Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oh Korea, How are you?

My goodness, do I ever have lots to write about!

What is this now, Korea day 4?!?! Wow, 4 days here and it has been a whirlwind, let me tell ya. It has been a busy week, to say the least.

My last week before I left for Korea was quite chaotic. Will and I took a trip to Chicago to visit the Korean Consulate for my passport stamp. We drove to his parent's house in Johnsburg, Illinois and went by train for something like an hour to get to Chicago and then took a taxi from there to the NBC Building. Talk about fancy! Everything was marble and there were no trashcans or bathrooms in site. The actual visit to the consulate was something like 5 -10 minutes long and entailed a Korean man in a suit asking questions such as "What will you be doing in Korea?" and "How was your experience in high school and middle school?" Easy stuff, right?

The real fun of visiting the consulate was shopping and hanging out in Chicago's shopping district, the "Magnificent Mile." Sephora always rocks my socks right off, we saw a ditzy blonde in heels biff out, and best of all, Will and I went to the AMERICAN GIRL store!!!! This is like a childhood dream of mine fullfilled. There were 3 stories of adorable American girl dolls to obsess over. Also included: a doll hair salon, restaurant, movie theatre, doll hospital, and doll portrait studio! If I end up having kids, they are totally going to have like every American Girl doll item! Fun, fun, fun!!!!

My last days in Iowa were spent with the people I love the most- My friends and family. One day, I went home to visit my mom and dad. We made some excellent BLT's with fresh tomatoes from the garden and talked all afternoon long. Later, my mom and I went to Fun City in Burlington to have some fun!!!!! Mom and I rode on the Go-Carts, saw a movie virtual theatre, and gambled a bit in the casino. We brought home some egg rolls and whatnot from the terrible Asian restaurant there and had one last dinner together at home with our take-out. My dad tried to be a really strong guy and just give me my hugs goodbye but my mom totally cried. I did too!!!!! Leaving my mommy was sooo hard:( She said "Its like when you leave the door, you are gone to me." So I invited her to come up to Iowa City the next day so we could hang out some more, just the two of us girls. Mom and I went to the mall and shopped around a little bit but found nothing really that great. But more notable, we ate at Red Lobster!!! Yum!

Will and I spent the last of our night together in disbelief that I was actually boarding a plane in a few hours! What a strange feeling! He took me up to the Cedar Rapids airport at about 3 a.m. and we were very early. When it finally came time to hug one last time and part, we both totally lost it. I wanted sooo badly to put him into my suitcase and take him with!!!!

The flight was long and kind of aweful. I flew with Northwest Airlines the first 2 connecting flights on a small, bumpy, hot, and crowded plane. Even though the first 2 flights were only for about an hour each, they were the worst!!!! I was sooo nauseous, not to mention nervous and every other feeling you could ever feel all at once. I flew from: Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis and then from Minneapolis to Chicago. I landed at Chicago Midway and had to take a shuttle to O'Hare International, which wasn't as bad as it might have seemed.

Korean Air is by far the nicest way to fly! The flight attendants were gorgeous and sooo very nice, the seats were roomy, and we were each given a pillow, blanket, eye mask, warm socks, a bottled water, and a little tooth brush and tooth paste. Given the flight was something like 14 hours, I was quite comfie in my window seat and I had the entire isle to myself to stretch out! Lucky me!!!!! The flight flew over all of Canada, over Alaska, and then over Siberia. Siberia was quite interesting to look at and quite expansive!!!!! On board the plane, we were served water, soda, orange juice and whatnot quite often, as well as 2 meals that wern't too bad actually. And snacks. I just tryed to sleep as much as I could, which was not much because I was nervous from flying.

I was a very lucky girl, as none of my luggage was excessively checked and I had no problems with security, as I have heard others have. When entering into Korea, I got my passport stamped and was on my way to look for a stranger holding a sign with my name on it!!! Together, the woman from my school and I boarded a bus to take the hour long trek to Suji. The teacher almost made me miss the bus!!!!!! She went in to grab a drink and when she came back, the man was yelling at her in Korean and I was standing there clueless as to what to do!!! Yikes!

My first impression of Korea: Absolutely beautiful! The mountains are very lush and green and everywhere you look. On that bus ride to my new home, all I could think of was climbing up one of those lush hills and rolling around in the moist soil and grass at the top. Must of been the jet lag talking!!!

