I’m a geography buff. One of my favorite things to do is go on google maps or an app that uses a map and look at how mankind has divided planet Earth.
I can label all fifty states of America as well as all the countries in Europe. You’d be hard-pressed to name a country I’ve never at least heard of.
(A six year habit born of going on my job’s PC and fantasizing I was somewhere else.)
But when I flew into South Korea last weekend the plane passed over territory I was unfamiliar with. Before I get into the details of my flight, I’ll give some brief background on how paying for the flight works when you teach English at a school in South Korea.
In the end, the prospective English teacher does not pay for the one-way ticket out to the school. But that doesn’t mean the teacher won’t be reaching into their pocket.
Let me explain.
There are two methods when it comes to paying for the flight. Either the school will pay for the ticket upfront, or the teacher will pay for the ticket and the school will reimburse the money.
(Either way it’s a free trip!)
My school went with the latter option. They used a travel agency and booked a direct flight from JFK to Incheon, South Korea (just outside of Seoul). The cost was $850, and I won’t be seeing the money until my first paycheck (at the end of the month) comes in.
Even though I might have been able to fly out of good ol’ Newark I decided to just listen to the travel agency because I didn’t want any complications with reimbursement.
It turned out to be a smart choice in the end. I flew Asiana air instead of United, which was what I planned on picking.
(Yes, the same airline with a crash in 2013. Save your Xanex, I’m fine)
Unlike United, Asiana has a personal TV for each passenger, and since the flight was a brutal 14 hours (more on that below) I appreciated having the option to watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, and play simple video games (like Tetris).
I watched 3 movies during the flight: If I Stay (Good), Jersey Boys (Better), and Maze Runner (Best).
(“I’m sorry but I have to “stay” on this flight, Chloë Grace Moretz. It’s 14 hours without a layover! What’s that? Uh, yeah, we can still make out.”)
Now, I know at this point you’re most likely wondering what YOU would do in this situation. You’re thinking, “I would just sleep! Forget the movies! They’re edited and watered down anyway!”
All good points. And yes, I actually did plan to sleep on the plane ride out. I stayed up packing the night before and only got four hours of sleep. This was all part of my plan to be EXHAUSTED when I finally got on the plane and easily pass out.
(Without the aid of sleeping pills or one, two, three….NINE beers.)
But somehow that didn’t happen. I got on the plane and, indeed, I was quite tired. But I simply couldn’t fall into a deep sleep. I got maybe one hour at the beginning and I was tired yet awake the whole time. So because of that I had plenty of time to talk to the two passengers next to me, read, play a little PS Vita (Sound Shapes, specifically), watch movies, and look at the map.
But the map was something that worried me a bit. I opened with my love of geography, but the plane went into territory that even I couldn’t name. Here’s a pic from the inflight monitor:
I thought that the flight would follow the logical pattern of heading west across America (NY then Chicago then San Francisco) continue across the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii, and then land in South Korea.
But what happened instead was the plane went straight up north in Canada and then all the way near the vicinity of the North Pole to a territory that I couldn’t name. (I now know it’s the uninhabited areas of Canada in the Arctic Ocean) The plane went west across the Northern Hemisphere and then headed south down over Russia, North Korea and finally Incheon.
(“Damn. Just missed him.”)
Here’s a tip. Typically the school will arrange for someone to come pick you up once you arrive at the airport, and while that’s great (and appreciated) MAKE SURE that you confirm this with them before you board the plane.
Don’t make my mistake. I was so wrapped up in packing for a year’s time and tying up any loose ends in my life that it slipped my mind to email them and confirm that someone would be picking me up.
So when I arrived in Korea and passed customs and baggage I arrived at the exit of the airport where people hold up signs for passengers they are picking up.
(You know the type.)
I passed by the wall of people with signs about four times looking for one with my name, but I saw nothing. This was a bad situation for a couple of reasons:
-I did not have a working phone.
-I did not have the address of my destination.
-I do not speak the language.
Even though I knew this was a long shot, I opened up my ASUS laptop and tried to see if I could access the internet. In America (and in my experience, Europe too) you absolutely have to pay for Internet.
(Wat she said.)
Fortunately the Internet is not only abundantly FREE in Korea’s public spaces (and businesses) it’s also remarkably FAST too. I was able to log onto Skype and message one of my contacts that has lived in Korea for the past twenty years.
I told him I had arrived and if anyone was picking me up. The second he messaged me to ask if “Jessica” had arrived, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was Joseph. I said yes and said goodbye to Skype.
She was late because she couldn’t find parking, so we went to the parking garage and got in her Hyundai. It was night time and we drove the highways to my new apartment. I didn’t take picture of this drive over, but I can at least say it reminded me of the highways of Las Vegas.
(Lots of open space, smooth roads, and streetlights.)
At this point it should be obvious that I was a zombie and eager to pass out on top of my new bed. This did not happen. Jessica dropped me off at my apartment where my new boss, Cara, was waiting with her husband.
Cara was in good spirits. Downright jovial (if I may). Her husband was nice too and said “Welcome to Korea” in English. Then they showed me up to my studio apartment and showed me how to work the thermostat for my hot water, heated floor, and the room’s heat.
I wanted them to leave so I could pass out, but Cara was talking about stuff I’d need for the night. Because it was a Sunday evening everything was closed so all she could do was get a small towel from her home and give it to me.
(I was showering no matter how small the towel.)
Even though I ate both meals on the plane I was starving and Cara was nice enough to buy me food as a welcoming gift. I saw an Italian place on the way (it’s down the street from me) so I decided on pizza, figuring there was no way the Koreans could mess that up.
So I had my plan:
Step 1: Eat Pizza
Step 2: Shower
Step 3: Pass the Hell Out.
I did all of the above but also something really foolish: I ate the entire pizza. After showering and going straight to bed, I was up all night with stomach problems.
(Let your imagination take you where it may.)
And because of that I did not get a good night’s rest and was under slept for my first training day, which is never a good thing.
I know this pizza sickness episode may sound slightly off-topic but I bring it up to teach a lesson I learned about flying: For me, no matter how long the flight, no matter how sleep-deprived I am, I simply cannot sleep on airplanes. From now on, whenever I travel I will get a good night’s rest the day before and do what I can to pass the time on the plane.
(“I’m pretty, pretty……..pretty well-rested!”)
That’s all for today. As always be sure to SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL so you don’t miss a post. If you have a question please LEAVE A COMMENT below.
See you soon,
J. F. Seegitz
P.S. How is Korea? It’s COLD! And the day after I landed was one of the coldest they’ve ever had.