Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Trip to Seoul - 2 - Napping and Landing

 Taking off where I left off from the previous post ~

Nap number 2 is a success! I wake up to a normally lit up airplane,  ppl are more active and would ya look at that! No back pain! I even had small pre-dreams. The first started like a TV commercial. I'm getting good with these. Seemingly, men's fashion is limited compared to women's so to adjust that, men can compensate with bright colored pattern pants. I had the image of a male model wearing ankle height cut strait lines pants with huge pink and red squares. The advertisement went on and the camera moved up showing a nicely cut deep blue (bottom of the sea blue) with royal blue very thin lines making big square patterns. The blue toned down the eccentric loud colors of the pants. The model was wearing a pale yellow almost fading to beige shirt.

Then I had a mini bit about something I forgot, then about Julie at work in my second department (I normally belong to Financial maintenance / Imaging but I am landed to Funding / data entry. Julie is the department's supervisor's assistant.

I probably had a few more random bits of oddities but I don't remember. 

~ Overall, it was a nice sleep - I turned to my left side to face the inside seats to my left and I slept really good, if we take into consideration that I was on a plane. 

Right now it's 2:54 am and I have started to feel the odd tingly sensation at the top of my heart - sign I have been missing adequate sleep. Same tingling is in my fingertips. But mostly the heart one annoys me. Right now is not the proper time to be distracted by useless weird sensations. Breakfast is about to be served and before I turned on this current movie, I saw that we have above one hour flight remaining. (Just checked - 1h16 and right on cue the tingle in my left hand's fingers go bezerk. I shall silence the swear that automatically popped to mind. 

~ Please remember that the time is still Montreal's EST time - meaning it is 2am Saturday morning (if my Phone didn't decide to try to get friendly with some unknown time zone during flight time - but I don't think it did ... my iPod showed about the same time and it doesn't change automatically unless I change it) 

And that little annoying stress feeling was mostly ... at some level a reminder of the stress I felt back at the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport before I left, and some other unrelated future possible stresses. 

And before I forget. This was a little major concern a few hours earlier, while still sitting on that red couch in the entrance hall area of the airport. This thought hit me like an invisible stabbing Rambo knife in my chest. "Do you need a Visa to get into Korea?" 'Cause, darling, if you do - you are massively screwed. Yeah - it's all fine and dandy to brag about this huge trip "I fly in, I get inked, I fly out!" but it's another to actually, practically, in the reality of truth and facts, do it and be able to do it. 

That fear was very concrete and sharp and poignant around the heart when it happened but then, the ... the whole spirit of this trip washed it off. Que sera sera. If I need a back up plan - I could always either lie and get a tattoo artist here (Bao from Burning Monk Tattoo where I got my first one done was Asian so it would remotely cut it) or tell the truth and go back home my tail between my legs and just admit my complete immaturity and ignorance about the big wide world. To justify my "leaving and staying out" I could rent a cheap hotel room or I could go back home and just say that the trip got cancelled. To my parents, I told that I was going to Detroit on a business trip for my work, since our office was planning to launch a new software and key persons per department were to be formed and taught how to use it to teach it to the rest of departments and everyone who'd use it. 

2:59am (local Montreal time)

~ Ah voila - confirmation. Still Montreal's EST time. 

3:21am my ears are a little clogged - I noticed the plane had a small going down in altitude.  After breakfast I will chew gum to re-establish this. This movie is also good! Hide and seek

~ The movie is actually quite good! The plot is incredible well twisted with the main plot. I highly recommend!

3:33am  yes I could have chosen the Korean breakfast but I needed a touch of old habits so the cheese omelet wan this game. I will eat Korean for 3 days anyway pretty soon!!

~ The Korean menu was something with vegetables which was a bit too healthy for my bad bad westerner's eating habits and I gave in the cheese angle. 

