January 09, 2003
Welcome to Seoul

After a 12-hour plane ride over the Pacific Ocean, we arrived early yesterday evening in Seoul, South Korea. We're here to attend Al's cousin Peter's wedding (I got to know him this fall, as he did the reading at our wedding), and to see some of Al's relatives.

I believe it's still Thursday in San Francisco, but here it's almost 8am on Friday. I'd planned to write about our arrival last night before going to bed, but we had a late dinner with an aunt and uncle, and afterwards I was so tired I couldn't think straight. So far we seem to have escaped jet lag, however, due to our evening arrival; as it turns out, when we were tired was bedtime anyway. I suspect going back will be much worse, as we arrive at 10am.

Anyway, most of the people on our flight yesterday were going on to Bombay, so there were only about twenty of us going through immigration, baggage claim, and customs. It was a remarkably quiet and smooth process. Al's aunt and uncle met us at the customs exit, where they welcomed us warmly and congratulated us on our wedding. We then went to the SKTelecom booth to rent a cell phone, so we could coordinate arrangements with Peter and all the relatives more easily.

Aunt, who speaks English fairly well (and Korean fluently, obviously), helped Al get the phone, while Uncle (who speaks little English) and I stood by and watched. I tried to make conversation by telling him all the Korean words I knew, and a small "Who's on First?" scene ensued when I pointed to Al and said "nam-pyun." Uncle replied, "anae". Me: "No, I'm the anae. Al is my nam-pyun." He pointed to himself and said, "nam-pyun." I realized he thought I'd been pointing at Aunt when I'd said "nam-pyun", so I tried to clarify that I was pointing at Al. Eventually we got it worked out (I think). Yes, I am a wife, and Uncle is a husband, and Aunt is a wife, and Al is a husband. Phew!

We got the phone, brought our bags out to the car, and then made the 90-minute drive from the airport to the Chosun Hotel. There was what looked like a crazed goat hanging from the windshield on the passenger side, and I wanted to ask Aunt, "what's the deal with the goat?", but I wasn't sure my overly-idiomatic English would be understood. Later, as the thing rotated with the movement of the car, I noticed a cottonball-like tail on the backside of it, and figured that it must be a bunny, not a goat. I also found out that it was their son's car, so they probably wouldn't have known what the deal with the bunny/goat was anyway.

As we arrived in the city, Aunt pointed out various interesting sights, including the World Cup soccer stadium (very impressive) and the Han River. Al pointed out a Benningans; less than a block later was a TGI Friday's, and around the corner was an Outback Steakhouse. We knew from reading about it that western culture and chain restaurants were proliferating around the world, but somehow I was not prepared for a Bennigan's, a Friday's, and an Outback here in Seoul. A Planet Hollywood (as there was in Barcelona) or a McDonald's would probably have been less of a shock.

Next we passed a university district; apparently there are several schools in one area, including Ewah University, the women's college that Al's mom graduated from. Al then pointed out a shop window and said, "look at the dresses." I looked, and said, "oh, wedding gowns!" And then there was another window of wedding gowns. And another. And another. I said, "wow, I guess this is the wedding dress district." Al said, "Well, Ewah University." My heart sank. Have we made no strides?

We arrived at the Chosun Hotel about 10 minutes later... only to find that we had a reservation at the Chosun Hotel in Pusan, about 8 hours from here. After a moment of panic and much finagling in both English and Korean, we finally got to the bottom line: we needed a room *here*, not in Pusan. I'm not sure what rate I signed up for, but I eventually just got out my credit card, filled in the registration slip, and got a key. Our room is a regular one, but it's awesome: a total Vern room. And it has high-speed internet access. Woo hoo!

Posted by Lori at January 09, 2003 03:28 PM