Monday, August 12, 2013

The Journey to the Land of Kimchi and Soju

Like art, adventures have to start somewhere. Mine started in the Reno International airport. After a few days of partying with friends and family I was finally taking the leap into the unknown. I had two GIANT brown bags, a huge backpack and a small camera case. I was undeniably worn out from the past few days of boozing at going away parties. The recruiting company that hired me had taken care of all the flight arrangements and of course they were the cheapest possible. My first flight was sending me to Tuscon, AZ then to LA. Unfortunately this plane had broken down and only 100 of the 130 passengers were able to fly on a smaller plane. I was not selected to be one of these people. I had a slight argument with the staff, who seemed more upset than the passengers about the delay. After telling them I was to catch an international flight that evening they said my best bet was to get a flight voucher and find another airline. I called my parents, who were still at the airport. Luckily, they were able to help me purchase another ticket; a direct flight to LA.

 I had to return back upstairs and claim a flight voucher from the previous airline and run back downstairs to grab my bags from the only saintly soul working at that airline. After checking in on the other airline I left my passport at the table causing me to momentarily panic as I approached the security gate. What a day to quit drinking eh? Thank goodness it was still in the place where I had left it. Giving my parents one last hug before I stepped through the gate and started my journey.

After arriving in LA I had to catch a shuttle van to drop me off at the Korean embassy, about a 35 minute ride. A few weeks earlier I had mailed my passport to them to get a nifty Work Visa sticker. Now, of course American airports don't have storage lockers so me, my two huge bags, giant backpack and camera bag were all traveling in this van with 7 other people, a tight fit for sure. I had the good fortune of having a humorous driver who whistled Beatles songs, cracked jokes and was more-than-helpful in arranging another van to pick me up. Upon entering the hallowed walls of the embassy was when I had my first observation about Korean folk... Korean women love high heel shoes. High heels and designer bags were the standard for every Korean woman who entered. I set my bags in the waiting area got in line and 5 minutes later had a brand spanking new Visa for Korea. Then I realized I had four hours to wait for the next van. I decided to take a nap. I can only imagine what the security guards, immigration staff, and other visitors to the embassy thought seeing me cuddle up with my two giant bags napping in the lobby.

After about 2 hours the embassy was getting ready to close up for the day so I stumbled outside, set my bags near the corner where I was to be picked up and people watched. People of all ages, ethinicities, fashion styles and distinct walks passed by. Some would look, other said hello and some would just ignore me. It was the last time in over a year that I would be in the midst of such diversity (more on this later). I finally gathered my bearings and realized I was sitting near the corner of New Hampshire Ave. and Wilshire. The world the passerby's inhabited was all to familiar for them. Though, for me... being from a less urbanized area it was an urban jungle. Movement is to a city as water is to a fish. The cars, bikes, swooshing legs, the click-clack of high heels, the sounds of car horns and motorcycle exhaust blending together to create a new age sound. The sound of the 21st century marching slowly forward.

 In the rush of the day I seemed to be the only one taking everything in. The only one stepping outside the daily grind. I saw the lush green, well watered, grasses splash up against the concrete foundations of the buildings around me. The flawless green flow of nature reaching out its hand to shake with ashy gray creations sprung from loin's of mans mind. Eventually another van picked me up and took me back to the airport. It was time for my journey to continue.

After going through the ridiculous American airport security regimen it was time to jump the big puddle. I don't recall much about the plane ride. I slept for about 10 of the 12.5 hours and slept right through my dinner. I'm not gonna lie I was a little upset at missing my chance at a chicken dinner. One of my seat mates was kind enough to chit-chat in the final hour of our flight. He was an airline steward for China Air and his English was superb. We chatted about his job, the job awaiting me and then finally got to the good stuff, flight attendants of the female kind. He told me that the prettiest ones flew for Japanese and Korean airlines and only worked with the first class customers. He told me a story of how one of his coworkers for China Air was picked up by a Korean pop star only to be taken to a karaoke where this gentleman blathered on about his women problems. Good first date if you're a pop star I suppose. After the flight we parted ways back onto our own stages called life. To this day I still wonder if my single serving friends (my seat mates) jumped over me while I slept or had iron bladders.

We arrived just before dawn in the land of Kimchi and I had about a 5 hour layover in Seoul. After going downstairs into the lobby I decided to break out some of my newly exchanged Won (currency of Korea) and buy something. So what was my first purchase in Korea? A coffee and a pack of smokes. An eclectic mix I know.
           ^Dawn in Seoul^

A few hours later I found myself landing in Gimhae, South Korea. I got off the plane, grabbed my bags and was expecting someone to be there waiting for me. Alas, no one was there. A few cab drivers attempted to get my fair but I had no idea where I was going. Finally about 30 minutes later a western foreigner and my new boss finally showed up to pick me up. After another 20 minutes of driving we arrived at a hotel. I was to stay in a hotel for a few days until the guy I was replacing left the country. Now, we all have the typical version of American Hotels in our head at this point ... this was not your typical hotel. It was a love hotel.
 ^Busan airport^

Basically, a place for couples to go and have sex. Many people live with their parents until they are married so establishments such as these make it easy for them get jiggy with it. Also sometimes married couples, with children, who live in a small apartment need some place a little more private to go as well. They are also frequented by folks who step outside of marriage to jump on it. With the vast number of these places I think it's a fair assumption that Korea is down with OPP.
 ^an example of a love hotel. They aren't always this flashy, but why not get down to biz under a neon moon?^

My room was quaint and would suffice for the few days I would have to stay there. I was definitely not sleeping underneath the covers of the bed though! A few hours later I opted to shadow my job. Being jet lagged I honestly can't remember one thing about this. Later, after work my new coworkers stopped by my room but I had finally reached the crash point. I slept from about 7pm to 6am. It was sleep nearly worthy of being called a coma.

I awoke to an odd sound. The sound of pleasure being had in the room next door. The loud moans of a man, though I did not hear a peep from a woman's mouth. I suppose it was an interesting alarm clock. I got up and wandered into the restroom where I was going to throw some trash into the can. It was upside down so I flipped it over. Then... I was hit with the most god awful stenches I have ever had the disagreeable experience of having. A used ladies pad, perhaps days, weeks, years, millennium's old had been lying in wait for the nostril attack. Well I vomited and promised myself never to turn over a rubbage bin that was overturned ever again.

Later in the day, it being a Saturday so I didn't have work, I had the privilege of seeing one of the majestic sights known to humanity. As I exited my room to procure some food down the street another door at the end of the hallway opened. I was greeted by the eyes of a woman who looked rather ashamed to see someone else in the hallway. Then behind her another woman left the room with the same look written all over her face. My interest had now been peaked. Then a man left the room. As he saw me gazing in wide-eyed wonder he began shaking his head up and down and let out a million and a half dollar smile. He didn't say anything but I would like to assume that in his thoughts he looked at me and thought, "Yes, you foreign mother fucker you did just see two women leave this room. I am indeed a boss playa."

That final note brings to me the end of my story of traveling to Korea. Stay tuned for further adventures in the land of Kimchi and Soju and as well as those to come from here, the land of Hello Kitty and the Samurai (not in any specific order).


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