Did I tell you about that time I moved to Korea?

Yeah, so we’ve established by now that this has happened. But I never actually got to tell you about my trip.

Let’s start with the bit where I had to squeeze my life into two suitcases. I packed only the bare minimum. This involved carefully planning five outfits for work, weekend wear, shoes and toiletries. Oh, and a few Aeros. During all the test runs, we did OK weight-wise, but somewhere along the line it all went wrong. I only realised this when I checked in at the airport and I was 9 kg overweight. Not me, the luggage. My mom generously paid in the R360, as we agreed that there wasn’t anything I could leave behind.

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All my earthly belongings, vacuum packed and ready to go.

So I boarded the plane, all good and ready for this thing. I had a few hours’ layover at Cape Town International, in which time I planned to write my first blog entry, and just chill out before I spent the next day flying to the other side of the world. Ha. So much for keeping it calm. Let me just say that up until this point, I had my emotions in check. But then I arrived at the check-in counter. The attendant very politely informed me that I would have to pay in close to R4 000 to get all 39 kg of stuff onto the plane with me. I was not prepared for this. The next hour or so became a bit of a blur (defense mechanism right there), but I remember my mom arranging for my cousin to come and save the day.

David, Siranne and my Auntie Lynette showed up, armed with black bags and cable ties. I got down to business right there in the food court, throwing out anything that looked like it weighed anything. I squeezed my eyes shut and became ruthless. It was very painful, as everything I packed was an absolute necessity. But such is life, and it couldn’t have been all smooth sailing. I checked in at 30,6 kg, missing 2 pairs of shoes, jeans, work clothes, everything even remotely long-sleeved, and who knows what else. Found out after that my mom had hidden some Lindt chocolates inside my shoes. Oh well. šŸ˜¦

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss one of the items I left behind, but I haven’t died yet, so it’s all good. As soon as I get my first paycheck I’ll have some of my favourite things shipped over. For now, it’s me and the bare wardrobe.

Well after all that drama I boarded the plane. Wow! Wow wow wow! Are there any words to describe the luxury that is Emirates? It felt like walking into a dream. I remember taking in the relaxing music, the fresh smell, the friendly attendants… it was just wow! The seat next to mine was unoccupied, which made me very happy. Two blankets, two pillows, no-one in my personal space. I was ready to spend the next 8 hours in luxurious relaxation. Nothing rushing me, no stress, no packing, just complete relaxation.

Around midnight local time, Ā I had a few hours’ layover at Dubai International. So this is what it feels like to be Tom Hanks a la The Terminal? All this shopping and no money? šŸ™‚ It’s true what they say though – that place never sleeps. It was like peak hour shopping in there. I resisted the urge and made myself comfortable near my boarding gate.

Now this flight was a little more crowded. There were about a million passengersĀ on this slightly smaller plane. Luckily I shared a three-seater row with only one other person. A very hot, very non-English speaking dude from Jordan. He tried making conversation, but at this point I was too tired to try to decipher what he was saying. Which made me feel a littleĀ guilty, given his hotness. I do recall his name being Zed. Or Ned. Or Bed? But he was very attractive. My defense mechanism at this point? We’d hardly left the runway, and I was fast asleep. This was around 3:30 local time.

I was woken up by the sound of someone speaking to me. It was the flight attendant asking me about breakfast. I have no idea what he said and what I replied, but the next moment he disappeared, and returned with a tray he called “other one”. Hmmm… turns out, it was the alternative to the regular breakfast. Rice. And some mystery items. This happened at around 04:30 local time, and I’ve never been one for a 02:30 breakfast, so I was happy to peck on the crackers and fall back asleep. Lunch was about 5 hours later. I recall waking up for that one, but not eating either. Do these people think I’m a time zone adjusting machine?

Yummy three-course meal… with metal cutlery, nogal!

Something to take the edge off. šŸ™‚

I became a little obsessed with tracking our progress on my personal screen.

Snazzy, eh?

Dubai midnight shopping

After a day of flying, and after losing 7 hours of my life, I was finally in Korea. Customs wasn’t half as eventful as I thought it would be. They just took the world’s most unflattering photo of me, to ensure I don’t break the law (I mean, no-one would want a post-18 hours of flying photo to see the light of day ever again).

Somewhere between getting my bags and exchanging my currency, I went out the wrong gate, and couldn’t find my taxi driver. I had the number of my recruiter’s office in Seoul, and was told to call them in case of emergency. So there I was, facing a payphone, coins in hand, and I had no idea what I was doing. How much money do I put in? What are all these extra buttons for? I decided to ask at the information desk, surely they could tell me. I explained my situation to the lady, who looked at me sympathetically, promptly picked up her phone and called the recruiter. She then arranged a spot for me to wait for my taxi driver. And that was my first taste of the amazing service and helpfulness in Korea.

The taxi driver found me, and we walked to his van. Now this was a challenge all on its own! He was walking so fast and I kept losing him; I was terrified that I would start spontaneously following the wrong person. Ah, but it turned out OK and soon we were on the road. As we pulled away, he started yelling at me. All I could make out was ‘sido’ – over and over and over. Turns out he wanted me to put on my seat belt. Done. Sorted. And off we went.

It took about an hour to get to Munsan, an hour of fighting to stay awake (wel all know what I’m like in a car), and being amazed at how different everything looked. No mistaking that I’m in a whole different country! We arrived at my apartment building, where my co-teacher came to meet me.

After getting the grand tour and freshening up, I went out to dinner with my co-teacher and the head teacher. There are many levels in the Ā educational hierarchy. I have no idea yet of who fits in where.

I opted for authentic Korean (so brave on my first night!) and they took me to a galbi restaurant. Galbi is the Korean version of a barbecue, where the meat is cooked at your table. I can understand why it’s every foreigner’s favourite thing! Cooking together broke the ice just enough, and my tummy was full.

An example of a galbi table setting. Meat is cooked in the middle of the table, and there are many side dishes and accompaniments to choose from.

Back home, on my own. On my own! And then theĀ jet lagĀ set in…

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