Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Journey to Korea, My First Full Day, and DHWL #2: My Korean Apartment

Important Note: I can't yet transfer pictures from my phone to my laptop, as I can't find wifi for it to work just yet. So I plan on eventually uploading a few pictures to this, but it won't be for a few weeks probably. Anyway...

So here's how it went. As most of you already know, I awoke on Thursday the 28th at about 4 AM after 5-6 hours of interrupted sleep (I woke up constantly). At 5 AM, we (my parents and I) took a shuttle to the airport where many hugs were given and much crying from my mother ensued.


The first snag in my journey came at the Austin security check, wherein I forgot to take off my belt and remove my PS3 from the suitcase before going through the scans and whatnot. They rescanned the PS3, felt me up for explosives and/or weapons, lectured me briefly on taking out large electronics from the bag, and then let me go. I found the gate pretty easily.

This first flight was pretty uneventful. The plane itself was pretty tiny and claustrophobic. I barely fit going down the aisle itself, and I had to master yoga positions in order to fit in the seat. I was at the window seat in a row of three. Luckily the girl who sat in the row with me was in the aisle, leaving an empty seat between us. The flight took about 3 to 3 and a half hours before we finally landed at LAX.


I was worried about getting lost in LAX, since I had to transfer terminals entirely (I switched from American Airlines to Thai Airways), though I fortunately had a 3 and a half hour layover. I had to find the Tom Bradley International Terminal. I saw sign after sign leading me forward and... eventually led me outside. There were no signs pointing anywhere else, so I turned right and began walking. I thought I saw signs pointing me into buildings for Tom Bradley, but I guess I was mistaken. After asking at least 3 different people and finding a few more signs, I found the terminal. Had I just taken a left instead of a right and went to the next building over, I would have found it much faster.

Once there, I had to get my next boarding pass. I didn't have to wait in line very long (maybe a minute or two) before the woman called me up. There was a little confusion about certain information she needed, but she eventually printed the ticket. However, Thai Airways is a bit weird with its carry-on rules. Whereas most airlines don't have a weight limit, Thai Airways does. I'd already checked two bags and had two carry-ons: A backpack and a small suitcase. But while the backpack was apparently fine in weight, the suitcase was over. I was originally going to check it (for an additional $119 due to it being a third checked bag), but the woman told me to just shift some stuff around in order to take out about 4 pounds or so and put it into the backpack. I switched out the power converter box, which alone is about 7 pounds. We re-weighed and it was fine, though she didn't re-weigh the backpack for some reason. I'm still a little boggled about how 4 pounds was way too much over, though the exact same amount of weight was going onto the plane anyway. Oh well.

By the time I got to security (yes, I had to go through again), an hour had already passed from the time the plane landed. It seemed like it took a while to get through, but it really only took maybe 15 minutes. And while I did take out the PS3 this time, I forgot to take off my belt again, so I had to be rescanned and felt up all over again. Oh joy.

After that, it wasn't long until I made it to the gate and had about a 2 hour wait, I think. I just killed time until... the big flight.

I did stuff like take pictures of my enormous plane.
The inside of the plane didn't seem to be as huge as the outside, but it was much more spacious than the first plane.

A picture of the inside, back section.
 There was what I can only assume to be a Korean businessman sitting next to me at the window, and he kinda drove me crazy. He was too shy and/or reserved to ask me to get up to let him out, so he would wait until whenever I decided to get up to step out (which I eventually did frequently, and he eventually stopped getting up). For the most part he did what everybody else did on that flight--slept or watched an in-flight movie.

The movie selection was HUGE. When I went to Hawaii, they had maybe 6-7 movies to choose from, and they were on a timer. If you missed the beginning, you had to wait until it started reshowing again. That wasn't the case here. You had total control--pause, rewind, fast forward, etc. And they had movies of multiple genres, countries, and years. Throughout the flight, I watched...