3:37am my Korean flight attendant saw my western breakfast and I just spurred out what I had written above. Last memory of home-food before I land to Seoul and eat Korean for 4 days ^^ She had that special friendly smile and said how westerns like the local food to which I replied that I have been practicing my spicy tolerances for some time now, to which she added "that is the most popular." I hope I will survive it.

~ In fact I was really ... concerned about what I read about Korean's enthusiasm at using hot spices to give a happy gusto festival to taste buds. 

3:52am the commander just announced we would be landing in about 25 minutes - usual prepping for landing engaged. Store away items, taken out of carry on and dispose of beverage cups and any remaining used items that are disposable.

~ And a weird mix of enthusiasms, nervousness and by the time this conscious thought hit me, it was all gone, completely washed off by this overall serenity that just wrapped itself around me throughout this whole thing. 

4am - official landing procedure begun. My heart does indeed twinkle and flutter and I don't know if it's excitement,  nervousness or lack of decent sleep. 

~ As I re-read this today (April  27th) as I write this blog, I seem to feel that feeling again and that same excitement and peacefulness and happiness. 

Well. Holyshitfuckfamnit.

~ Yep. That was seriously honestly heart felt. 

4:11am we touched ground and I am bout to have a heart attack. Local time is 5pm. 

~ I was exaggerating. I was zen as fuck. 

4:15am can you actually believe this?? I am in Korea. Wow.

~ I was happy. Excited. Relieved. Content. I felt a sense of accomplishment, getting this far. All alone. In a foreign country. On the other side of the world. You realize how small you are and yet how wonderfully powerful and capable you are if you put your mind and heart to it and trust your gut feeling. Throughout this thing an expression kept coming back to my mind "Take a leap of faith" from the movie Inception. I kept hearing the

4:48am Currently in line for customs. After we landed and debarked, got off, walked, stairs down, took a short train (less than a minute ride) to some more walking to customs. The lady welcoming us is wearing a traditional hanbok in cotton - white shirt and blue dress with embroidered flowers on the upper part.

~ Too bad photos are strictly prohibited, forbidden - she was cute wearing the traditional robe and I would have loved to have a photo of her. 

Customs were pretty neat. And funky and techy! My passport was scanned, my picture was taken and my finger prints were taken! That was actually cute. The clerk asks the me usual questions; length of stay, reason ~ 4 days, visiting friends. I refrained from telling the truth even if it was actually burning me. Then the clerk types stuff and asks me to put my finger on some device to my left side to be scanned. I automatically ask him "which one?" (which finger) he indicates me the thingie (I was sort of busy being happy observing a real life Korean man so I didn't pay attention to the scanner by myself ^^) When i noticed the said machine, I was prompt to obey and pose my two index fingers on the indicated location and look at the cam to be scanned.

And then it was done and I could exit, passing two more security type clerks, officers, (of course I couldn't refrain myself and greeting them in Korean, just for the sake of sprinkling some "annyeonghasseyo's" like a fairy would sprinkle fairy dust.

Then it was luggage retrieval time. And here I have to tip my hat to Incheon International Airport policy and staff people. I LOVE you guys. My luggage has a tiny little plastic thingie in back where I had my name and home address on a paper - for identification purposes. Well, that back part was flipped ON TOP! So that when the luggage was gently rolling on the carpet, it was clearly recognizable to the owner! I have traveled back home (Romania and on one trip I had to retrieve my luggage at the Brussels airport) and in Ireland and this is the first time ever that my luggage was flipped backwards so that I could easily recognize it. I appreciate it! A LOT. Kamsahamnida! <3 nbsp="" p="">

5:38pm (Local Seoul Time) Somehow - by looking around and asking (there goes my macho inner male side - I asked for directions!) I managed to get on the train from Incheon airport arrivals and customs and luggage check out (something I have to emphasize and shed a glorious light upon here. 

In Korea, if they see you have a name tag at the bottom back end of your luggage, they will flip that upside down so that you can actually spot and recognize your stuff at pick up!! Aren't they nice and .... *burst of love*)  and back to our story - here I am sitting in the wagon, surrounded by Koreans and I feel so relaxed and at home! I think I'm broken 'cause for fuck's sake dude! I just crossed half the fucking world as if I was eating breakfast with Sunday morning cartoons. 

