Friday, June 28, 2013

The journey continues...

It has been a seemingly endless time of travel from the USA to Jeju, South Korea. I can't remember how long ago I began this journey, whether in days or hours.

The good news is that I made it to my final destination. Where is that? Some place google maps hasn't been :)

It's interesting that I'm not jet lagged at all. It seems my body is naturally on the Orients time zone. No wonder I have such difficulty in the USA!

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Now on to the story of my excessively long journey...

It all started in a small town outside of Nashville.

A very good friend lives there and I was visiting for a short time when I got an email confirming a position for a job in South Korea I had previously applied for. Yipee! But now the details.

I had to drive to Chicago to submit my application for a visa.

1st day: 8 hrs driving to South Bend IN to stay overnight
2nd day: 6 hrs driving to and from and around Chicago to go to the consulate for 1/2 hr (thankful             for the short wait time) business.
3rd day: 9 hrs driving return trip to town outside Nashville. Why longer than the previous trip you ask? Unfortunately that journey was plagued with accidents, road construction, and endless heavy traffic. In addition to that trip there was also 2+ hrs of driving home for a concert I attended that night in Nashville.
4th day: pack and relax, whew
5th day: pack more and anxiously worry about not having a flight to Korea
6th day: pack pack pack and frantically pack all day after receiving flight info late last night
7th day: up at 6 a.m. to fly from Nashville to Chicago. Arrive in Chicago, wait for ride, go to stores to waste time until appointment at consulate late afternoon. Receive visa, book hotel for remaining 12 hrs in Chicago. Drive 2 hrs to hotel (rush hour traffic), go get first meal since leaving for Nashville at 7 a.m., then wander through more stores for last minute items before crashing for a couple hours.
8th day: Wake up at 2:30 a.m. to go to airport. Drive half hour to airport, wait in line one hour, say good bye, wait in more lines, then sit in ORD for over 3 hours while the weather outside causes delays.

SHORT STORY INTERJECTION ~ Outside of the fact I only wanted to go to sleep and was therefore not eating or trying to be awake, I had a woman who was so enthralled about my violin that after much begging on her end I finally pulled it out and serenaded the stranded crowd that had gathered (literally filling every seat and more floor space around me). I was so tired that I messed up the first Bach piece I played, but then a little girl sitting on mama's lap was so enraptured that I went over and played Twinkle Twinkle for her while her mama sang. She never took her eyes off me. Then I played one more Bach tune, which I successfully completed and put away the instrument. People clapped. I tried to play quietly with a practice mute. Someone took a video. (If you find it please let me know). And because I wanted nothing but to sleep I turned down payment offers of coffee, breakfast, and snacks from Starbucks. If I'd been awake the  experience would have been far more gratifying I think, but it was good none the less.

After the impromptu half asleep performance we finally started to board the plane. The priority people got on and then they had to delay boarding some more for the lightening. Once we finally all got on the plane I passed out. The doors weren't even closed before my eyes were shut. That is typical for me. What's not typical is waking up a couple hours later, looking out the window, and seeing the runway right outside. We hadn't left yet. Still waiting for a break in the weather, we were stuck on the tarmac for over 2 hours. When it was almost time to turn back and deplane we finally got the all clear and took off for San Francisco. I knew there was no way I'd make my connecting flight to Seoul and I'd had the good fortune of meeting someone in Chicago who was also going to Seoul on the same flights as me, so we were sticking together. While I'd been sleeping, he'd been calling United and asking about future flights and rebooking himself on a potential flight we might be able to catch. He gave me the number and flight information and I called United and had them change my flight as well. It was nice to know I had a confirmed seat once I got to San Francisco. Unfortunately though, we would miss the two direct flights to Seoul that day so this flight was to Toyko and then to Seoul. Still, we would hopefully make it.

After a successful flight to San Francisco, that was just a little long, we landed at quarter past the hour. The flight to Toyko was schedule to leave at twenty till the next hour. (I'd lost track of what hour I was in at this point). We got excited thinking we could run through the airport and make this flight, but as we taxied up the tarmac we were informed that there was no gate for us so we would have to wait 10 or 15 minutes for one to open. SERIOUSLY??? Since both my travel buddy and I were seated at the back of the plane we didn't have much hope of making the Toyko flight anymore and he could sprint through the airport but I had two violins strapped to my back and a heavy rolling carry on so jogging was barely possible. At half past the hour we pulled into the gate and by twenty five till the next hour we were off the plane. My travel buddy was off much sooner than I and he said he would stall for me. So after I got off the plane, off I went jogging through the airport. (Yes, it is possible to jog with two violins strapped to your back, a heavy carry on behind you and a pillow and teddy bear in your arms). After multiple escalator rides that seemed to take forever because I couldn't pick up the carry on and run up or down the steps, and several upset passengers who didn't see me coming, I finally arrived at the gate for the next plane.

Let me say here, thank technology for the ability to look up flights and gates so I didn't have to waste time doing that or finding someone to ask once I got in the airport.

I got my printed ticket and headed onto the plane. I wasn't the last one. They were kindly waiting for several passengers trying to make the flight from other delays as well, so we were about 20 minutes late or so closing the doors.

My delays were not over yet. Turns out there was only one working runway at SFO so we had to wait and wait on the tarmac for clearance. We finally turned onto the runway only to be told to GET OFF because another plane was coming in so we rerouted back around to the line again. Ugh.

