Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm a Seoul Man

Blogger's Note: These posts appear with the most recent ones first. To read them chronologically, scroll down to "Korea Report: We're Off" They really do make more sense that way.

Second Note: I'm tempted to skip a big blog of time. I woke up early this morning and spent a couple of hours getting my blog up to date. When I was about ready to hit publish, I did something, or blogspot did something or my computer did something, but most of it disappeared. So, I've been obsessing all day about whether to recreate what I wrote or just skip it. I'm too obsessive-compulsive to just skip it, so I'm going to try to recreate it. It was better the first time, I'm sure.

My appreciation of Japan rose rapidly on Friday morning. Besides the beautiful view out our hotel window, The Wife discovered some quintessential Japanese gardens in the back of the hotel:

Our plane for Tokyo from Seoul leaves at 12:30 and they want us in the lobby to get our bus back to the airport at 10:00 a.m. Northwest, being the scoundrels that they are, (but I repeat myself) has more than a bus load of people waiting at the hotel to get back to the airport. But, the Japanese, ever efficient, have us covered. They bring two buses. Baby Milton and his wife, EIEIO, come out of the hotel, watch as one of the bus drivers stows their luggage in the compartment on the bottom of the first bus, and then find the bus is too full, so they get on the second one. The problem is the first bus pulls away from the hotel with the luggage and the second bus waits another 10 to 15 minutes for stragglers and Baby Milton and EIEIO have become separated from their luggage. When we get to the terminal (we're on the second bus too, but with our luggage,) the bus driver is thrown into a frenzy of activity, calling people and running around, trying to find the luggage. When I say that Japanese people run, they literally run. I spied one young ticket taker repeatedly leaping over a pile of luggage in her way as she ran to and fro trying to take care of some problem or other. For the ones not leaping, the running of Japanese people looks a little odd to Western eyes. It's more like a very quick shuffle, taking quick little baby steps. As The Wife observed, "I'll bet they don't win many Olympics running that way."

One might think, looking at the literature, that it really makes no difference which carrier one uses, Northwest and Japan Air Lines, the company that will actually deliver us to Seoul, the planes are all the same. One might think wrong. The planes and crew are completely different. Although we're on a 747 again, this one has the look of being well maintained. The stewardii are young (okay, I'm an ageist) and smiley (okay, I'm a sucker for charm)and actually helpful. Three of the ones on Northwest had serious attitude problems. They looked mean and did the bare minimum to get paid. If they happened to be walking past when you had some garbage to get rid of, they would say they'd be back later -- which they were, an hour later.

But enough complaining. We got to Seoul at 12:30 on Friday to a heart-warming reunion between NOS and The Bride.

The Bride and The Bride's Father help us find a bank to change our money and get us set with the people at the telephone kiosk to get cell phones to use while we're in Korea. The cost is only $2 a day, but 60 cents a minute, but the phones are so complicated I'm not sure we'll be able to figure out how to use them. It seemed like a good idea to reserve phones when we were still in the States and I saw how cheap they were. That way we could keep track of each other without having to go around in lockstep.

We board an airport bus for the ride into Seoul to our hotel. It is about a 45 minute ride. We're staying at the Casaville in an older part of Seoul in a University district. Embarassingly, my Visa card doesn't work and they don't take Discover. I didn't want to take a bunch of credit cards to a foreign country so I had left my MasterCard at home. My Visa had worked earlier in the day, so I don't know what the problem is. Trying to make an international call to the company would have been a hassle, which I would have done before trying to sleep on the street, but luckily, the Humble Philosopher/Carpenter brother has a card that works so we're permitted to check in. The rooms are small, but very comfortable and with a lot of built in conveniences. There is a full kitchen with stove, refrigerator, microwave and sink and lots of cupboards and closets to put things.

I had been singing "Get Me to the Church on Time" to myself (in my head; I wouldn't inflict my singing on others) since leaving home on Wednesday morning, but it turned out that we were just going to get there under the wire. There was to be a church ceremony as part of the regular Catholic mass that evening at 7:00 and we had a couple of hours to rest, change into church-going clothes and get to the church on time.

The Bride's father, Mr. Cha, came back to the hotel at 6:00 to escort us to the church. Before the regular service, Jeremy and Bomina came out, dressed in traditional costumes. There was a short ceremony of "I do's" with Bomina translating from Korea to English and Jeremy happily saying "I do," even once when Bomina was the one supposed to be the one doing the promising.

After the service, we (The Bride's Family and all of the Crockheads) walked to a traditional Korean restaurant, The Turtle, for a traditional Korean meal, sitting on the floor on cushions. Koreans offer many, many different dishes in small servings. I have no idea what most of it was, other than I recognized salmon and other fish dishes, kimchee (the national Korean dish of fermented cabbage, which I love,) and beef. Although I have a pretty good camera, I'm not a very good photographer, so a lot of my pictures were blurry or badly composed. I did get this pretty good shot of the remains of the evening as we were leaving. We started walking back to the hotel, but were caught in a downpour and had to wait under an underpass for a while. When the rain let up, we debated for a while about whether to continue walking or catch a bus or taxi, but the wimps won out and we took a bus back and to bed for the end of an eventful day.

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