~  Just yapped about this so I won't repeat myself, but yeah, seriously, this is that kind of little details that makes a trip just a whole lot better. 

Some small distance before the exit I guess, there were the indispensable money exchange booths and ATM machines. The furthest to the left - even if indicating World Wide Visa and stuff - didn't work, so I had to wait in line at the middle machine to take out local money from my Visa card, which also let me exchange briefly with foreigners like me ^^ it felt good and comforting I guess. 

The second (middle machine, because the right one was exclusively Korean(?) ATM machine) did actually work, I could retrieve money which I later used at the Metro cards machine to get a my card to take the train. Good thing the machine has an English option! But it's incredibly easy to use! It even greets you as you approach it, I suspect it has a motion detector or something. It's actually super cute. I was happy I could figure this out on my own but I really don't have any credit - it's super easy to use, straightforward, logical. 

The train trip. So I did actually had to ask the clerk in the info booth (she was busy with another customer so I pressed a button to have a bell sound to get her attention, she acknowledged m and and gave me a quick "Just a moment please, I finish with this customer and I'll be with you shortly." sort of finger gesture and smile and when she was done she did come and I asked (Because I had actually gone down the stairs and seen two possible opposing directions to go down to the train platform and I wasn't sure) ... so I asked which side was preferable to go down to if I wanted to take the train up to train station Digital City Media from where I would then go to my Guest House. She kindly but clearly pointed the left direction. The difference, visually, which stroke me to come back and ask for directions was that right hand side had a colored wall and left was plain blank and something about the difference - or perhaps just the fact that there were two stairs going down to a same train station flashed a red light in my mind. In Montreal, metro (subway) stations have two stairs going down depending on what direction you want to go to - so in case of doubt, just ask. And we are still at the airport - they are bound to know common English. (I did, though, show her the print of my Guest House's address in Hangeul and English to give her a good idea of where I needed to go. The indications clearly mentioned Station 6 too, if that helped. I don't know if there is any difference - in all honesty - between the left or the right paths down past the first flight of stairs but I followed her indication and got to the right place. 

The train soon came, I was among the firsts to embark and took a seat's edge and secured my luggage and carry on on the side of the seat and sat down, watching other people getting on, the little map above the door and being relieved and excited.
And I am pretty much the only foreigner around in at least a mile. I feelz speshul. And contrary to what books and websites say - I am not observed like an alien. The other passengers happily chat between themselves and I find it soothing and relaxing instead of being disturbed or scared or even remotely concerned.

At this point it feels like a huge version of Montreal.

~ It felt so cute and homey and normal! It is the train from the airport into the city, so these people are probably used to see foreigners and tourists but still. It felt good to be just another passenger, and not a unicorn - to use a common expression.

Some thoughts off the top of my head. 

7:02pm - Nearly half way done. I am actually happy my flight arrived one hour earlier. It's already 7pm and I'm not in Seoul yet. Had this been as printed on my e-ticket I would have arrived there at 8-9! At 7 the dark is mostly grey so I have a chance of recognizing the guide images to my Guest House. 

~ Technically I did arrive at a little past 8pm at Digital City Media station ^^ 

Delta airlines now. The first small plane was cute but crammed. I was seated next to a Montreal francophone woman who's French husband was working in Saint-Louis,  she was going there to be with him. Of course she asked about my own trip and I had to lie a little bit. I couldn't flat out yap out that I embarked on this crazy egoistical self proving journey to tattoo the name of a boy I'll never meet in reality. So I slightly embellished the tale. I met my "boyfriend" (sorry Jongie, yet again I fail to ask your permission) on Facebook through mutual friend. (I actually stumbled on him on YouTube and he didn't impress or leave any strong impression at first sight. It took me a whole week to get addicted beyond repair to Lucifer and him and then I enjoyed a two- three weeks feeling guilty for desiring such a young man.) 

