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Thank God for free rice

Filed in Blog, South Korea by on September 11, 2017
by Megan I.

I have traveled a lot for someone my age and with my budget, but I also have some of the worst bouts of bad luck imaginable and am generally the poster child for clumsiness. Naturally, despite all my best efforts and intensive planning, things go horribly awry.

Here lies an account of my first (less than) 24 hours in Seoul. Disclaimer: I’ve actually been to Korea before for an entire summer in 2013. I have no excuse for these mistakes.

  1. Sit at the wrong gate until 30 minutes into boarding for your flight to Korea. Yes, you read that correctly. I meet up with a girl who is living in the same guesthouse as I am in Detroit and we have the same flight to Korea. Together we somehow sit at gate 50A instead of 56A for over an hour. 30 minutes after boarding is supposed to have started, I start to worry (as I usually do) and notice the screen by our gate is showing a flight to Hong Kong and boarding is way behind, which is concerning me. The girl and I exchange glances.
    Me: “Maybe we should walk over and look at this closer?”
    Her: “Wait, aren’t we supposed to be at gate 56? This says 50.”
    Queue intense bolting to the gate, where there is a long line for boarding.* Thank God people are ridiculously slow on airplanes.
  2. When you reach your destination, get very confused about how to find baggage claim. Let your two hours until the airport shuttle dwindle into nothingness while waiting for your bags and try to figure out customs. “Didn’t we already go through customs?” “Was that just a passport check then??” “Now I have to dig out the forms again!!”
  3. When you finally reach the people from the host school you are supposed to meet, spend 15 minutes trying to get money out of an ATM as the shuttle is about to leave. We needed to get cash out of the ATM in order to pay our deposit upon arrival at our lodging. Note that I do not remember ATMs being this confusing last time I was here. The instructions for said ATM were less than useful, especially amidst the panic. We had to employ nearby workers for assistance, only to find out the amount we wanted to take out exceeded the withdrawal limit, so we had to do this multiple times each. “You may need to take the 10 p.m. bus,” KUBA mentor. “We told them we’d arrive at 10 p.m.,” terrified American girls. “Oh.”
  4. Get told once you get in line with the other international students after they manage to get the driver to hold off the bus that the bus will be full and you will have to take the 10 p.m. anyway. This night was a roller coaster. We somehow were told to never mind that two seconds later and ushered to the front. Said bus only ended up having eight people on it.
  5. Upon stepping outside, realize contrary to what the pilot had said, it is pouring rain. Torrential downpour rain. Because it is still monsoon season in Korea. Realize you have no umbrella. We finally arrived at our stop with several KUBA mentors closer to 11 than the 9:30-10 p.m. I had quoted the guesthouse owner on. Sharing umbrellas and splashing through puddles that looked more like pools with our million suitcases in tow, we marched like a funeral parade to our new home. See next number for details.
  6. Realize your purse is too full to close and there’s no turning back. Allow your phone, $200 headphones, wallet and brand new purse to get soaked through. Hopefully they still work. We’ll come back to this.
  7. Reach the lodging only to see some signs on the door that they are closed after 9 p.m. No one at the front desk for the check in you expected. No way in. We’re gonna die. Luckily our KUBA members came in clutch yet again, blessed oppas they be, calling someone about something and somehow one of them eventually whipping out a card and saying, “Master key!” Swiping it near the door and it magically opened. I still don’t understand what happened here.
  8. So we go inside and see a note left for us that has our room assignments and tells us that the doors are unlocked with our keys and paperwork inside. Bidding farewell to the KUBA members, we go to our separate rooms and start to settle in. Then it happens. My phone won’t charge. I’m using the same converter I did the last time I was in Korea, so I know it works. My phone starts to give me some weird error message about moisture in the charger. Panicking because I’m on very low battery, and of course everyone back home still needs confirmation I’ve arrived and countless other things, I go to my new friend’s room and we try all sorts of things. Is it the charger block? The cord? The converter? After trying it with her products which had not been assaulted by rain (note: cloth carry-ons do not measure up to monsoons) we realized the problem was my phone itself. The charging slot in my actual phone had gotten rain in it. The entire flippin’ phone is in an otterbox, but somehow rain penetrated that one tiny hole of the most vital importance. This was the greatest challenge of all. I remember reading that the guesthouse offers free rice among other things in the communal kitchen downstairs. Friend and I rush down and start (quietly) ripping through in search of dry rice. God bless having a wet phone crisis in a country where rice is a staple food. What would I have done in Europe? Using the classy paper bowl and some rice method, I leave my phone to dry. It wasn’t until 3 a.m. that it was finally functional and able to charge again, but it was.

The sun had set on my troubled first night in Korea. My arrival was behind me. I awoke in my own room across the street from what will be my new campus for the next year and sighed in immense relief, finally able to enjoy myself. The journey has only just begun, and I already have another embarrassing travel tale. I cringe a little. Well, it’ll amuse everyone else I suppose. After all, comedy = tragedy + time, right?

About the blogger

Megan I. is studying abroad on the Korea University program in Seoul, South Korea.

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