In Suji, my school's director John met us with his van to take me to my new apartment. Um, kinda dirty!!!! The previous tenant lived there for a grand total of about a week with his humongous dog before moving to a larger apartment. All I had time to do was drop my bags off before going to dinner. Jay, my recruiter who did so much work to bring me over in one piece was there to welcome me as well. I met his girlfriend Grace, who will also be working at my school. We went to an all you can eat seafood buffet where everything looked sooooo amazing but I was unable to eat due to the horrid jetlag. I felt like an aweful zombie!!!! The feeling is almost undescribable- like the world is moving one direction and your body is moving the other. Your stomach feels terrible, your arms and legs ache, and you are sooo tired you could just curl up and die but you can't sleep because your body is too confused! Horrible!!!

One of the teachers, Arom, picked me up from the restaurant to walk home with me. He helped me out alot!!!!! He took me to Lotte Mart, the big department store here. I picked up sheets and a pillow there so I could settle in. Bedding is insanely expensive here in Korea!!!! A sheet was something like $20 and a pillow case was $9 dollars (or Won, if you will.) Arom showed me how stuff in my apartment worked and showed me the places I might need in my neighborhood, such as the internet cafe I am in as we speak!!!!

When I went into my apartment, I wanted nothing more than to get a good, hot shower and fall asleep. I undressed and was having a terrible time trying to figure out the crazy showers here when I had a knock on my door! Oh no!!!! So I threw some clothes back on and was greeted by 4 of the girls from my school/ neighborhood! How nice! They asked if I would like to go out for a drink and I declined, as I felt TERRIBLE. I got undressed to try the shower part 2 and more people came to my door!!!!!! This time, it was some of the guys who had worked at my school. They would not take no for an answer so I WAS FORCED TO GO OUT!!!!! Ahhhh! I made the best of it and changed clothes and pulled my aweful, dirty hair up and went out for my first drink in Korea.

The guys and I went to this little bar downtown that had plenty of the local drink, Soju. We got a pitcher of yummy green mixer, a bottle of Soju, and a pitcher of beer to boot. If you have had no sleep, hardly any food, and are terribly jetlagged, you get drunk VERY QUICKLY! The bar was cool too because we got a pot of noodles and broth in the center of the table heated by a little gas burner underneath. Very yum!

From there, we went to the Westerner bar, Exit, where it just so happened that pretty much all of my coworkers were at!!! I had a great time doing shots of Soju, dancing to the music, and chatting with all of the great people there. Best of all, we all got together and played tippy cups!!!! Thanks University of Iowa for teaching me well- Tippy Cups was practically a Major at Iowa. So my first night, I ended up staying out until somethin like 5 a.m.!!!! Crazy!!!!!!

Needless to say, I felt terrible the next day. I don't think I left my bed or my apartment until about 4 p.m. and that was only to go to the little bodega next door for Pringles and some orange juice!!!!!! I unpacked a bit and then fell into a deep sleep for a few hours. I woke up and it was 8:30 and I was an hour late for Lindsey's wine and cheese party!!!! No worries, she is only about a block away and so I was able to spend the evening getting to know the girls at my school and whatnot a little bit better. What a great group of girls!!!!

Saturday orning, I was able to spend time at the internet cafe talking to Will for the first time. We both teared up a bit I think. Its hard not having him and wishing he were here to have a great time with me. I know Will would LOVE Korea!!!!!!!!!! The internet cafe is only $1 dollar per hour and full of gamers and little boys. Ha ha! I will be very grateful to have internet hooked up in my room later this week.

Saturday, I also went to Lotte Mart and got lots of great stuff for my apartment. Everything is sooo cute here! I got a bunny trashcan, Hello Kitty mug and jewelry box, and heart washcloths! What is better than Lotte? Daiso!!!!!!! Oh my goodness, I was in heaven!!!! Daiso is like a general store that has a bit of everything but at the same time, everything is only a dollar or two!!!!!!! I got more Hello Kitty, 2 pillows, a tray, snacks, soda, bathroom stuff, a panda bear mug, and little washcloths with toast and eggs and octopus on them:) How cute!

Last night, the girls and I went into Seoul to party a bit at this Irish Pub they have there in Iteawon- The Wolfhound. I had fish and chips, which were sooo yummy and beer galore. We shared the table with some army guys (and girl) and I joined some of them for an Irish Car Bomb!!!!! The ladies and I sang and danced to all of the great American music they played there and just generally had a great time.

Monday I go with Lindsey to get bloodwork done to ensure I am healthy and then off to my first day of school!!!! I am sooo excited! All of the little kids around here study soooo hard and are soo cute and I know I will have a great time and be thouroughly challenged teaching them all I know. I am ready for the challenge and quite happy to be in Korea!!!!!