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Arriving in Seoul February 27, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.

Thanks to the 5-hour layover in Chicago, we were able to be the first ones to check into our next flight to Seoul and were fortunate enough to get great window seats next to the emergency exit. Therefore, we had all the leg room we could ask for and could get up at will and use the washroom a few steps away. We didn’t have as many movies and TV shows to choose from but we had plenty to read and music and podcasts to listen to. We had fairly high expectations for our airline experience and we weren’t disappointed. The quality of service and all the amenities provided were phenomenal. We were served two above-average meals, served unlimited drinks and were able to get a few hours sleep to get our bodies on Korean time for our arrival at 6am.

Upon landing we got through customs without delay and had our bags waiting for us. As we walked out of the baggage claim into the greeting area we were met by a sea of Koreans and a variety of signs. Our new friend Jeff had a sign waiting for him – Zeff Hamilton. There was also a large sign on display right in front with our names and another girls name as well. There was only one thing missing – Mr. Kang.

img_5406 Since our sign was surrounded by at least 20-30 Korean men who all looked like Mr. Kang. I simply stood right next to the sign and said “Mr. Kang?!” so everyone could hear me. Nothing but blank stares. After about 15 minutes or so a man on his cell phone approached the sign, looked at it thoroughly and then looked at me. “Mr. Kang?” I asked. Blank stare. I pointed to the sign and said “Jordan”. Blank stare. He then proceeded to finish his cell phone conversation and started talking to the guy next to him and completely ignore me. Alright then. After a few more minutes Katie was approached by another gentlemen who may have been Mr. Kang and instructed the guy who ignored me to drive us. We suspect that one of those guys was Mr. Kang and that they were probably helping the other girl on the sign while we were waiting, but we’ll never know as neither spoke english.

We proceeded to load our stuff into mini-van and were off on what was supposed to be a 45 minute drive to our destination in Seoul. It took 1.5 hours. We were coming into central Seoul during primetime rush hour between 8-9am. It was a disaster. In between dozing off, we exchanged awkward attempts at speaking english and Korean with our driver as he occasionally rolled down the window. Either he loves the smell of rush hour traffic in smog-filled downtown Seoul or he didn’t like the smell of his cargo fresh off over 24 hours of non-stop travel. I think it was Katie.

We finally arrived at the school around 9am and were introduced to Han. I had to fight every fibre of my being not to ask him where Chewbacca was, or what it was like to be frozen in carbonite. He was very nice, spoke excellent english and escorted us to our hotel just a few short blocks away.

We had arrived at our temporary home.

Packing February 26, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Toronto.

img_5400This was by far the most stressful part of planning this entire trip. Everyone kept asking if we were excited or nervous and I wasn’t really feeling either. Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to this, but excitement didn’t really hit until we walked off the plane and realized where we were. I would describe the last week or so as similar to the build-up to our wedding. You’ve been thinking about, talking about and planning something for so long, that as it gets real close, you just want to get on with it. And once it gets there, it’s everything you expected and more.

Anyway, back to packing. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t start packing at all until Sunday (We left on Monday night). Partially because I didn’t want all my stuff cramped in a suitcase/backpack for more than 3 days, but mostly because I knew it was going to be tough. I’ve never been away from home for more than a few weeks. I’ve been away at camp for the entire summer but we had breaks every few weeks so I could go home if I needed something. This was a whole new ballgame. What do you pack when you’re moving to the other side of the world for a year and then travelling for 3 months afterwards in a series of countries with varying climates? Keep in mind that the place we were moving into was fully furnished so all we really needed to bring was clothes, toiletries and personal effects. This shouldn’t have been that hard.

We also had to consider the weight and luggage restrictions of the airlines but we weren’t all that concerned about it as we both had one large backpack and a large suitcase each and didn’t anticipate coming anywhere near the weight limit with just clothes and what not. Thanks to Katie’s experience in Australia for a year, we were very careful not to bring anything but necessities. If there was a chance that we wouldn’t wear it or use it, leave it behind. We recognized that it was likely that we would realize at some point that we should have brought something that we hadn’t or vice versa, but overall I thought we were pretty good. The hardest omissions for me were my snowboard pants (which I wear everywhere in the winter) and obviously my golf clubs and hockey stick (Sorry Mullin, couldn’t do it). I did manage to include my rollerblades and and football which I know I won’t regret bringing, but outside of that I’m pretty happy with the contents of what I had laid out. Now I just had to get it on the backpack and suitcase. Katie had starting packing well before I did and it didn’t look promising at first so I was that much more leary of the task ahead. She wasn’t able to fit her rollerblades although I suspect her collection of feminine hygiene products may have played a role.