He "my boyfriend" was in Montreal some years ago (liiiies - Jongie just likes Canada in general I think) but we didn't cross each other then, I wasn't particularly into Koreans (into actual living human beings - I had Sabik back then) and years later, last year a little before his birthday I fell back in the magic potion cauldron and got massively infected and obsessed with Korean culture and I had friends on Facebook who were into it too and boom voila - from friendship to something else and I wanted to celebrate our first year in style by a surprise visit and a tattoo. (Surprise visit is a huge ass lie. I been wanting this since April last year. And Jongie doesn't know about me, my craziness and this tattoo project. Besides he's busy concerting in Buenos Aires!) I should be a professional liar. I'm a fucking natural at it. 

~ I swear. My talent to lie and create cute little credible stories is ... I'm happy JongHyun doesn't know about me. I don't see myself spending half day bowing to him and feeling bad and apologizing for this whole story ^^;  "Hey sorry, I pretended you were my boyfriend for a year and there were talks about getting to a more serious level" ... yah - let's just avoid this whole embarrassing justification and stuff. 

Transfer from Montreal/Detroit Detroit to Seoul was easy peasy lemon squeezie but good thing there was that one hour range 'cause by the time I got to the right gate, they were embarking! God bless long interminable lines!

The plane was huuuge! A mastodonte!  It was divided in 3 sections and I saw stairs going up to the second floor! First class looked oh mama mia! About half of what is shown in Inception.  My seat was G55 which was pretty much ....3 rows after the lavatories and halfway through?  I will do more elaborate researches later. And now the crucial emilian test: seat comfort. Check!! Both in sitting size and in space for legs! I could comfortably stretch out!

Looking out we are crossing Han river! 

In both cases the food was pretty damn good! In the first one, the cookies, in the second everything else.

I am happy I brought my own blanket though. He ones I saw in the small plastic bag seemed small and thin. Choice of movies was good and choice of available languages even better. My ears only clogged a tiny bit upon landing and my back is not even sore! I could nap decently on my side turned to the left and

~ I learned this lesson on various trips but mostly  on long flights back home with those ridiculously small and thin blankets which left me freezing. This blue one I got from the dollar store, literally the day before leaving, or two days prior, cost me 3$ and is super huge, warm, very snug and I was really happy I got it. I was in my t shirt in the plane, under it, I was super warm and comfortable as in my own bed.

This was not recorded nor on Writer nor on Facebook (lack of internet connection and I disabled mobile data, even took out my SIM card because my phone was attempting to Roam or was Roaming and I was just a wee bit panicky and "Nope - sorry darling, you ain't gonna get me a 7 000$ bill when I get back home. 

So I got to Digital City Station, had a small heart flutter when the speaker voice announced it (English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and repeated it 2 times, indicated on which side the doors would open too) shouldered my purse and blanket, grabbed my luggage's handle and stood ready by the door to get off. 

The ... little mistake I did here was that I tried looked for exit 2 - while the Guest House's specifications indicate Station number 2 ~ Sangsu ~ to which I should have transferred. I actually did check that out on Google before leaving but I didn't clearly get their indications so I was mostly relying on gut feeling, good luck and taxis! Which actually ended up happening. 

After finding what looked like exit 2 (though it didn't exactly looked like my print out photo guides) I decided to venture outside and take a peek.

Definitely not looking like the photo guide but I still walked a bit around until the street's end to be completely sure - and nope - wrong spot! So I headed back to the metro station. And since I was back in the station, I decided to play by the rules and gave back my card to one of those subway pass taking back machines and get my change back - which is overall so cute! 

With that done, I came to the conclusion that - I had enough money for the Guest house and enough for some expenses which tonight included a Taxi. 

Still wasn't scared and concerned ; I had the address printed and the phone number. I could just hand over the paper and let the driver do his job and I trusted he'd get me to the right place. 

