Tuesday, 2/17/2009; 10:10 am
So it is finally happening. The arrival to the airport was nearly painless. After getting my bags checked in and saying goodbye to my parents, I went through security check with little fanfare other than the fact that my toothpaste was more than the required 3.4 oz. rule. It is rather surreal that I'm finally at O'Hare Airport within two hours of takeoff. I'll be going non-stop to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan, and arrive there at 4:15 pm Korean Time. This is certainly a flight that I'm hardly ever used to. I am dreading the fact that I'll be on a plane for an entire day, but more the fact that I can never sleep on a plane and the goofy time zone that I must adjust to. I am eager to see the "culture shock" and see the gluttony of foreign signs,and cultural interaction between travellers. The minute that I land in Korea, I'll find myself scurring over through customs, claim my baggages, exchange my money, and head over to an Internet cafe. I am uneasy with the fact that I'm carrying more than I need, but it's a result of my size and the high cost of shipping.
Though I don't plan on reserving a hotel/hostel, I am fairly certain that I will not be able to sleep overnight due to jet lag and over-anxiousness. I am supposed to stop by at EPIK early in the morning, and take a shuttle bus to Dankook University in Chungnam. I am a little emotional in some ways. I never thought it would be difficult to say goodbye to my family, let alone my friends. I received an overwhelming number of support from people, even from those that I've lost contact with. I am incredibly grateful to have lived this kind of life, and be afforded the luxuries and blessings that I've been given. Though my parents may drive me crazy, I know deep down that they have continued to do their best to help me out, and support me despite my pig-headedness. Now, I am less than 20 minutes away from boarding. Before you know it, I'm leaving the home I love, if only just for a little bit.
2/17/2009 12:15 pm
Plane has just taken off. Tears are starting to burn my eyes a bit. Apparently, they mentioned the the flight may arrive early than expected. After all, anytime you can shorten a flight that's about 14 hours long is welcome by me in my book. Last night, as I was saying goodbye to my friends, I happened to hear from my old friend Dave Gavin whom I worked with years ago at the center. He informed that he was also headed to Korea that week. So, I am undeniably happy that I have the opportunity to re-establish our friendship, and have someone to hang out with over there. I can only hope that I will gain some new friends, build my network, earn the respect from my school, my students, and the EPIK program, and my personal independence from this experience. Chances are it's very likely it'll happen. I also hope I won't run into a myriad of problems that other teachers have faced. Other goals that stand out include learning how to cook, travel throughout Korea, and if possible, in parts of Asia, learn the language and culture, and be a good English teacher.
As I'm watching the Chicago skyline disappear from my view, I cannot help but think how long that process had been to teach overseas. I am glad that I have had the courage to pull this off, and hopefully have the opportunity to be a host to my loved ones, and perhaps resurrect my career goals and ambitions that have been, if lack for a better word, knocked into a vegetative state.
2/18/2009; 8:15 am
I've been on the plane for about 5 hours now, and the day has gone by fairly quickly, yet the plane ride is an eternity. Right now, my plane is crossing through Sarah Palin land, and I'm looking at the majestic snow-covered mountains that permeate most of Alaska, specifically in Juneau. I have several more hours till I reach Tokyo. I have yet to fall asleep on the plane, and sadly, I don't think I can make myself sleep if I wanted to. The food is well...your typical airline food. Microwaved chicken with artificial teriyaki sauce and egg noodles to go along with a small oatmeal cookie, bread and butter, and a small salad with sesame vinegar sauce. Right now, I'm hearing Madonna's "Holiday" through United Airlines' "XM radio" channel. Life is good.
About 10 hours into the flight, I seemingly feel that I just wasted a day, perhaps even two with the time zone change, that should be productive, I feel like I've already been away from Chicago for a year with this flight. However, this flight has been, for the most part, smooth and successful. However, I stopped listening to XM radio because they were playing their songs on repeat. The movies that they were showing, I could not find the channel it was on through my headphones. I am eager to see Narita, and have my true taste of stepping on foreign land (besides Canada). The sad part is, I have a short layover that I may not be able to get a stickin souvenir from there. Plus, I have to fly to Incheon from Tokyo for another 3 hours.
The rest of the day:
My plane finally reached Narita Airport after being delayed for several minutes, and everyone had to go through customs to reach their connecting flight. I must say Japan's airport is beautiful. I barely had any time; in fact, I only had an hour before the next boarding flight. So, I was off and taking rapid pictures. I can only wish I stayed there long enough to try the food, get a souvenir, and soak in the atmosphere for a little bit. Japan, I hardly knew ya, but I hold hopes of being able to make that trip during my stay in Korea.
When I was getting set for the next flight, I ran into a lady that will be teaching in a private language school in Incheon. Her name was Jacqueline, and she came from Gary, Indiana (close to Chicago) and had worked as a travel agent for years. We had talked throughout the entire plane ride about our goals, and hopefully be able to visit each other when time permits. It was 9:15 pm when my flight landed in Incheon. The airport is stunningly beautiful. There were English signs to go along with thei Korean language. I went with Jacqueline to get our luggages, and she had a bit of trouble going down the escalator with her carry-ons. At one point, her stuff dropped, and it caused everyone behind her to push into each other. A little comical to say the least. We took the subway to reach our baggage claim, and I'll tell you this much; their airport subway is amazingly clean and efficient, however, it was packed with so many people that it makes a Chicago CTA rush hour seem like a ghost town. We then parted ways, and we exchanged money at the currency. The Korean Won has recently been going down, so I was able to get a lot of money in return with my USD. However, this will make it tough for me to bring back more money when I come back home, so I'm keeping my fingers cross that the Korean won will not slide any further. I rented a cell phone, and even their cheapest rent-a-phones are actually still advanced than the standard phones in the US. I also came to the conclusion that staying overnight at an airport would be a ridiculous idea, especially when I realized that I started to reek, and that I cannot be in the same clothes that I've been wearing on my flight. I was lucky enough to find a hotel courtesty of the airport information desk. The hotel service picked me up within minutes for FREE, and took me to Incheon Airport Hotel which was about 15 minutes. During that ride, the highways are very similar to Chicago, and very westernized.
The ride was peaceful and surreal. I am actually going to be living in this country. The hotel that I'm staying in is terrific. Heated floors, huge shower room, TV, free coffee, water fountain, internet access, and a good bed to sleep in. However, the toilet is very goofy. I pressed the left button to "Start" after finishing what I needed to do. Next thing you know. The ceiling rained on me, and I was all wet from it. Well I'll leave you guys with a laugh on this one, but I have more to look forward to, and I couldn't be any more excited. Peace out!