I can’t believe I’ve written this much about packing. It’s 7:30am and we’ve been awake for a few hours as our bodies adjust to the time change. Oh, and we were awoken by some sort of S&M orgy in the room above us. For those of you who haven’t heard, we currently reside in a dingy hotel that caters to prostitutes and their clientele. Our room is smaller than the guest room in our old condo and they were nice enough to provide condoms and Korean porn free of charge. But this is a topic for a whole other post. Let’s get back to packing! Buckle up.

img_54031 As you can see from the picture, we managed to get everything into our luggage, but the suitcases were ridiculously heavy. In retrospect, the only mistake we made was bringing too many books as we clearly could have bought some of them here, but I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t have many of the obscure sports titles that I had set aside and was looking forward to reading this year. We came to grips with the fact that we would likely have to pay a charge the excessive weight, but that it wouldn’t be exorbitant and we had only packed the bare essentials.

Quick tangent. Katie and I had talked recently about how we were going to meet new friends and that some of them could develop into lifelong friendships. We also recognized that we were going to meet some toolboxes but whatever, hopefully they would be mildly entertaining and at least we’d have someone to make fun of. Kinda like Sub.

So we’re standing in line at Pearson airport getting ready to check it when Ron (father-in-law) starts chatting with the couple behind us and their son who is flying to Korea to teach english for a year as well. We exchanged introductions and I immediately notice that he’s  at least 6’5″, he’s wearing a Titleist hat and has a Leafs pin on the lapel of his jacket. Needless to say, he had me at hello. We ended up spending the entire trip with him, including the 5- hour layover in Chicago and agreed to keep in touch and hang out. He’s a little bit further north in Seoul but has friends currently living in the same region as us, so we’ll definetly be seeing some more of Jeff Hamilton (or as we call him, Zeff)

While discussing our respective trips with Zeff and his family they pointed out that the charge for a third bag was much less than the charge for an overweight one. They had done the research and although they got different answers from different people at United Airlines, it appeard to make more sense to have a third bag. They were right. Both of our backpacks weighed just under 50 pounds, so no penalty there. However, both of our suitcases tipped the scales at a whopping 95+ pounds and we were informed that the penalty for baggage in this weight category was $350 USD…per bag. After the initial shock subsided, we decided that it made more sense to buy another bag and redistribute the weight accordingly and simply pay the third bag charge of only $150 USD. This still probably sounds excessive to some of you but when $700 USD is the alternative, it was no brainer. I quickly rushed to a wildly overpriced luggage store and purchased a Team Canada duffle bag on wheels that was 2/3 the size of a regular bag and doled out a cool $75 for a bag that I could have bought at National Sports for $19.99. To make a long story short, we quickly re-arranged our carefully packed suitcases and had them re-weighed. All three of them were between 65-70 lbs. We were good to go.

Stay tuned for our next post about our arrival in Seoul and meeting Mr. Kang.

And if anyone can tell me why Chicago O’Hare has a terminal 1, 2, 3 & 5 but no number 4 (?), we’d love to hear from you.

Welcome aboard… February 23, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Toronto.

2001_a_space_odysseyFor those of you wondering what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, you might think this is it. Well you’re wrong. I bought the domain name and set up this wordpress blog in just a few hours and we’re very happy with result thus far.

The title is a tribute to my brother and his favourite director, Stanley Kubrick. Fraser always wanted to travel and see the world in his ongoing quest for knowledge and enlightenment, so I know he’d be proud of us for the adventure we’re about to embark upon. 

Despite being a diehard sci-fi scan, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually seen 2001. Maybe I’ll check it out on the 14 hour flight from Chicago to Seoul which departs from O’Hare at 2am on Tuesday. We’re flying on Asiana Airlines which we’ve been told is one of the nicer Asian carriers and offers all the same amenities that North American passagers only get in first class. Apparently they have seatback TV’s with an impressive database of movies and TV shows. It’s still 14 hours on  a plane, but I’m sure the adrenaline, the amenities and free drinks/gravol will be more than enough to keep us comfortable aboard a Boeing 777 filled with Asians. Our flight from Toronto to Chicago departs at 7:15pm this this evening (Monday, February 23rd) with a 5-hour layover before the flight to Seoul. Fortunately we have plenty to read and the benefit of a Slingbox linked to our laptop so we’ll be just fine.

We’ll be touching down in Seoul on Wednesday at 6am which is actually Tuesday at 4pm EST, so as most of you are finishing up another work day, we’ll be attempting to navigate through Incheon airport and figure out how to get our bags. The only thing we know that’s planned for us on the other end is that a gentlemen by the name of Mr. Kang will be at the airport to pick us up and will be taking us to the school. We have absolutely no idea what else is in store for us that day, but I can’t wait to find out.