The Asiana flight, all 13 hours of it, was pretty fantastic. United needs to take some notes. I was constantly fed, given slippers within the first 5 minutes in the air, and had an impressive selection of movies/music to entertain me. Needless to say, I was pleased.
I was seated next to this woman likely to be in the 65-80 range, more towards the latter if I was guessing, and this woman is all Korean. No westernization here. She obviously doesn’t know a word of English which is fine because I don’t know a word of Korean. Her clothes were 14 different kinds of mismatched and by the time I found my seat she already had her bright pink tennis shoes kicked off revealing her knee highs firmly planted at the ankles. Language barrier or not, I knew right away that we were going to have a lovely flight together.
The first meal they serve I had my choice of steak & potatoes or bibimbap, a traditional vegetarian Korean dish. I chose the bibimbap because I’ve heard wonderful things about it and I am headed to Korea after all. It’s served in multiple dishes that you have to mix together and add hot pepper paste and sesame oil to your taste. I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of this woman so I casually sat and drank my chardonnay as she taught me what I was supposed to do with all these dishes in front of me. Also in the meal was kimchi (not a fan), fresh fruit, soup, and a fish thing. I made it a point to eat a little bit of everything.
The fish thing. On initial inspection I thought it might be some sort of sprouts, root something, some kind of vegetable part. On closer inspection I notice that each “sprout” had eyes and that metallic glow that only fish can pull off without making people suspicious. Being the little trouper that I am, I ate it. Well, three bites of it. I think that counts as a valid attempt here. Imagine your child’s goldfish does a backflip out of his bowl. Now imagine that three days later you find this goldfish dried out and stinky. Now eat it. yum.
After lunch/dinner/whatever it was, my lovely seat companion decides that she wants to watch the movies that everyone else is enjoying. I think this woman has likely NEVER seen a touch screen. Maybe not even a computer for that matter. Without a single word spoken, my screen in English, her screen in Korean, I am able to teach her how to use it. How to filter through all the menu’s to get exactly what she wants to watch. That was pretty cool.
Anytime she needed to get up she simply smacked me. Whether I was sleeping, watching a movie, writing, didn’t matter. Smack! and a quick hand gesture up to say “move it”. I really liked her. At the end of the flight she tried to tell me something in Korean but eventually gave in to using gestures instead of words. She pointed to herself, “Korean”, then pointed to me, “American”. Then she crossed two fingers, one from each hand, and then put her hand over her heart and smiled. Then giggled. I think she was saying something very nice.
All 23 hours of flight we had daylight. I guess that’s part of traveling west, but it felt like we were chasing daylight. (good book by the way.) The sun was setting as we arrived in Seoul but yet it was a whole day later.
Anna and I met up again after we got off the plane in Seoul. Customs/immigration/animal quarantine/baggage claim/currency exchange/oh my. We helped each other through it and got our baggage fairly quickly. She helped me tremendously when it came time to get Charlie and all the paperwork that had to be filed. We got divided at customs but I am so grateful she was there for the rest of it.
Once I had everything collected I walk out and immediately see a man holding a sign with my name. Sigh of relief. Then he saw Charlie. Uh-oh. Apparently my recruiter missed that small detail with him and he was not pleased. Thankfully he was just an airport “get me on the right bus” greeter and not affiliated with my school. My bus had just left so it was going to be another hour before the next one came. After talking with my school he got Charles and I set up in a taxi. A three hour taxi ride. We slept most the way, arrived at my school around 11pm and were greeted by my director and fellow teachers. The teaching hours are 4-11pm so they were just finishing up. They helped me haul my stuff up to my apartment, I made the bed, and Charles and I went to sleep. It had been a very long day.
First impression - This country is amazingly beautiful, kind, and helpful. I think people here want to help you. That’s a new concept.