Yesterday we were up at 6am and rushed to Nanaimo airport to wait 2 hours for a flight (that was late) to the mainland. I was getting edgy because we only had a 2 hour window to our connecting flight, but we arrived just in time. The reason for the late plane? A service truck was parked near the air intake of the plane and had filled the cabin with exhaust, and they had to take the time to air it out. Go Air Canada. Our luggage did come off first in Seoul though, and it was a good sign of things to come.
In less than an hour (Korean efficiency?) after landing, we were on our orientation bus headed off the island airport toward the University where we’ll be spending the next ten days in orientation. We headed over the Incheon Bridge (at 21.38 kilometres I’m sure it’s the largest I’ve ever seen,) then eventually made our way to the campus. A quick medical check, gift bag, and dinner later, we were in our dorm room. I was surprised to find that they had us listed in a shared room. Surprising because during the application process they informed us that we would not be permitted to share quarters due to the fact that we were not married.
Today marks our first full day in Korea, and though we’ve been laying low for most of the morning I’m sure all of that will change since they have a full program of classes and orientation events for us to attend over the next week.
First impressions: Everyone has mountains other than Toronto. Vancouver, Kamchatka, Korea. Korea so far has been tidy, organized, efficient and helpful. I know we’re being coddled by our hosts at this point until we adapt to the new environment, but in the details I’ve already noticed little things like the lack of heating in buildings (our room is heated), and the lights everywhere are motion-sensored. Energy is not a natural resource in Korea, and as a result it seems Koreans are more mindful of efficiency and waste.
The garlic they use in their food is much more subtle yet pervasive than in North America, where people seem to think that drowning your food in it equals instant cuisine. That makes it easier to detect and avoid though, because last night I managed to eat something that left me sick for the rest of the night. I knew it was coming though. I knew that the Japanese call Koreans “the garlic eaters” before I even left Canada, and knew that there was going to be a period of adapting where I lose about ten pounds of guts before I figure out what’s safe to eat and what should be avoided. So I am in much-anticipated survival mode.
Speaking of survival mode, it’s now 10:00am and the warm brown liquid they served at breakfast didn’t count as my first coffee of the day, so I’m headed out into my new Korean world to see how I fare with no language skills. But that’s okay. This is coffee we’re talking about, so survival mode suits me just fine.