-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (I had to give it a watch!)
-The Thieves (a Korean action/thriller that's kind of like a mix between Ocean's 11 and Reservoir Dogs. It was pretty good, though confusing at times)
-The Fugitive (hadn't seen this one since I was really little)
-Hotel Transylvania (Not great, but not terrible, especially for a modern Adam Sandler movie)

I'm pretty sure I watched another, too, but I honestly don't remember what it was right now. It was a long flight. I maybe got only an hour of sleep, a little near the start of the flight, but most of it near the end. I had too much adrenaline to fall asleep before that, I guess. It really came to the point I had to get up about every hour to stand for a while, because my butt was killing me in that chair for 13 and a half hours (plus the flight before and the waiting in between).

The flight staff were really nice and kept everybody fed and hydrated pretty constantly. The food... wasn't that great. And every meal had this type of dinner roll/biscuit with it that didn't really taste bad but had a really strong smell. By the end of the flight, the whole airplane smelled of those things, and it got to a point it was making me nauseated.

Also, a couple cool things of note about the flight... we pretty much chased daylight the whole way. There wasn't any time where it was dark outside (and the flight map showed darkness behind us the whole way). So it really wasn't until I left the airport that I saw night. Also, at some point we flew over what I believe is the Arctic Ocean. I took a picture the best I could.

Just imagine a vast sea of ice and you'll get a better idea.
But eventually we finally reached the Incheon International Airport in Seoul (the plane was actually going to continue on to Bangkok, Thailand with some of its passengers in about an hour, though some of us, of course, were staying in Korea).

I pretty much followed people on my plane to find my way to the baggage claim. The signs were kinda helpful, but a little confusing. I eventually found myself in a little subway station lined up with people. The train came every 5 minutes to take people to the baggage claim area (yeah... a train to baggage claim. It's a big place). There were too many people for the first train to come, but I caught the next one. And it was funny because a group of little kids about fell over simultaneously when the train jolted to a start.

Before I could actually get into baggage claim from there, though, I had to pass through this kind of immigration checkpoint. The guy took my passport and this little card I had to fill out, then took my electronic fingerprints and a picture before handing me back my passport and letting me continue on. When I found my baggage claim area, I waited there for at least 20-30 minutes. Thankfully my plane was 30 minutes early or else I would have made my driver wait for a long time. Anyway, my bags were pretty much some of the last bags to come through from my flight. And from there, I had to move to customs.

I had to fill out this long form on the plane of anything I might be declaring. But all it was... there was a guy standing near the exit area. He took the form, looked at it for about a second, said OK, and I just moved on through. From there, I ended up in the arrivals area and found my driver who would be taking me to my apartment. He called Sasha (my recruiter), and I checked in with her before the long walk to his minivan. And boy was it cold when those doors to the outside opened.


From the airport in Seoul to my apartment in Gunpo, everything was relatively quiet. He'd answer his cellphone from time to time, and he had to pay at some tollways, but we didn't really speak to each other. What was funny, though, was what did make the majority of the noise in the car. In America, people worry about being distracted by cellphones and texting. In Korea, I'd heard that practically everything is connected with a TV. And apparently that's true.

Yes, there was a little TV playing a Korean drama next to his GPS.
I tried not to laugh when he had to turn down the TV to answer his cellphone while driving down the highway. I mainly focused on the scenery--most of which I couldn't see since it was dark out. But there were instances of large buildings (one of which even had like a laser show going on on the outside of it). And every now and then I'd see this mountain in the background of a building or cityscape (in an otherwise flat land. It's like "Oh hi, random mountain").

He helped me get my bags into the apartment building and to the elevator when a woman from my school showed up to take me the rest of the way (she's over us foreign teachers to help us out and whatnot). Unfortunately, nobody had told me or her what the passcode was to get in (as doors are locked by a passcode instead of by key). So she had to call somebody to get that. She also introduced me to my neighbor, who happens to be another foreign teacher like me who also works at my same school. Together they showed me around the apartment, and my neighbor promised to show me around the neighborhood and whatnot later. (And he'll actually be leaving in a month to be replaced by a new girl, who I'll have to show around when the time comes.)


