July 30, 2011 14 Comments
The jet leg caught up with me something fierce last night and though I’m awake right now, I’ll probably go back to sleep again soon. However, in the hour or two of wakefulness that I’m going to experience before I crash again, I thought it my duty to post. So here goes.
My flights were uneventful, which is kind of what you’re looking for in air travel. I’ve watched way too many episodes of Seconds From Disaster and possess an unhelpful knowledge of plane models and how often they’ve been featured on that show in a crash. I wasn’t a fan of the Airbus 321 that I took from Toronto to San Francisco, as it was still possible to feel the turbulence, but I’ve got a new crush on the Boeing 777-300 that got me the rest of the way here. Short of a storm or a rocket launcher attack, not much rattles that plane, and that’s just the way I like it. But for all my dislike of the Airbus, without it I could not have gotten some of these cool shots flying out of Toronto and into San Fran.
My 19-hour trek was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be. I watched five movies (Thor, Limitless, Source Code, Red Riding Hood and I seriously don’t remember the last one). On the second leg–the long 11-hour leg–of my trip, I even managed to score three seats to myself and got a couple hours of sleep.
I got ready with my camera to take pictures as we landed in Incheon and, as you can see, I didn’t get much. It was pissing rain (apparently it’s monsoon season here) and once we were low enough that I could see anything, there just wasn’t much to see.
But I was glad to be welcomed into the country by a familiar face.
Where to begin? Let’s start with a comparison. When I moved to Kenya 20 years ago I was fortunate in that Kenya was colonized by the British. Even if you didn’t speak a word of Swahili, it wasn’t hard to function because everyone there, at least in the cities, pretty much spoke English. That is not the case here. As I walked through the Incheon Airport, I was busy about feeling all fortunate because all the signage was in Korean and English. I thought to myself “how good it is to speak English since the world seems so quick to accommodate English speakers.” Then I left the airport and that all changed.
The most basic place where this comes up is right here in my own apartment. The labels and directions on the appliances are only in Korean. I have the impression that someone may have just tried to get in touch with me on my intercom, but I can’t really remember my 30-second tutorial from two nights ago when I moved in, on how to use the intercom. I think it’s the top button to listen and the bottom one to buzz people in but I sincerely have no clue.
Yesterday morning I was stymied in my attempt to have a shower because no one told me that I have to actually turn on the hot water. And because I can’t read the doo-dad on the wall that would tell me so, I had no idea. I sponge-bathed it for my first day of work and then asked my neighbours how to get hot water last night. I made one of my neighbours explain all the appliances to me again this morning so I could put Post It notes on everything!
Speaking of my neighbours, they have been life savers! They are two of the foreign teachers at my school and they live across the hall from me. These two guys are Americans who happen to be Korean and who both speak Korean. They have been immensely helpful in things like getting hot water, walking me to work, helping me get my money changed and taking me shopping to get my apartment set up. Tasks for which my recruiters are strangely absent, but I have the impression that’s how things go around here. My neighbours have also graciously given me the password to their wifi or I would be hard pressed to be posting or e-mailing at all. The signal strength is weak when I try to access it from my apartment, so when I need a strong signal they let me hang out in their place and use it. They really have been fantastic.
My digs are small but not unbearably so. It’s just that apparently closets are not part of the repertoire in this building (or at least in my apartment). I have a wee dresser with four tiny, shallow drawers and the rest of my stuff is sitting in my suitcases on the floor right now. My neighbours have had to buy extra furniture, such as a wardrobe and a small folding table to just make their space workable (and they share a space the size of mine, but they took a deal offered by the school to share the space and get more pay). Eventually, when I actually have income, I’ll probably do the same.
If you’ve never encountered a shower here in Korea, you’ll be surprised. Thankfully I was prepared for this. Essentially your entire bathroom is a tub. Why there are two sets of electrical outlets in the bathroom is beyond me. And why only one set are covered up is an even bigger mystery. So the shower: the floor and walls are tiled and there’s a shower head on the wall that’s attached to the sink. You set your water temperature and pressure at the sink and then take the shower head off the wall and voila: shower time! And I guess everything in the bathroom has the potential to get wet. Since I couldn’t figure out the hot water yesterday I haven’t given it a whirl yet, but I don’t anticipate a lot of luxurious showers in my future. And in case it wasn’t clear, there is no bath tub. These are not common in Korea.
My kitchen is surprisingly big for a country where it seems to be cheaper to get take out than to cook. I bought a small pizza and a 1.25l of Coke last night for about $6.00 (6000 won). There’s no way I could cook a meal for less than that, especially since meat is more expensive here. But the thing I just noticed about the kitchen last night–no oven. Also not common in Korea.
I have a love affair with the key-less entry system around here. I don’t have keys for either the door to the building or the door to my apartment. It’s just all pass codes. The only thing I have keys for is my mailbox. (I’ll post a picture of this soon–my crappy camera wouldn’t let me take a good picture this morning)
I’m just starting to get over the jet lag so I haven’t spent a lot of time outside, but the school is closed until next Wednesday, so I have a few days to explore. I promise to post some pictures taken outside of my apartment in the very near future! For now, back to sleepies for me.