27 February 2007

Korea, first few days

I am here! I am sitting at my new desk in my new room at Soon Chun Hyang University. I am alone in my suite and my bed is the only one out of twelve that will be slept in tonight. It is dark and quiet and well... REALLY nice. All of the Korean students don't have to be here until Monday, so we are on our own for a little bit. I am loving being able to set up my stuff and organize before my roomies come. I think they would have been overwhelmed at the initial sight of my luggage...

Speaking of luggage, let me start at the beginning. I packed my bags with the help of a small army of dear friends (thanks guys!). I brought two HEAVY checked pieces of luggage plus my carry-ons, which were full to the brim! I have since found almost everything I was told that Korea didn't have, at the campus sundries shop. Yeah they have deodorant, and tampons, and bleach-free lotion and almost everything else one could need! So I over packed, but I haven't had to buy anything except hangers, pushpins and food. After packing I lugged my stuff onto an Alaska flight and had to pay overweight fees for my larger bag. My flight was delayed and my sister and her boyfriend Wes graciously picked me up in the middle of the night. My larger bag that was already too full started falling apart while we put it into Wes's trunk. Uh oh! I prayed for one of those giant saran-wrapping stations at the airport in the morning ... or I didn't know what I could do! (For those of you who haven't seen them, you give your bag to a nice man who basically covers it completely in Saran Wrap and makes it look like a plastic covered burrito.)

I stayed Saturday night with Amy and Wes, I used their sofa bed and Amy cooked for me in the morning. She even sent me off with a tangerine for the road! (thanks guys!) While Amy was cooking I went out to the car to try and make a miracle happen and remove the four extra pounds from the larger bag and fit them into the smaller checked bag and my carry-ons. Please remember, at this point, that ALL of my luggage had to be sat on to zip shut... So I am really talking about a miracle! On the streets of San Fran I performed surgery on the bag, duct taping the heck out of it, and pulling out the heaviest things that were closest to the top. I gave a few things away to Amy and shoved the others where I could. All of the work was worth it! I was two pounds under the weight limit by the end. YEAH! Oh yeah AND there was a Saran Wrap man at the airport, so his plastic magic held my bag together until I unpacked it here.

My flight from San Francisco to Seoul was nice. I flew Singapore Airlines and I highly recommend them. I thought the flight was going to be 15 hours long, so imagine my surprise when we landed eleven hours after taking off. I had to find a KFC in the airport after going through customs (No I did NOT have a craving Nick!) to meet up with the rest of our group. Quite a few of the students were on my flight and a great number are from California. We lugged all of our stuff on a bus and rode for a few hours to Asan. I was exhausted but ended up sitting next to a nice but very talkative Australian named Ray (with his accent I kept thinking he was named Rye, perhaps named after my favorite bread). He kept me up the whole ride, but I learned a lot about him and Australia.

The bus dropped us off in Asan and we thought we would take taxis... But I was not the only one who over packed! So a shuttle was called from the campus and we loaded a van with people and a flatbed truck with luggage. Our assistant in all of this was a Korean named Kim. He is adorable and looks like a friend of mine Randall from Costa Rica. It was nice to see a familiar face, even if I don't actually KNOW him. On campus we were assigned rooms, keys, and bedding and told to report to the lobby the next morning at 11:00 am for a campus tour and orientation. I took two trips upstairs with my luggage and opened the door to my sauna...err.. I mean room. The heater was set at what felt like 35 degrees Celsius. I was sweating as soon as I entered the room. I have spent two days with the windows open at all times. I just found out there is a remote control to adjust the temperature about an hour ago! Hopefully the night sweats will end TONIGHT. ;)

I unpacked and organized my room. The room is great with lots of storage and my desk is right next to a window that overlooks some hills. The bed is hard as a rock, but I suppose that is good for your back or something. :) I will keep telling myself that. Those who helped me overstuff my bags will never believe this BUT I actually have extra closet space.

Orientation day 1: We filled out forms, took pictures for the government, learned about what is expected of us... Etc. It was as all orientations are a boring afternoon filled with important information. After, I went to the book store and sundries shop for supplies for my room. The ladies were so patient with us. They don't speak English and I don't speak Korean (YET!), so there were a lot of charades and some modified sign language. One of the other students had to use some charades to find out where the toilet paper was stored. You can imagine the fun we are having!

I put my supplies away and laid down to "rest" for a bit... I woke up 8 hours later and then slept for another 4 hours... Yep those of you who are good at math can see that I slept for twelve hours last night! Yeah that's right, I have jetlag beat. The cure is to sleep and then sleep some more. I am surprisingly well adjusted to the time. ;) Lunch feels like when lunch should be, etc. The Korean food is just as I expected, BUT we have eaten at the same restaurant for every meal, except the meals I have replaced with a granola bar. :) I need to find the farmer's market tomorrow on my day off, because other than pickled cabbage there are not too many fruits or vegetables to be found. I am glad I packed my multivitamin. I think it may save my life. ;)

Orientation day 2:
Was much like day one... Nothing too exciting to report. Think college freshman orientation. All the information is important BUT it is not the most exciting day of your life.

Tonight most of the international students went out to dinner for kal-bee together. Kal-bee is Korean BBQ, where you cook it up at your table. My table had a native Korean next to us, so he explained how everything should happen. My grill mate Will and I laughed most of the time as we tried different meats and veggies on the grill. The tradition is that the Korean woman prepares the grill so I that was my job. To prepare the grill you cut off a piece of fat from the meat and grease up your cooking area. Then we fell back into more westernized gender roles and Will handled the rest of the BBQing and I cut the meat once it was done and prepared the veggies. Will is one of four students here from Tijuana, Mexico which is awesome! I am hoping I can keep up a little on my Spanish while I am here. After eating we all parted ways, some went to buy fruit for our dorms, some went drinking at the bar, some went clubbing, and a few hit the local karaoke bar. I was in the early-to-bed group. We bough tangerines and pears, played a card game and reported to our respective rooms. Now I am here talking to you! I am anxious for my Koreans to arrive so that I can get to know them!

I know this was a long one, but it was overdue so I packed a lot in. I love you all!

Oh yeah... Orders of business
My mailing address is:

Melissa Gaare
Soonchunhyang University
Global Village C 402-1
Asan, Chungnam 336-745

I don't know my phone number yet but I should have it next week. As for now, I am the queen of Skype! So get it and we can talk online for FREE!!!

And to answer the question, "where exactly are you?" True answer: "I don't know." BUT I do know that my city is called Asan or Onyang. The closest large city is Cheonan. I am an hour and a half west of Seoul. When I find a good map I will email it out. :)