Monday, December 14, 2009

First Impressions

This is my first post actually written in Korea! First off, I would like to highly recommend to you all that you try flying an airline from a non bankrupt country. This flight was seriously all you could hope for in a plane ride. The 13 hour flight from LAX to Seoul did feel like a little bit of forever, but it was surprisingly tolerable. Each seat came with a touch screen TV loaded with around 15 new ish release movies for your viewing, time killing pleasure. Super spicy Korean food was passed out probably 3 times during the ride and free wine and beer was distributed frequently. I left LAX at 11AM on Friday and arrived in Seoul at 6 PM on Saturday. Though the time difference means I technically lost a day, I experienced absolutely no jetlag because I was able to pass out around 10 when I got to my new apartment.

Korean people are seriously the nicest most welcoming people I have ever met. I made two Korean friends before I even got through security in LA. They were very friendly and outgoing and asked for my contact information after only 5 minutes of talking. I am not at all worried about making friends here.

When I landed in Seoul I had no idea what to expect. I made it through customs and discovered a cab driver, Mr. Joe, waiting outside holding a sign with my name on it. Mr. Joe spoke no English and was not able to tell me where we were going, so I followed him to the cab still wondering what was going on. This experience was the funniest possible welcome to Korea. I am not used to sitting in silence so I attempted to make small talk, but after realizing that there was no hope for communication, I gave up and we sat in silence for the hour long drive.

If nearly everyone else on the road weren't driving the exact same way, I would have guessed that Mr. Joe was drunk. Though there were lines painted down the road seperating lanes, Mr. Joe and many other drivers happily cruised down the middle. When he noticed that a toll booth was coming up he quickly slammed on his breaks in the middle of the freeway to look for fare. In the US this would naturally cause squealing breaks all around and a symphony of car horns, but other drivers either swerved passed or followed his lead and slammed on their own breaks to find change. We drove along the Incheon bridge which is the longest bridge I have ever seen. For over 20 minutes we were driving along this massive bridge over the West sea, enjoying the never ending view of skyscrapers, neon city lights and mountains rising up out of the water. Unlike US cities with a main downtown area and sprawling suburbs, here the city does not end.

When we were finally driving in downtown Suwon, Mr. Joe seemed offended that I gasped as he ran into a young female pedestrian. I honestly seemed more shocked than the young woman, who simply took two steps back and allowed us to continue on our way. The cautious pedestrians seemed fully prepared to be run down at any moment, and drivers drove with the composure of a 7 year old in a bumper car. Though it all seemed very chaotic, I witnessed no car accidents and heard no honking the entire ride.

We pulled in front of a building, which I soon discovered was my new home, and were met by my manager Jenny and an English teacher from New York. Both were ready to take me out and show me the sites of Suwon, but thankfully recognized that my 26 hour journey wasn't conducive to a night on the town. I quickly fell asleep in my tiny apartment (details to follow), tired and happy to finally be in South Korea.

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This is one of the main streets in my area of Suwon, the very same street where we ran into the pedestrian. Notice that there is a sign that advertises a "sexy bar." I have been told that these are bars run by ish mobsters where you can ring a bell and they will bring in a line of women for you to pick from. You choose who you would like to talk to, and if you ever get bored, they will send her away and bring in a new young woman. Sexy Bars are not a place to go have sex, but it sounds like frequently clientele will make special outside arrangments with the women that they meet here. This is just a small example of some of some kind really messed up things that Korean women are subjected to here.

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