Saturday, 30 January 2010

Croydon to Changwon - Day 1

So I set off from Tai's house in Croydon at about 8.30am for a 12.35pm flight. There may be a youtube video of this trip at some point as i filmed on and off the whole trip. If you think the migration that monarch butterflies make from Canada to Mexico is amazing, you haven't seen anything yet! I got a bus, tram, then 2 tubes before ngetting to Heathrow. The flight was so so long, about 11 hours sitting in one seat. The route went north east over scandinavia then east through Russia before flying down through Mongolia to Tokyo. It was good to see so much land in Russia untouched by man, though also impressive to see a load of very bright lights somewhere in Russia that seemed very remote. I don't suppose they have a Tesco there... yet! Got to Tokyo and was impressed with the bathrooms there. Put your hands in front of the soap dispenser and it fires soap at you, same under the water tap, then the hand dryer senses you there as well, so no buttons needed pushing. Seoul's bathrooms were equally good, but their fountains were better as they also sense your presence rather than having to tell them you want water. Anyway, waited a few hours for the flight from Tokyo. I was so tired by this point as I only got about an hour of sleep. The Seoul flight was fine, a bit of a smaller plane. I was sitting next to a Korean English teacher (ie a native Korean teaching English language) and he was very friendly and taught me some basics to reading Korean. They have about 5 different variations of our 'o' or 'oo' sound including one i couldn't really imitate very well. But his teaching was sufficient that I was able to decipher a few random words he wrote down.

So, that was the easy part. In Seoul, i had to find my way to another airport via train after having so little sleep and with 2 massive bags. Something i have yet to mention is that in an effort to keep the weight of my suitcase down, I put all the heavy electronic equipment in my backpack. Which subsequently made every security check long and somewhat embarassing. Everytime, i had to unpack it all, show off all my stuff, have it go back through the checker and then struggle to put it back perfectly in position again. Plus the first item i take out, the ipod speakers actually looks a bit like a stereotypical bomb, its just as well i didn't have a white cord sticking out and a lighter in my pocket. So back to the train, i was unable to locate it on the subway map, but fortunately a Korean lady helped me out. I almost fell asleep several times on the 20 minute express train ride (which incidently cost a modest £1.50 - they don't even have journeys by train for that price in the UK, the most similar would be the heathrow express which costs about £20).

So I got to the airport with not too much time to spare, only an hour and 20 mins. A random westerner appeared out of nowhere on the escalator and started talking to me. She told me i'll be fine as long as i don't work at a hagwon (which i will be doing) and said she had a bad experience so is going on holiday to thailand instead. A bit worrying but i was confident i had done enough research on this place to not be disappointed. One thing to note here about flights is that in the UK, I was told to arrive 3 hours early, but i only arrived with 1 hour 30 mins to go and i was worried. But people in Korea were arriving for their (domestic) flight with barely 5 mins to go before the gates opened. Both asian flights opened the gates barely 10 mins before the scheduled flight time, yet they don't seem too bothered about it. The Seoul to Busan flight was very short, only 55 mins. i slept for about 5 mins then it was time to land. At Busan, I was greeted by the school director, a man of about my height, slim build and i estimated him to be in his mid to late 30's (the following day he told me he was 50!). He drove me to my apartment, about 45 mins away by car. He said his English wasn't that good, and i was so tired, but i thought it best to try to keep the conversation going and get as much info from him as possible. I asked what the population of Busan was, he told me 300 million people. He was right about his English!

After a short journey, we arrived at my apartment. I'm not going to lie - initially i was more than a little disappointed. On the way there, I could see row upon row of tall apartment blocks. He said he lived in one of them and that his one had 6 bedrooms (4 family, 2 guest). So i naturally assumed i would be housed in a similar, new, elegant looking room. Instead, he went down a few side roads and we ended up in what looked like one of the slums of the city. It was a first floor apartment with a small, cold room you first walk into that smelled of very strongly of something distinctively asian, perhaps soy sauce? It had a little table like one you would have in the garden, with 2 chairs, a sink and some hobs, a microwave was on the table and 2 other doors connected with it. One room was a fair bit larger, with a yellow floor (like the other), an old tv in one corner and a bed on one side, something to hang shirts on in another and a large 6 draw chest of drawers on one side. The other room was truly the worst bathroom i've ever seen. It was freezing cold in there, the ceiling slopes down on one side and its basically a shower and toilet room. I didn't feel at home at all. But, having read a brilliant self help book about feeling fear and doing it anyway, i was determined to see the good side of it and see it as a challenge, something to be overcome. he explained a few things before heading off. I was so tired that i thought it best to just go to sleep and hope things brightened up the next day. Fortunately they did in a big big way. It turns out the yellow floor is just a lining to cover the under floor heathing, which was very nice once it got going. Oh and my first real success of the day was discovering that my ipod speakers had an international plug, so i hooked the ipod to that and fell asleep to some Norah Jones. The adventure begins...

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