Thursday morning, my friend Wintersweet arrived to take me to the airport. I said a sad farewell to Tattermuffin and family, who were all big helps with the packing and getting ready to leave for Korea. Wintersweet and I had breakfast at Hobee's which is a Bay Area restaurant chain I had never eaten at before, to my regret! They try to use only fresh local foods, and breakfast there was great. We both had the same thing, because it sounded so delicious, and it was! It was cinnamon-orange swirl french toast sandwiching fried bananas and sliced almonds, with yogurt sauce instead of syrup.
Wintersweet and her husband (via her cell phone) offered more suggestions of ebooks I could download to my new Kindle 2 before I left. (Whispernet doesn't work outside the US, and I was not sure I would be able to get books for the Kindle while in Korea, so I wanted to download as many as possible before I left. I have over 150 things on my Kindle now, so I think I'm good for books for a while!)
We parked at the airport, and then Wintersweet helped me get my suitcases and carry-ons to the check-in counter. One of my carry-ons was overweight (I've never had them weigh a carry-on before!), but we managed to re-distribute a few things, and he let it go. My checked bags were just under the limit, thanks to Tattermuffin letting me borrow her scale to weigh them beforehand.
Then Wintersweet helped me get my stuff to security, and kindly waited to make sure I got through ok. Everything was fine, and I set off to find a place to buy some Ghirardelli chocolate as a gift for the school principal and for the administrator who was in charge of getting an apartment and all the things my contract provided (TV, microwave, bed, etc.). I managed to stuff the chocolate into my backpack, even, and it arrived without being squished. Then I schlepped all my heavy gear to the departure gate, which, naturally, was at the very far end of the terminal.
(I'm going to try an LJ-cut tag, so it won't kill the friends pages for those of you on LJ. I don't know if it will work.)
This photo is a little blurry, because my arms were so tired they were shaking badly.
The plane I flew to Korea on:
The flight was uneventful. The food was decent, and there was no one in the middle seat in my section. Korean Air has video-on-demand even for economy class, so I got to choose from many available movies and watch them when I wanted to. I also read part of one of the books Wintersweet recommended, His Majesty's Dragon, and played My Sims on Nintendo DS. But I spent most of the time reading Tattermuffin's gift to me: Lost in Austen, a Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. It was very funny, and kept me entertained, although I did fail in my mission several times.
Eventually, we arrived at Incheon International Airport, and proceeded through immigration and on to baggage claim. Where I waited. And waited. And waited. My bags were the penultimate off the plane, and it was an hour from the time we landed until they finally showed up on the carousel. The whole time I was fretting that the van driver would think he had missed me and go off somewhere, but it wasn't a problem. Once I finally got my bags, I breezed through customs, and the van driver was waiting right past customs, holding a sign with my name on it.
He seemed to be in a big hurry, and didn't speak any English, so I wasn't able to exchange any of my US money for Korean won at the airport. This was a problem, because it was Friday evening, and banks here aren't open on weekends, and I work during the hours banks are open on weekdays, so I was worried that I wouldn't have any spendable money!
After a longish van ride, we arrived at my neighborhood. The driver didn't know what building my apartment was in (Korean addresses are very confusing, even to Koreans!), but he asked around and found the right place. My coworkers were there and waiting, and helped me get my suitcases up to my apartment.
Check out the high-tech door! (As you might guess from the number, I'm on the 4th floor.)
I was surprised and pleased to find the apartment more than double the size of my last apartment in Korea. Plus, there is one big bonus.
View from the entryway:
From the far corner across:
Looking from the center toward the kitchen/dining, and check out the adorable tiny vacuum cleaner!
Check out the fancy rice cooker. Not only does it cook rice in 15 minutes, but it's also a pressure cooker, crock pot, and can steam vegetables. Unfortunately, the instructions are all in Korean. So far I've figured out how to make rice and boil water. LOL
The narrow black rectangle is the stove top (2 burners) -- glass top, yay! And below is the clothes washing machine. No dryer, darn!
I was very happy to find that this kitchen has about 5 times the counter space of the previous apartment in Korea! More cabinet space, too!
The toilet has a bidet! And it blows you dry! You can choose hot or cold air! The instructions and buttons are all in Korean, of course, but I screwed up my courage and experimented one morning.
The mirror slides back and forth, and there is storage behind it, as well.
And check out the best part -- shower stall!
It has a door that seals it off completely, but it's all the way open so you can't see it in the photo. Woohoo! No more splashing water all over the bathroom when I shower! I can store towels and TP and stuff in the bathroom! I don't have to squeegee the whole bathroom dry after I shower! It's not quite as exciting as a clothes dryer, but it's a close second.
The only thing about this apartment that's not much better than my old one is the view out the window. My last apartment looked out on Gwanaksan (Mt. Gwanak) (and yes, Wintersweet, the mushroom bar). From this one, I can only see buildings:
The side window is even worse:
However, the window itself is much bigger and lets in more light, plus I have a second side window for light, so overall it's still better. And I have blinds for privacy. The windows open two different ways--sideways, or the top tilts open. Unfortunately, there are no screens, so I'm really glad that I brought some mosquito netting.
After bringing my things into the apartment, my coworkers took me out to dinner. We had a delicious mushroom bulgogi soup. (For those not familiar with Korean food, bulgogi is beef that has been cooked to tenderness in a slightly sweet sauce with onions and garlic. If you find yourself in a Korean restaurant and don't know what to order, bulgogi is a good choice, assuming you eat beef.) Then we went back to my apartment and they showed me how to use the heating system, the washer, the TV, the vacuum cleaner (the base snaps out for emptying and for use as a mini-hand vac, with attachments) and the basics of the rice cooker. Wondering why I needed help for this? Check 'em out:
Door camera and intercom, heat, timer:
Then they left, and I did a little unpacking and went to bed.
And this is already way long, so I'll leave the rest for another post.