Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Journeying West

SFO to Seoul

I arrived at SFO at 9AM ready for the 19 hours of travel in front of me. Sort of the longest flight I have ever taken was going from SFO to Munich which is around 10 hours long. SFO to Seoul takes about twelve to thirteen hours.  Everything went smoothly at SFO, the airport was not busy at all we quickly checked our luggage and went through security with enough time to grab some food. We flew Asiana Air which is one of the two major airlines in Korea.  The trip was to Seoul was smooth but horribly long. The entertainment system boasted a plethora of Korean dramas and probably a good 40 hours of golf footages. The on demand selection of “American Pop” featured mostly 80s classics such as Culture Club, Duran Duran, Kansas and A-Ha. Although most of those bands are not American, the synthy 80s feel was the perfect soundtrack to the slow decent into madness that a 12 hour journey inevitably brings. However to calm yourself down they do have the incredible album “Men Playing Piano” which features a collection of piano pieces... played by men. Being on an airplane for that long is very surreal. They have everyone close the blinds to simulate night but we are literally chasing the sun, it was constantly sunny outside and whenever anyone would open the window. The light would pierce in through the darkness and shatter the illusion of night. For the majority of the flight I watched movies like “Cowboys and Aliens” because I wanted to preserve my purgatory-like mind state of being only half cognizant. Trust me if you want to feel like a post-op lobotomy patient watching “Cowboys and Aliens” will do the trick.

Seoul to Jeju

We landed in Seoul about 20 minutes late around 5:10 in the afternoon. By the time the flight ended the dry air had gotten to me and I felt like I was on the verge of getting a bloody nose. When we got off the plane we were hit with hot muggy air. I liked how the weather contrasted so greatly with the plane. It really made me feel like I was in a foreign land. My excitement with finally arriving in Korea was short lived however as we had to get to our connecting flight to Jeju at 7. However we still had to go through customs and immigration and recheck our bags, even though our connecting flight was on the same airline. When we get off the flight and queue up in the immigration and customs line Professor McCuan joked “You should never follow me I always pick the slow line”, we all chuckle until we realize that he was right and our current line was moving aggravatingly slow. At this point I don’t have a watch and time has no meaning to me having been sitting for 12 hours without any outside cues to clueing me into the passage of time. But apparently we were in line for about 40 minutes before we got through.  They took a photo of us and our fingerprints and we were off to get our luggage. Ethan had switched to the other line having seen how slow ours was moving so he got through first and went to grab our luggage. He only just got there in time, they were about to cart all of our luggage off to unclaimed baggage. We grabbed our bags and tried to find the Asiana domestic gate. We soon realized that we were still in the international area of the airport Gate “F” and we needed to Gate “A”. So we hauled our asses through the Seoul airport. It was like 80 degrees in the airport and so we just half walked half ran through the sea of travelers, strategically weaving our way around slow walkers trying not to run into anyone. We checked in quickly went through security and then we were finally where we were supposed to be with twenty minutes to spare. We saw a group of other Americans in the waiting area of the terminal and turns out that they were students from Delaware State University in Dover who were also going to the International Summer School at Jeju. The flight from Seoul to Jeju was only about an hour and by that point I was straight up loopy. I was giggling as I made inane statements and just saying straight up silliness to my fellow travellers.

We landed in Jeju around 9PM Sunday. When we got off the plane did not go through the usual moveable hall like thing that is common on international flights, rather we walked off the plane directly onto the tarmac.  As soon as we got off we were engulfed in a heavy mist like rain. Wind and warm mist was hitting us from all directions as the idling engine growled next to us. I was just amazed that I was finally there. The airport seemed to have an orange glow surrounding, and being pummeled by water energized me enough to wake me up from my zombie like state.  Right as we reached the luggage carousel Professor McCuan spotted one of the officials who had interviewed him for the teaching position. A younger man dressed in a sport coat and jeans he introduced himself as Ko and told us that he would be the official responsible for our stay at Jeju. He directed us to the airport parking lot where a bus waited to take us to the University. On the ride there Ko whipped out a few bags of Korean snacks and encouraged us to take as much as we wanted. I took a sweet pastry thing with cheese and sausage and a box of drinkable apple yogurt which was delicious. The ride lasted probably about 30 minutes, again I cannot say for sure because at that point I had no sense of time.  During the ride Ko gave us an incredibly informative rundown on the island and the school. When we got to our dorms we were given our keys and were told that we didn’t have a Korean roommate but instead would room with one another. I was relieved, I was in no state to meet a new roommate and get settled in, I just wanted to shower and try to get as much sleep before the 8AM tour of campus the next morning.  As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. 20 hours of travel and I was finally at my destination and it felt so good.

View from outside of our dorm

Inside of the dorm room. Most exciting photo ever.

Down the street from our dorm 
The next post I will detail the classroom environment and some fun and interesting stories of communication and cultural norms.


  1. |The flight from Seoul to Jeju was only about an |hour and by that point I was straight up loopy.


  2. This is so interesting to read. Excellent!

  3. Great description of the plane flight. It's amazing how a machine will travel at 500mph for 10+ hours to get to a destination. Speaks to how big the world really is. If you really wanted to go insane, you would listen to "take on me" on repeat. Or just anything from the Talking Heads.