It never really hit me that I was going, normally when I go on a trip I get super nervous, what if I miss my flight, blah blah, but here it was just ok yeah whatever here I go. Then when I posted on my blog that I was going, it hit me. I was going to Korea! For no reason! Alright!
So here's a picture I took as I was nervously waiting for my flight to board in the Sendai airport. It's a video about not buying counterfeit goods when you go abroad, because that's the same as sneaking into their mind and stealing their private thoughts! Oh, no! But they had this dog explaining all the moral and ethical implications to a couple of Japanese girls, and he made them very very sad because they had been so happy before about getting cheap Louis Vuitton bags. I saw about 10 of those just waiting for them to stamp my passport in Seoul. I have a Korean stamp now! Yay!
Here is the swanky Dunkin Donuts right by the hostel, with some hostel peeps. L to R, Sweden, America, and Germany. We were on the 3rd floor, and there was even a conference room behind us.
There was a dumpling place right down the street from the hostel, and because none of us understood how to order food we ate here a few times. The Korean lady was no nonsense, and she taught me the word for water.
Here are the dumplings being steamed.
The entrance to Changgyeonggung Castle. I swear, everywhere I went all I heard was "sing song sung." All the syllables sound the same to me. Is that racist?
I really liked the way this hallway was painted.
This was the, uh, taesil. How pretty.
When Vanessa got to the hostel, I was so freaking hungry because it was 4 and I had slept all day from being out all night before, and hadn't eaten yet, so I went with her to get some noodles, and then we went back to the hostel and hung out with Elizabeth who arrived at almost exactly the same time. Then I was all out of it and loopy because I hadn't had any food, and stayed that way the rest of the day. But anyways, the hostel owner took us to this delicious chicken joint for dinner because even after my cup noodles we were all hungry still. This chicken was so spicy!! And there was a little metal bucket on the table where you were supposed to put the bones. Even though that was there, the hostel guy still had hardly any on his plate. We were impressed. In the wooden bowl is popcorn stuff, the white bowl were radish cubes, the oval was salad with barbeque dressing, and those are also some sauces there. So spicy. I miss Korean food. Japanese is really bland in comparison.
Elizabeth and Vanessa!
Street food in Insadong, the traditional/touristy area. I wish I had eaten more of it. When I got back everyone asked me how the street food was, and I hadn't even known Korea was known for it! If I had I would have had so much.
Also about Insadong, I know Vanessa wrote about this too, but there were so many old men! When we were looking at the map in the subway station, about three or four of them were just standing there about a foot away (which is very close!), not saying anything to us, just watching us be incredibly confused. Then when we asked a bunch of them crowded around us to help. I think we had maybe ten people help us find the right exit, it seemed like. They just kept on gathering like a snowball. Here on the street a bunch of them were crowded around looking at something. We had no idea what.
This is in the tea shop where they had real birds flying around, as Vanessa wrote in her blog. Little rice crackers in the middle. Vanessa had hot plum tea, and I had cold pear tea. Elizabeth had water. Boo! But the tea tasted like candy.
I just realized how many of the pictures are with food. Whoops!
So then after about 5 days there, it was time to go home. We realized that Vanessa lived in the same part of town of someone else I knew in Seoul, which was really weird, and that I had been to her favorite bar my first night in town. Crazy! So we all went to that part and hung out the last night, and it was surreal how my San Antonio, Earlham, and Japan lives were all colliding with each other. On the way back to the hostel, I had to go to the bathroom sosososososo bad. I had Elizabeth squeeze my hand really tight and blabber the whole time to distract me. It was awful. Then I set two alarms and went to bed.