I woke up at 4 AM Korean time (which is like 1 PM or so my normal time). And I was completely at a loss at what to do. I had no internet. No cable TV. And, as I soon came to realize, the HDMI cable for my PS3 doesn't fit in the TV I was given--so I can't use it until I get the proper size cables (and I unfortunately did not bring my regular AV cables with me for some reason).

So I started the video I'm posting at the end of this and then unpacked. I then got to experience a Korean shower before returning to and finishing the rest of the aforementioned video. I then, under a random happenstance, discovered that if my timing is right, I can hook into some really weak wifi for my laptop (though not for my phone, sadly). So I spent some time trying to catch up as best I could (though I'd take dial-up at this point).

A little after 10 AM, I went next door to see if my neighbor was ready to show me around. He ended up taking me down the street, showing me different things like fruit, vegetable, and meat markets on the  sidewalk. We went into a nearby grocery store and he helped me get some stuff there (and the check-out lady was really nice). We headed back to put the stuff up in my apartment where we were met in the elevator by two Korean women (one young and the other a little older)... who turned out to be Jehova's Witnesses. Yup. Even in Korea, you can't get away from them. But they were really nice (well, the younger one, anyway, who was the only one that talked to us) and told us all about Jesus dying for our sins before parting ways.

Soon after, my neighbor helped me get a bus card so I can take the bus places (like the downtown area, which he's gonna show me next weekend). Then he treated me to lunch at a place I forget the name of, but it's basically Korean McDonalds (not actually McDonalds, but it's basically Korean fast food). We got a mix of stuff to try out. It was alright--the best was actually what turned out to be Japanese food, and it was basically this big pork cutlet in some kind of sauce.

And then he showed me an internet cafe that's actually in this same building as my apartment, which is what I'll be using to upload videos until I can get internet myself. (Future Note: The internet cafe is equally cool and confusing. It's full of teens playing video games, so it's pretty loud. But the internet is fast and it's basically less than a dollar for an hour. However, most major websites--like YouTube--are entirely in Korean. So that makes it a little difficult to figure things out at the moment.)

And speaking of videos, since it's now 1 PM (Saturday March 2nd) and I don't think I'll be doing anything that interesting for the rest of the day... let's get to the video, shall we?


Here's a tour of my actual apartment. Enjoy!

*Note: One thing I forgot to talk about in the video is this little panel between the couch and the shelf thing. It's for heat. One button will heat up my water so I can take hot showers and whatnot, and another will turn the heat on in the apartment (which I believe is via heated floors).


  1. love the apartment! you have a lot of extra's that most apartments over there don't have! the bed is certainly bigger than we thought too...if you need me to get full size sheets, let me know.

  2. Nick that was a good video thank you for posting it!I think that this is awesome that you get to have this experience! I look forward to seeing more

  3. That's pretty cool Jobe. I'm happy I got a chance to watch this video. I enjoyed it.

  4. Your place looks great! Mike thinks it's awesome!! Hoping you have a fantastic first day tomorrow!!!!! Can't wait to hear about it!!!!

  5. Awesome!!! Loved it. Watched with Josh and Claire and they're ready for more! It really gave us the "travel bug", so if that mystery door turns out to be hiding a guest room, plan on a visit from the Roselius clan! By the way, that "cattle prod" is a knife sharpener and the "coffee machine" is an electric kettle, for boiling water for tea, oatmeal, etc! Praying for you, Nick! Thanks for the updates!

  6. Thanks for the tour! And so glad to hear that you're getting settled in!


  7. Loved the video, Nick!! Your apartment is really nice and it looks like you have pretty much everything you need. You had me rolling talking about your shower area! Guess that will take a little getting used to. Good thing you got all of that TP! ;) Can't wait to see the future episodes...