It’s now 7 AM Sunday, and I just woke up. This trip has gone a lot more smoothly than I expected. Dad and I woke up around 4:30 AM, and we arrived at Denver Int’l at around 6:30 or 7. After saying our goodbyes, I dragged my stuff inside the terminal to the international ticketing line. I checked my bags in with no problem. In fact, the guy behind the counter said that I should have taken more. Oh well. I took my two carry-ons (my briefcase full of books and a suitcase with a pillow in it) to security. Again, I got pulled aside for the security’s special Frisk Deluxe. They did that to me in Atlanta too. It may be because I was on a one-way ticket. This time, I noticed a code “SSSS” on the top of my ticket, which the first guard circled before directing me to the pat-down station. I’d like to figure out what that means.
The flight boarded twenty minutes after I showed up at the gate. Denver to San Francisco. United Airlines offers TV and other entertainment on their flights, but the viewscape over the Rockies was too impressive to peel your eyes off of.
When we arrived in San Francisco, we were herded on a bus to the international gate. This bypassed us having to go through security again, which was backed up at that time of day. Five minutes after we got to the gate for Seoul, they started boarding. Again, window seat. I took out my pillow and some books and prepared for a long grueling flight. It turned out to be not so grueling after all. It was enjoyable.
Initially a Korean teenager sat next to me, but he found a seat near his friends soon after take-off, so I had a free seat next to me the entire flight. Now, I thought the view from Denver to San Francisco was amazing. I was unprepared for the view on this flight. For one thing, it did a pass around the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco’s coastline. We then followed the coast all the way up through Oregon, Washington, and Canada. The sky was clear most of the way. We then went over Alaska, and it has to be one of the most beautiful states. Lots of untouched wilderness.
The lights were lowered in the plane, and everyone had closed their window shades. I was watching some bad movies and tracking our progress on the screen. Seeing that we were even farther north, I thought I’d take a peek outside my window. The ground was so white that the reflection lit up the cabin. The mountains looked like someone had crumpled white paper and laid it on the ground. Then off in the distance, this huge peak stood through the clouds, above all others. Mt. McKinley. The ocean was completely frozen over. The world was a big white nothingness. At points, you could see to the last edge of land before you reach the North Pole.
The food was unique for airplane food. They gave us a meal and regular snack boxes. My meal of beef burgundy came with a fruit salad with a huge hunk of smoked salmon. They’d also give us ramen noodles and hot turkey and cheese sandwiches.
We followed the coast along through Russia and some of China. The frozen sea finally started breaking up when we got to the northern island of Japan. I took a small nap while we flew over the Sea of Japan. We then got to the Korean landmass, mountains against water. We crossed to the other side of the peninsula and turned around for the airport in Incheon. Small mountainous islands sprang out of the water around the airport.
Immigration, baggage pick-up and customs were no problem. Christina found me almost immediately. She brought with her her boyfriend Glen and their friend Chris. Ms. Soo from the school was with them. Glen and Christina took my bags and loaded them in their car. I rode with Ms. Soo in the school’s brightly decorated van to my apartment while Glen and Christina followed.
I was told that Seoul is worth seeing at night. That’s true. Lots of cities of well-lit neon buildings. Seoul has buildings completely covered in choreographed animated neon. Everywhere. I have to get video of this.
I had decided when I boarded the flight to Seoul that I wasn’t going to take a nap. Since I was arriving at 5 PM, I could just keep myself awake and beat jet lag on the first night.
Ms. Soo with everyone in tow showed me my apartment. It’s small but bigger than I expected. The furniture is sparse, but Glen and Christina are going to help me take care of that. They said that Koreans regularly throw out nice furniture. They have this beautiful black lacquer Asian wardrobe and mirror suite as proof of this claim.
Ms. Soo left, and Christina and friends took me out to Bennigan’s. Yep, Bennigan’s. I had been awake for over 24 hours, and it was starting to take affect on me. Slight delerium, disorientation, surrounded by flashing lights. At Bennigan’s the whole staff bowed to us and said “hello” in Korean as we went by. I had my first Korean draft beer, shared a southwestern sampler plate, and ordered a Monte Cristo sandwich for myself. I could barely eat. The room was starting to sway. Christina took me out for some fresh air while she had a cigarette. That sentence doesn’t make much sense, now that I’ve typed it. Anyway, everyone bowed as we went out, and bowed as we went back in. I started feeling a little better.
We packed up our plentiful leftovers and headed for Christina and Glen’s place. They have a much roomier two bedroom apartment. After walking the dog, they laid a mat down for me to sleep on, and it has to be the most comfortable thing for my back that I’ve had in a while. I was kept warm with the Korean floor heating system. In fact, I woke up drenched in sweat.
It’s now my first morning in the “Land of the Morning Calm.” I think I’ve beaten the jet lag in one night. I have a big day ahead of me, learning how to survive here and getting set up before class Monday morning.
So far, so good.