One very dark and early morning in August, I loaded up 2 overweight pieces of luggage and one way bigger than standard sized carry-on into the back of my mom’s Mazda 5 and bid adieu to childhood home. Having graduated university in June, I was more than ready to embark on a new adventure…on the other side of the world! I’ll admit, even though I’ve lived abroad before, this is the first time that I was about to take off completely solo, and the prospect was daunting! Nevertheless, a few (ok, many) tears, hastily repacked luggage (the nice man at the Air Canada let my luggage have 2 extra pounds…instead of the 8 extra I originally had), and an agonizing repack of my ENTIRE oversized carry-on at security later, I made it onto the plane. Trying to be subtle, I glanced around the cabin for any sign of other people my age looking equally as nervous; my nervousness and subtlety were rather lost though as I struggled to heft the travelling backpack that weighs almost as much as I do over my head into the overhead storage bin. Luckily, Rob (another English native teacher) waited patiently behind me even though I was taking up half the aisle, and his seat.
The first leg of our journey was a 4 hour flight to Vancouver, which were passed with a tear-plugged nose…quite mercifully as the gentleman squished between myself and Rob left a decidedly interesting odour in the air every time he shifted in his seat; and since we flew economy and those seats are rather small, that shifting happened every few minutes or so. Needless to say, after I leaned down once to try and rummage for my purse under the seat in front of me, I was content to nap and watch movies – with my head firmly in the upright position – for the rest of the flight.
We arrived in Vancouver safe and sound, where Monique and I decided to indulge in a last-chance Canadian craving: the glowing Tim Hortons sign had never looked sweeter. Little did I realise as I was ordering my small iced cap and honey crueller that that would be the last time ordering something wouldn’t include hand gestures, “erms” and frantic searching of my tired brain for Korean pronunciation. Bidding farewell to Canada for a final time, we hopped on our second flight for the 11 hour trip to Seoul…passing over a spectacular view of the mountains along the way. After 11 hours in the air, those mountains had been traded in for a foggy sky and small inlets dotting a vast expanse of water, our first view of SK! Our first stop abroad was in Seoul, where we were greeted by 7-Elevens, and an ad with Robert Deniro…are we sure we’re in Seoul?
After affirming that we were, in fact, in SK, we filled in our landing forms (occupation: teacher!), went through customs, grabbed our luggage, spent our first won buying adapters and hopped on a shuttle bus for Gimpo airport. Once there, we were all disgruntled at the fact that we had to pay another overweight baggage fee; though the majority of us had it better than Rob who disappeared into the “restricted area” for a time to have his luggage searched.
Finally, we made it onto our third and last plane ride, heading to Ulsan and our final destination! After a long 29 hours, we made it to the Youngsan University residence, which would be home for the first week of our stay. The discovery that there was no elevator in the building pushed us all over the edge of exhaustion and into bed; once we had made the multiple trips up and down stairs with a year’s worth of luggage of course! Nothing like the 630am wake up to look forward to after that 🙂
Categories: Expanding Your Comfort Zone