Markets, confusion, excitement, adorable children, and new friends. If I were to sum up our first two weeks in Korea with 8 words, those are the ones I would choose. However, hang on to your hats, because this is going to be a lot more than 8 words.
To be honest, it seems longer than two weeks, but not in a bad way. I feel like I have to reach way back into my memory to recount when we flew here.
On August 25th we set off for Korea, dragging our two bags each. We are usually very conservative packers, however we decided to sell and give away most of our things, carrying most of our worldly possessions in those 4 suitcases. Some of our wedding presents and such are being stored, and that amounted to 5 boxes. Nate and I don't know what the next few years will bring, but we both feel strongly that Korea is the first step in many years overseas. Therefore, we underwent the grueling process of decided what to get rid of, and what to take.
Thankfully, I have a gracious husband that deals with my irrational attachment to certain items (like my $12 "Keep Calm and Drink Tea" poster that I was so proud of). He let me realize in my own time that it would in fact NOT fit in our luggage. I cried, but in my defense it had been a long day.
RIP, dear poster.
After finally packing our bags and emptying our apartment, we were ready to go. My parents drove us to the South Bend Airport, where we took a 4 hour bus ride to Chicago. Our school is awesome and booked us a direct flight to Seoul, so we didn't have to deal with layovers.
Unfortunately, we had misunderstood the carry on requirements, and when we got to the counter in Chicago, the kind Korean woman looked at us and said that we were carrying on too much.
Oh, my land.
We had carefully weighed each bag and each was at it's 50 pound capacity, so transferring things from our carry on into our luggage would not work. Our faces fell, and I told the woman, "We are moving to Korea and I think we brought too much." She looked at us with sympathy and told me that she knew it was very hard to decide what to keep. From her accent, I knew that she too had made a move across the ocean at some point in her life.
"I help you out", she said.
With that, she told us to quickly stuff some of our things into the luggage, and that she would not charge us extra. On top of that, she told us she would also check on one of our carry on bags. We thanked her profusely, and after we did the calculations we found that she had saved us a few hundred dollars with her kindness.
We did not deserve her graciousness. It was our mistake for misreading the requirements, yet she went above and beyond to help us.
The flight itself was incredibly comfortable. We flew with Asiana Airlines, and we could not have been happier with our experience. They kept bringing us food, which we were more than okay with. We slept, watched movies, and talked with the lovely middle-aged woman next to us, who attempted to teach us some key Korean phrases and share some places that we must visit. She ended up giving us her name and phone number in case we traveled through her part of town.
When we walked off of the plane and into the Seoul Airport, we were pleased to find that it was easy to navigate. We quickly found the baggage claim, and our luggage was literally out within two minutes. I exchanged money while Nate got the bags, and then we walked through the doors into Korea. It was a bit surreal finding our way to the bus we were supposed to take, and then joining our fellow passengers on the bus ride to Gwangju.
The bus itself was incredibly comfortable and clean. Good first impression, Korea. The seats actually were like Lazyboy chairs, just smaller. The foot rest popped up, and you could lean back and watch the TV on the front of the bus. We ended up sleeping most of the way, however.
We arrived in our city at about 10 pm, and then we were taken to our motel. Completely beat, we went straight to bed and slept through the night without a problem.
All in all, it was a very smooth day of travel, and we were grateful for the little interactions with people that made it memorable.