Exited the subway again, this time more confident. I had previously seen two buses pass by and one parked but I really didn't want to risk getting into unplanned adventures on my first night, just after landing and with a check-in appointment at Guest House B. 

One taxi got a client super quickly but I didn't panic or was remotely concerned. Taxis are bound to roam the streets of a nicely populated city. I waited not even two minutes and one came by - a client got out and I hailed it. I later learned that in Seoul, the way to call a taxi is to wave at it with your hand at your waist level but on the spur of the moment I was just an honest tourist and I shouted politely "Taxi!" The driver heard, looked in my direction, smiled and invited me over. I grabbed my luggage and let a car pass in front of me before I crossed the street and got to the taxi. Seeing my luggage, the driver opened the trunk to let me put my luggage in and I installed myself in the front seat, fiddled in my purse and found the printed address and handed it over the driver. Super cute moment ensued as he got out his reading glasses and read the address in Hangeul, asked or commented in Korean and I was just all smiles and happy, completely serene and trusting him and his abilities and his professionalism.

He entered the data in the GPS and started rolling. At some point he did call up the guest house and spoke with someone to get indications I guess... handed me the phone, I spoke with a female voice (who later came to pick me up from the car and lead me to the Guest house) I confirmed that I was myself (they had my name and time of check in scheduled for that evening (I did email Jun before hand specifying that I would be coming in the evening because my flight would land at 7pm) and after some more chit chat - we were rolling on the high way or bigger street in direction to the final destination.

He had a small conversation going at some point to which I mostly smiled because I honestly didn't understand a word! Well - I did understand One word ; hakseng (I'm sure this is not the proper romanization) which means student. On the spot, it took me a while to light up and realize that he was asking me if I was a student! I presume my face fooled him ^^ so I smiled more and nodded and answered "Ne!" (Yes, I am a student)

After some time we got in the right ... area ? And since it was a red light, we stopped and I think it was my first encounter with the Funky Building (know by everyone as the KT&G which was lit up with changing colors. It was simply beautiful! I can't remember if I remembered the word "yeppun" right there on the spot or just pointed and smiled at it... 

The driver called the guest house again, talked with the girl and a minute later or not even, this young woman or my age and height was leaning over my window chatting with the driver. I got my wallet out and gave 50Won of which I got some money back and he indicated that my luggage was in the trunk of the car. I did thanked him in Korean and after a small battle with the seat belt, got out and rushed after the young woman, taking my first whisk of local air, ambiance and just being in what became a natural state of being during my state there : happy and at peace. 

I learned later that for taxi rides in Korea, the passenger and the driver agree on an amount Before the course... I think ... but I was an unusual uninformed tourist so this once it was okay to do it another way. Koreans are very friendly and comprehensive towards foreigners who don't know their customs and ways of doing things. 

The young woman took my luggage before I could relieve her of it - I felt bad because it was heavy and I could have carried it myself (especially as I  noticed we had to go 2 flights of stairs and and then 2 more because my room was on the top floor.

We got inside and here I cannot be sure if I paid straight away at the counter - which seems the most logical way that pops to my mind. The young woman going behind the counter, pulling out my info (information flyer, little card with my room number, door code, WiFi code, my towel and slippers, and then we confirm my fee for the stay and I pay. Then she takes my luggage again and we go up the second 2 flights of stairs and she leads me to my room, shows me how the lock works, puts down my luggage and makes me visit the top floor - where the bathrooms and shower rooms are, then she greets me good night and light bow, me the same, and I go back to my room alone - ready to just flop down and enjoy a huge sense of relief.

Bonus Recaps from Facebook ~

8:21 pm local Korean time. I have landed, found the train to the line 6 exited got lost found this super nice taxi driver who doesn't speak a word English, called guest house, managed to get here.
For the record I'm still zen as fuck!
This feels so much like home it's.... wow. The only issue is that they and I speak different languages

~ This was posted from my room as I accessed the Guest House's blessed awesome WiFi !

To Be Continued


1 comment:

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