First night in Korea: humbling

When I got off the plane at 5 pm, I walked straight to the baggage claim area and within 15 minutes all three of my checked bags arrived, yay Korea! I exchanged some US cash for Korean won.  I walked out of the secure area and there was a man holding a sign that said “JOAN – Seoul Backpacker” (the name of my hotel) and off we went. He helped me roll my bags a bit then had me wait while he went and got the car. My first time in Asia and as we drove the about 20 minute ride I kept falling asleep. (It was midnight in LA, where I’d been the previous night.) Oh yeah, I realized he spoke no English and me no Korean. So it was a quiet ride.

The entrance to the hotel seemed like something in Quito Ecuador. Up a steep street, then an alley, to a small door. I checked in and paid the 40,000 KRW for the room and 75,000 for the ride. The hotel staff spoke enough English to communicate easily.  In the lobby were computers with free internet access (yay!) so it was easy to send of a note to let family and friends know I arrived safely.

Walked down the little hall and into a room that looked like the decor of a 9-year old girl’s bedroom, with the hot air balloons, short little vanity set and blue bedspread. But the hotel and my room were clean and secure and I was happy to be there.

I walked into the bathroom and the hall light came on by motion sensor. I didn’t see the bathroom light or couldn’t get it to come on.  After a few seconds sitting down on the toilet, the light went off.  I went out to the hall and the light came on again. Back in the bathroom, midway through my business, the light went off again.

It was shortly after that that I realized the room has a system that allows the hall light to come on and off by motion, but everything else stays off unless the key is inserted into the room controller. Very slick (once you figure this out.)

By the time I got settled it was about 7 pm. I looked around and my inability to understand Korean was overwhelming. The emergency directions on the wall were incomprehensible.

I slept for a couple hours and around 9 pm realized I was thirsty and hungry and didn’t have any clue how to handle those basic needs. No phone, no water, no food.

I couldn’t figure out how to buy food: where to go, what to buy, how to say it, how much it would cost. I was too tired to try it so savored the trail mix that I bought at LAX and went back to sleep. When I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 2 am, I nibbled more trail mix, found free filtered water in the lobby and forced myself back to bed.

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