Thursday, July 22, 2010

Korea Day 1: Airports, Kimchi, and I'm So Tired I Could Die

So yesterday was our arrival in Seoul.  We left St. Louis at 8:02 am, meaning we left our house at 6:30am.  This was half an hour later than I had intended to leave the house, but due to a miscommunication, David set the alarm for 5:30 instead of 5am.  We got to the airport and were checking in our luggage at 7:02 but the machine said we were too late and the lady working explained (in her not-very-patient-voice) that we had to be there two hours in advance to check in for an international flight.  (Even though we were really just checking in to make a connecting flight to Denver, then San Francisco, then Seoul).  We managed to get checked in and made our flight with no problems.

Thankfully, our flights were uneventful but mercy what a long day.  We got into Seoul at 3am St. Louis time and of course I only slept a little bit on the plane.  It was, however, quite possibly the nicest airline I've ever flown.  The flight attendants were ridiculously beautiful--all of them looked models and spoke perfect English.  They served us hot towels and provided paper slippers to wear around the cabin.  We had individual flat screens in the back of the seats in front of us so we could select from a menu of movies to watch during the flight.  I watched Date Night and Valentine's Day which were good choices because they were fairly entertaining without being good enough to make me wish I was watching them somewhere besides an airplane.

Somehow my radar for attracting obnoxious people (it inevitably kicks in at most public functions including concerts, sporting events, movie theatres, and often airplanes) must have been low because our seat mate who had the window seat in our row was low-key and slept most of the flight (lucky).  I tried to get up and walk around or go to the bathroom every hour, based on my doctor's and pregnant friends' reports of flying and getting swollen ankles.  I thought I was doing well, but then I finally dozed off for a while and when I woke up my feet felt hot and tight and sure enough, my ankles were puffy.  I elevated them on David's lap, walked around, and kept chugging water and by the time we landed, I was almost back to normal.

Brandon met us at the airport, which was beautiful and swanky so it felt more like an upscale shopping mall rather than an airport.  My parents kept taking embarrassing pictures of signs that said "Welcome to Korea!" or just words written in Korean ("Baggage Claim!") and I was so tired at this point that I had little patience for such antics and did not want to smile while standing next to the Baggage Claim sign when in reality we weren't sure which carousel was going to be spitting out our baggage and I was a little nervous about it all showing up.

All of our luggage did arrive, so then we took a bus into Seoul which did not do much for my stomach.  We arrived at his apartment and got our luggage upstairs and I laid down on the couch and elevated my feet and in the time it took for my parents to go next door and check into their hotel, I'd fallen asleep.

traffic in Seoul - we imagined my dad driving a rental car and it brought back fond memories of hearing him drop the F-bomb in a mini-van with my grandparents and aunt as he tried to navigate us through Los Angeles on a Disney vacation one year

David woke me up to go to dinner even though I wasn't very hungry and probably would have been perfectly happy eating a bowl of cereal and going to bed.  Instead, we walked and walked through the Gangnam district where the zillions of people and neon signs made me feel like I was having a sensory overload and could possibly have a seizure.  We walked underground through a subway station to cross a major street and I continued to feel totally overstimulated with all of the shopping available on all sides--shoes, clothes, cell phones, and lots and lots of bras and underwear.  Because of course you need a new bra and panty set before you hop on the subway.

I like how I look totally tired and broken down as I walk to dinner, even pictured from behind

Brandon took us to a little restaurant in a little alley where he'd eaten before and ordered pork and some cold buckwheat noodles for me.  They served us a bunch of little side dishes, sort of family style.  There were slivers of radish, spicy onion strings, shredded lettuce and cabbage, different sauces, garlic, and kimchi (of course).  Kimchi was served warm there and I found that I liked it but it was really spicy and my mom cautioned me not to eat too much of it.

The pork was cooked on the table in front of us on a little burner over coal briskets.  Brandon was flipping it and cutting the big pieces apart into little pieces with scissors but then the waiter came over and did it for us.  Brandon said they wouldn't do that if we were Korean (evidently it's more of a self-service place) but clearly our waiter thought we were incompetent.  He also offered me a fork when I thought I was doing fine with chopsticks, so obviously I am a gauche and clumsy American.  It still weirds me out that nobody tips here--I felt bad for our waiter and our bus driver.

But not that bad, because at dinner I was so tired I barely wanted to eat.  Or talk.  Or be awake.  I ate some of the cold buckwheat noodles.  They looked totally unappetizing (like limp twigs, or perhaps dead worms) but they tasted good.  The texture, though, was difficult for me.  They were just so...  cold and wormy.  Finally one bite that I took activated my gag reflex and I knew I was done with buckwheat noodles for the night.  Brandon finished them off for me.  We didn't take pictures of the food because we were too tired to think about it.

So dinner was an experience that I think would have been much more fun if I weren't blinded with fatigue.  I've been tired and jet-lagged before, but I really think that Baby Duck is still sucking energy out of me, second trimester or not.  I feel good in general, but yesterday was brutal.  I thought I would fall asleep instantly once we got back to the apartment, but Brandon and I ended up talking for a while after David went to bed and then even though I feel asleep pretty immediately once Brandon got in the shower, I kept waking up since the wee hours of the morning here are early afternoon at home.  We slept on a sleeping mat on the floor that is bright pink with flowers.  It was actually pretty comfortable although we froze a bit because Brandon runs the air on high to keep his upstairs loft bedroom cool.

view from the window in Brandon's apartment - he's on the 15th floor

I was up for good at 6:30am our time (4:30pm St. Louis time) and I still have kind of a sinus headache, but I'm doing better than my poor mom who is having tummy trouble.

(Side note:  My mom gets the most excruciating tummy trouble when we are on family vacations.  One time we were in Tennessee visiting family and she got a terrible stomach flu and was barfing and having diarrhea in the hotel and she decided that she just wanted to get home even though she was so sick and so we put her in the back seat and headed back to Missouri and she was miserable and stinky the whole way and finally my dad and I stopped for lunch and just went inside and had a sit down meal at some little diner in Hardy, Arkansas, leaving my mom moaning and groaning in the back seat because we couldn't handle her grossness anymore.  Poor Mom.)

So anyway, we sent my brother down to the basement convenience store this morning to get orange juice (I'd sent him a shopping list earlier, but wrongly assumed that juice for breakfast would be a staple he would already have in his fridge).  It's storming this morning but we are planning to head out anyway, once my mom's tummy issues are under control.  I refuse to wear the ponchos Mom bought for everyone (I would never wear a poncho at home--why would I wear one on vacation?) so we packed travel umbrellas.  A little rain surely cannot stop us from exploring Seoul!

potato chip display in the convenience store located in the basement of Brandon's apartment building

No comments:

Post a Comment