When I woke up it was 8:42. Neither of us had heard the alarms, either one of them. Which was weird, because there was another person sleeping in our room, but she was gone when we woke up. Did she hear them? Dunno. I had wanted to leave the hostel at 7 or so to catch my flight, and I knew I was going to miss it. The airport was about an hour away! Elizabeth suggested I call the airline on the bus to the airport, and I tried ten times, but it was busy every time. So then I called Vanessa, but the airline's website was down or something. Agh! Also, on the bus, they had the news on, and they kept on showing a video of a plane crash. I saw the word "Narita" but I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn't care, it wasn't immediately relevant to me. I hoped. I got to the airport ten minutes after my plane had taken off, ran downstairs to return my rental phone, and ran back upstairs. Then I found the airline counter and realized there were about six aisles, all labeled differently. Which one to go to?? Instead of going to the check in counter, I went to ticket services, because there was no line. I was freaking out. I told them I missed my flight, and they said that because it had been booked through a travel agency and was discount, it was non-changeable and they couldn't put me on another flight for free. Are you serious?? Also, all flights for Sendai were over for the day, so I would have to go through Tokyo Narita, and catch a train 336 miles back to Morioka. Then they told me I would have to pay 381,000 won ($300). All I had left was 20,000 yen ($200) that I hadn't changed, so that was no help. I gave them my dad's credit card (oh, no!) and prayed it would go through. It did! (Angels singing) Then when they were processing it, the ticket agent gave me some tissues. She was really nice about the whole thing, and was actually very helpful, considering that was the best she could do. She had the pained look on her face you get when you watch someone cry because you feel sorry for them. Ha.
So then the flight they put me on left in 45 minutes, and I skipped ahead to the check in counter, ran to security, accidentally tried to go in the crew entrance, ran to customs, accidentally tried to go in the Korean citizen's entrance, ran to McDonalds because I was hungry and I had 5 minutes before the boarding deadline, and ran onto the plane. When I got in my seat I took a deep breath.
Got off the plane, it was 2, I had to be at a work function in 4 hours! That was the condition that I could take that Monday off, if I went to the farewell party afterwards for the teachers who were going to different schools. Crap.
I went to the train to take me to Tokyo ($30), and tried to buy a ticket to Morioka. They told me that there was no time to buy a ticket then, and to buy one in Tokyo. There was a sign that said there were really high winds so all the trains were being delayed. Great. So I got my Tokyo ticket, and they told me not to even swipe it through the machine, just run onto the train because they didn't know when the next one was coming because of the winds.* The train to Tokyo kept on stopping on the tracks in the middle of the countryside, even though I couldn't see any wind in the trees.
*Just so you know, the Japanese love protocol. They love it. You always have to follow the rules. Another ALT here said that for some reason his school told the kids they shouldn't ride their bikes on the sidewalks, so even in the winter they would ride their bikes in the streets, and he saw a few of them fall on fairly major roads, in front of cars even. So they always follow the rules. (Good country for me, right Daddy!) So even something as minor as them telling me not to swipe my ticket was an indicator of how messed up the train lines were.
Then I got to Tokyo and tried to buy a ticket to Morioka ($130), but because my other ticket hadn't been swiped, they were really confused, so it took a while for them to figure out how to process it. I got on the bullet train, called my teacher to tell her I was going to be late, and asked if I could wear jeans. She groaned.
I was supposed to get into Sendai at 12, go home on a $25 bus, take a shower, change into fancy clothes, and unpack and go to the party. Instead I walked in half an hour late with my luggage, no makeup, in jeans, and incredibly frazzled. And I forgot my Japanese after a week in Korea.
This was all on par with the time Jennifer and I were flying from Chicago to New York and the train kept on stopping on the way to the airport and we had to get another flight and they told her she couldn't bring Tiggy and then the dog ran around in security. Great memories, sister!
Anyways, I know that most of the post was about the return trip home. Honestly although Korea was really fun, this was the most impactful part. Now I'm $460 poorer just because of the return trip, though. Poo.
Oh, and the plane crash? Apparently there had been one that morning! Because of the wind! But I was in the middle of the aisle, and couldn't look out the window to see the wreckage on the runway even if I had been looking for it. Did you guys hear about it much over there in the States? It was the first fatal crash at Narita, I think.
Anyways, I have to work on Saturday, and until then is boring boring everyday at work because the kids aren't there. Today one of the teachers gave me binders to fill and label and I was so happy. Saturday is the entrance ceremony, and then I'm going with a bunch of my friends to spend the night at an onsen. Hooray Japan!
Here's a picture of my favorite one so far.
The wooden stuff on the right is a little place where the boys and girls are seperated by a tiny low rock wall so they can hang out together. And, look at me, I took a video. The laugh at the beginning is loud, but at the end you can hear Rylan say "Hi Kim's mom." but that part is kinda quiet. Tee hee!
I'm not even going to proofread this post.