Sunday, March 16, 2008

South Korea

I am now sitting in my hotel in Seoul, using the free internet access in my hotel room. I'm not gonna lie, I was scared. First, I was worried that leaving Vladivostock, they would freak out about my registration (or lack thereof) and pack me straight back to the states. I need not have worried. When I went through passport control on the way out of Vladivostok the lady asked to see my passport, and my immigration card. She stamped both, and it was all good. No problems, no questions asked, and I didn't even have to pay anything like the lady at the travel agency told me. I got on and ready to fly, and breathed a sigh of relief for a bit. Getting out of the country was the first hurdle. I wanted a break before the next one which was landing and figuring out how to call my hotel to send a car to pick me up.

I would just like to say that God must have heard all of those prayers I was desperately praying on the way to the airport this morning because so far, he's done an awesome job of making this trip go smoothly. (slava tebye Gospod!) The flight itself was nice. I love Russian airlines because even when the flight is fairly short, they serve you "tea" which if you've read my other posts, you know that it's not just gonna be tea. It was great.

It's funny the way things work out. I didn't really talk to the russian girl sitting next to me, but as the plane landed she made a call on her cell and started jabbering away in Korean. Well, that's interesting. Once inside the airport, I had no idea where to go for customs and immigration and all. So I did the smart thing. I followed the girl. ha ha ha. I'm so proud of myself. Anyway, I made it through immigration without any hitch. Then I had to figure out where to go next. There was a big board in front of me, mostly in korean and I had no idea what it said. The girl showed me this number on her ticket stub and in Russian I'm like "I have no idea, I don't have baggage." She seemed rather taken aback. "You study Russian?" she asked. "yeah" I was very proud of myself. She probably thought I didn't know Russian because I had some slight understanding problems with the woman on the plane and the immigration cards. Anyway, the girl said she'd help me, and as we headed to the baggage claim, I explained that I was living in Russia in order to study russian. I found out that she is a student here in Korea and is studying korean. I explained that I had a room reserved at a hotel but that I had to find a way to call so they'd send a car. She very kindly let me use her cell phone.

After trying to talk to the girl at the hotel in English with limited success, I handed the phone to my "new friend" and she jabbered away in Korean for a few minutes. When she got off the phone she told me exactly where I needed to go. In russian. Which was very impressive to me. No english needed. Yeah, it's the international language, but it still helps to know one or two others. :)

After thanking the girl, I headed out on my own to try to find the taxi. (Third floor, exit number 10.) The first thing I saw as I came to the top of the escalator on the third floor was a clearly labeled English sign "BURGER KING" I loved this country already. If I hadn't had a taxi to meet, and had changed some money, I would've stopped. As it was, I didn't. I found the exit with no problem and then waited nervously for the taxi.

I never had any previous interest in learning Korean, or any other aisiatic language for that matter. Being here has changed that completely. Not because I particularly like Korean, but because if I new any korean at all, it would make things ten times easier. language, even basic is communication. Completely being unable to communicate with the people around you is a scary feeling.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long or look to hard for the taxi. It showed up with the words Hotel June across the side. The little Korean guy opened the door for me, I hopped in and off we went. When we got to the hotel, I hopped out and checked in. Thankfully, they accept plastic here so I just paid for my room with that. (Mom and dad, that's where part of the money's going)They gave me a key and I made my way to my room.

I'm not gonna lie. For $100 this is a nice room. I started freaking out as soon as I came in. There's a little entrace way with a couple of pairs of sandles. Everything I'd ever read about the exchange students in asian countries came back into my head. Being the culturally aware person that I am (ha) I took off my shoes and put on the sandles. I then explored my room.

It's pretty big. To turn on the main lights you have to put your key in this little slot. Your room speaks korean to you and then lights up. Gotta love these high-tech asian countries. There's a panel with buttons next to the bathroom which turn on various lights. There's a good sized TV. The best part is the bathroom. There's a really big tub with like jet sprays. On top of that you have the toilet. If you haven't heard about asian super toilets, now's the time. On a panel next to the toilet are a variety of buttons labeled in English. The lables include such things as "Massage" "Front cleansing" "Back cleansing" "Water temperature" "Seat Temperature" "Stop" and "water pressure." I fully intened to play with both the shower and the super toilet (Why not? I'm only here for one night and who knows if/when I'll be back) as soon as I finish eating my undeclared apple and writing this blog entry. Oh, incidentally, there's a separate pair of slippers for the bathroom.

I didn't go anywhere, which I feel slightly bad about, but I don't have any korean won (?) and I don't know where to change it and it felt kind of pointless to change money when I was going to be here less than 24-hrs. And now it's dark, and I don't dare go out alone in a strange foreign country at night. So maybe I wasted my time here, writing this blog entry and playing with the techno hotel room, but when you don't have a ton of time to begin with, what are you gonna do?

I'm so glad that these hurdles are overwith. Next step, getting back into Russia.

Oh and one more thing. It felt weird to be using english with the lady at the desk. Being here I feel more Russian than American, but maybe that has to do with the fact that I flew from Russia and am going back there. As well as the fact that I've been living there for a good seven months.

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