a while. Then a man came over and kindly helped me dial the number. When he got someone on the line he spoke some Korean to the person at the other end and then handed me the phone. He then stood there for a while and I didn’t know if he wanted me to tip him or something so I just looked at him confused. I then realized he was a taxi driver and he wanted me to take his taxi. I said no and that someone was coming to pick me up. It was like he didn’t hear me and asked again, after a few times asking I think he actually understood. When I talked to Hero he told me that someone was on their way. Finally, Maseo came to pick me up at about 5:20pm and he apologized for being late. He took my luggage cart from me and was pretty shocked at the amount of bags I had. We then discussed how I had the maximum amount but I didn’t need to pay any extra money, which was nice for me!
my bags

Now, Incheon Airport is actually on an island off the cost of South Korea, so it took about an hour to get to the school, which is still in Incheon. Most of the time was us being stuck in traffic though. Maseo is actually from Japan and knows Japanese, Korean and English, although he doesn’t feel so confident in his English skills. I asked about places where I could learn Korean. He actually said that a lot of people do programs called exchanges. In exchanges someone would teach a person Korean and in exchange that person would teach them English. Maseo suggested we do that and starting immediately. On the way to the school he taught me how to say, “Hi, how are you? My name is Sarah.” He suggested that I use this when I meet the headmaster of the school. When we arrived at the school I used the new phrase I learned along with a really uncomfortable and awkward bow. She smiled, but didn’t say much because her English isn’t very good at all. She said she was impressed!
We then were going out to dinner, the headmaster, Maseo and 3 of the teachers at the school, Lauren, Ellen and Bella. These girls are actually Korean, but they use their English names. I went in the car with the girls and Maseo and the headmaster followed us. They actually were taking me to my apartment in Bucheon, which is the next city from Incheon. It is a smaller city in between Incheon and Seoul. Maseo had brought my bags into my apartment and they all showed me around my apartment. The previous English teacher who lived there, Jennifer had left me some snacks and a note about how if I needed anything she would be able to help out. She worked at the school for 2 years and is now working at a university.
After I saw my apartment we went outside to walk to the restaurant. They asked if I wanted to go for Korean food or something else like pizza (I had earlier told Maseo that I liked pizza so I guess they thought I might want some comfort food). I opted for the Korea and we went to this nice restaurant and sat in the back on the floor. We took our shoes off and sat on cushions around a low table with 2 small grill looking things. The waiters immediately brought out various vegetables and sauces. They then brought out plates of raw steak that were cut into small pieces. We cooked the meat right at the table and it was actually really delicious! There was so much food and they just kept bringing out plates and I had to say enough already!

After dinner the girls brought me back to my apartment so I could go to sleep. They told me that the other English teacher, Heather, would help me get to the school in the morning and to meet her at 8:20am. I fell asleep almost instantly when I got back, but I kept waking up and then by 1am I just couldn’t fall back asleep. Finally, at 3am I feel back asleep.

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