We finally took off for Toyko though and I was awake, sweaty, hungry, thirsty. I'd not eaten all morning as I'd planned on having breakfast in San Francisco. Well, that obviously didn't happen so I was famished. Most of you know by now that I'm a fresh eater and tend to the vegetarian side of the scale. Well, when you're hungry, you eat what they offer, which was processed chicken and rice and wheat buns and stale salad with one wedge of tomato. That was the first meal, and the second was a ham and "cheese" sandwich on a white bun with vanilla ice cream. (I don't eat lactose much either). Then breakfast was a "meat" patty, "cheese" omelette and some broccoli quiche thing. By the time I ate the ice cream I was nauseous and came very very close to throwing up but managed to calm myself down. Once breakfast came along I only ate the quiche and I could barely manage that.

I didn't sleep much on that flight because I was stuck in the economy section in a middle seat. Not much you can do there. I watched one movie, Mame, a couple random tv episodes and spent the rest of my time trying to sleep or not trying to puke.

Day 9: We arrived safely in Tokyo and my travel buddy and I walked to the next security point to get to our connecting flight to Seoul. (In Toyko, you have to go through security when you're transferring flights). I went to get my passport and flight ticket out of my jacket pocket only to discover they weren't there! When I had boarded the plane I'd been so frantic and harried that I couldn't remember what I'd done with them. I unpacked my jacket, and the violin case top (which I thought were the only things I'd opened in the plane), but to no avail. So I hurried back through the airport to the gate of the plane I'd just left and asked if they would go search my seat to see if the documents had fallen out of my jacket pocket onto the floor during flight. While they were searching I opened my suitcase and dug through everything. Luckily, I found them. They had slide into my laptop when I had apparently stuffed them in the outer pocket of my carry on while I was running onto the plane.

Thankfully, I rushed back to the security check point, breezed through and located my next gate. I was so early I even had time to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sign on the the free wifi and email my employer picking me up in Seoul that I was on my way. LUXURY :)

The flight to Seoul was thankfully uneventful. I watched Singing in the Rain and was stuck in a middle seat again. This time they served a white bread half sandwich with "meat", "cheese", and "egg". I ate it gratefully since it had been a while since the quiche thing.

I arrived in Seoul to discover (not unsurprisingly) that my luggage had not. So I went to the United counter and described my luggage and filled out a form and gave them a phone number of someone to reach to send me my luggage since I still don't have the exact address where I'm staying.

After that was all done I went through customs and immigration and headed out of the airport to find my ride. Although he didn't speak English, he was very nice and helpful and I would write things into his iPad translator (thank technology again!) and he would nod that he understood.

Since I arrived in Seoul so late that night (I think it was after 9 p.m.) he was instructed to get me a hotel room and have me fly to Jeju the next morning. So we drove about a half hour to the hotel (which was interesting and pictures will be posted to google+ later) and I crawled into bed at midnight. The bed was the hardest bed I've ever attempted sleep on and with my cell phone dead and my outlet converter not suitable for the plugs I barely closed my eyes fearing I would not wake up for my ride.

Day 10: 4 hours later I was dressed (in the same clothes) after a shower and ready to go to the airport. We went to Gimpy airport instead of Incheon (which I'd flown into) and I got my ticket and said good bye to my driver. Then I walked through the pleasantly small airport with a half hour to spare :) Purchased a strawberry and banana smoothie at a cafe (boy was that good!) and waited for my flight.

The short flight to Jeju was nice and I finally had a window seat, although I didn't use it because the flight wasn't even an hour long. Deplaned, picked up my carry on from the luggage carousel and called my boss to say I'd arrived. A taxi was sent for me within 10 minutes and off to my new apartment I went. It took about 45 minutes of driving and I enjoyed watching the scenery as it went by. It was weird that the taxi monitor read that I owed him 35000 won and all I'd been given for the ride was 20000. I was worried, but when I handed it to him with a look of concern he said it was all right. I don't understand how that worked. But I'm happy it did.

The apartment is nice. HUGE compared to a cruise ship crew cabin (pictures will be uploaded to google+ later). After a nice nap, my boss picked me up and we drove to the aquarium where I was shown the tour, saw part of a show, had a meeting with the director, met the synchronized swimmers and the aerialist, ate lunch (?) in the aquarium's cafe, and then went to choreography where we watched a video of the show with our choreography, then mapped it on the floor to the music with direction, then remapped it on the floor without direction. Today we run it on the stage.

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My luggage is still lost. I am trying to learn my music by ear from recordings. I still can't remember enough Korean words to communicate. Haven't been to a grocery store so I'm hungry right now.

BUT, everyone is very kind. My boss bought me a towel to take a shower (although I can't get the hot water to turn on so I'm waiting it out for now). Everyone is very friendly and helpful with my lack of Korean or Russian. (I'm the only one that speaks fluent English so the Korean management talks through a translator, my roommate, and she speaks in Russian to the swimmers and aerialist. Occasionally someone will clue me in with a few words as to what is going on.) The one meal I've had was quite tasty. I live within walking distance of the aquarium. There is free wifi at the apartment and in the office at the aquarium!

I MADE IT!!  I'M IN JEJU!!

I'll write more about the aquarium and the island with pictures later. For now, this is just the update of my travels to get here. I think that is quite enough too :-)