I guess I'll start with the trip. I woke up super early last Wednesday morning to take a train into the city for my first flight to Toronto.
|I couldn't resist some Tim Hortons while I waited!|
That flight was short, as was the layover. The flight to Incheon, however, was almost 14 hours. They did feed us a lot though and I wasn't sitting next to anyone loud, smelly, or obnoxious so I would call it a win overall. My host had arranged for two guys from the lab to meet me at the airport and take me to my apartment. Although I had prepared for making the trip myself, I am really glad that I had a guide because I was so tired that I kept nodding off on the bus. If I had been by myself I might have fallen asleep and woken up in Seoul!
On Friday, I went to McDonald's with my new labmates (mostly female, for a change) for lunch. The first questions I was asked were, in order:
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- Do you have a boyfriend?
After lunch, the guys from lab took me around to do some shopping. Mainly getting a phone and bus card. Again, I was planning on doing it myself but in the end I am so grateful that my labmates helped me out. Especially because, unlike when I was in Hong Kong, I am finding it quite tough to get along without knowing the language. In HK there is basically always someone in the vicinity who speaks English well. So far, that has not been my experience in Incheon. I only know about 4 words of Korean so far (hello, thank you, yes, no) and they are not actually that useful. I'm getting the hang of the alphabet but I'm still not entirely able to sound things out. I'm on a pretty steep learning curve.
Despite my language and general ineptitude, I did manage to conquer the Home Plus Mart. It took two tries, but I did eventually succeed. This place is a marvel. It's like super walmart on steroids and a fancy department store rolled into one with a little bit of IKEA sprinkled on top. The first time I went, it was Friday afternoon/evening and the place was a zoo. There were so many shoppers and sales people that I couldn't really take my time to actually look at stuff and figure things out so I got the bare essentials (like something edible) and decided to go back when it was less crowded. That less crowded time was Saturday morning and my Home Plus Mart experience was much more enjoyable. The most important thing I learned from these adventures in shopping is that "1+1" is apparently Korean for buy one get one free and that if you only get one when it's 1+1 the cashier freaks out.
Since my arrival, I've naturally been comparing Korea to the other Southeast Asian countries I've been to. The landscape definitely reminded me of HK from the moment I lay eyes on it, but Korea doesn't seem to be as over run with super tall buildings as HK. The neighborhoods around the University remind me the most of Taipei and Taiwan in general.
|Look, there's a mountain!!!|
The one thing that equates Incheon with Vietnam in my mind is the traffic and driving styles. They drive like maniacs here. The lines on the streets, the lights, and the street signs all seem to be taken more as suggestions than rules. They also have U-turn lanes, which is terrifying. This driving style reminds me of Vietnam, except in Vietnam everyone rides scooters whereas in Korea everyone is in a car. I biked on the roads in Vietnam, I wouldn't dream of it here. Come to think of it, people walk kind of like they drive. Everyone always walks down the middle of the street in the neighborhoods even when there is a sidewalk. And they're not real interested in moving out of the way for fellow pedestrians or motorists. I'm probably going to get run over by the end of the summer.
Anyway, enough random musings and first impressions. I'm supposed to be working ^_^