Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Korea

Friday was another day of walking, starting out with a half bus ride to the Korean Embassy. Unfortunately, I got a little scared and thought the bus was going the wrong way and jumped off only to realize that I was, in fact, on the right bus. Mai pen rai. Instead, I walked the second half of the trip and enjoyed looking around at the city for my last day in Thailand. I was able to walk under the super highway, which gave me shade and a glimpse of the side streets. After picking up my visa, which I still cannot believe worked out, I went over to the department store Robinson for a quick lunch of rice with spicy sauce. I’m going to miss Thai food. The walk back was pleasant as well, and ended with a visit to the Dairy Queen in Tesco for the smallest and most delicious blizzard of my life. In total, I probably walked some 12 miles to pick up my visa, but it made the entire move to Korea possible.
Friday night I was keeping my life very quiet, just some reading, when I got a message on Facebook that Nick, Andy, and Chloe were on the same road as I to spend the night before their flights in the morning. Having spent a rather large amount of time by myself, I ran from my room to find them, grab dinner, and enjoy our last night in Thailand. The next morning I woke up, headed to the airport after lunch, and said goodbye to Andy, who was doing a different program in Korea.
Nothing interesting happened at the airport till check-in. I was nervous that my baggage was going to go over allowance. Although it was fine from the states across the Pacific, I was worried different requirements would exist from Thailand to South Korea. They did. Resigned to pay the two hundred dollars to get my extra baggage to SK, I took out my wallet to get my credit card. Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed that my debit card was missing. Immediately I was in panic. I tried to pay with my credit card, but it didn’t go through. I felt like I was going to throw up and asked if there was anything I could do. My luggage weighed 44 kilos, which was 24 kilos too much. Luckily, the guy was nice enough to let me bring 32 kilos, but I had to somehow get rid of 12 kilos. I dug through all my luggage in the airport, throwing things away (such as my GRE test book, which made me really sad, a couple of pairs of shoes, and other random books and things). If it could be any worse, everyone at the airport just stared at me. In my moment of embarrassment, I wasn’t even allowed any semblance of privacy. When I did finally get it down to 32 kilos, the guy actually let me put in 2 more kilos in the form of my sandals and tennis shoes, and let me go. In my haste, I dropped my CD player, and a young Thai woman picked it up as well as the batteries, handed it to me, and called me crazy. I have never felt so angry, upset, and stupid as a traveler in a foreign country.
Soon, however, I was on the plane and on my way to Beijing. Although it was the red eye, I didn’t get much sleep. In Beijing, they were carefully screening for H1N1, but I feel completely healthy and went right on through. On the second leg, I was sitting to a nice guy from Katerinabad (or something like that), Russia, who actually helped me through all the processes in getting my stuff figured out in Korea, since he has worked here for seven years! At the airport, I met up with Korvia (my recruiter) and after a two hour wait, they brought us to Soowon which is in the GyeongGi province that surrounds Seoul. For five days we will be at this center within the university here, where they will teach us as well as give us medical exams. Orientation starts tomorrow, but I already have had the fortune to meet up with my friends from the ATI program and meet some new individuals. This program, however, has 300 participants, so I do not know if any lasting friendships can stem out of the short week in Soowon. In short, I’m safe in Korea and waiting for my placement and my school.

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