We have had a crazy first few days here. Here’s a brief review of the blur that was our arrival:
Travel day 1: We flew from Minneapolis to Chicago to Incheon to Gwangju. The airport staff were very kind and patient in helping us with the animals. The Korean Air staff at Chicago O’Hare was so very helpful, and quite enamored with Remi, Ching and Clark, who are nothing if not charming. The animals traveled well. We gave the cats Valium on the Chicago flight. It didn’t work as well as we had hoped so we didn’t give them a second dose. Clark resisted it so much that it frothed in his mouth, he was angry and terrified. Ching on the other hand loved the Valium, she was rubbing against everything and chirping non-stop. The Korean Air bathrooms are HUGE, they even have baby changing tables in them, and we used them as a cat exercise area every so often. Otherwise, they stayed under the seats in front of us, or we snuck them onto our laps for some cuddling.
We were able to walk Remi between each flight. He did well, though when we landed we could hear him barking from his cargo class seating, under the plane. He only really barked during take off and landing. Before the flight I told him to try to yawn to keep his ears from popping, but he never listens.
The food, seating, and customer service on Korean Air was WONDERFUL. We had two delicious meals with glass wine glasses and metal silverware. The flight attendants wore beautiful outfits with pretty fastenors in their hair and neck kerchiefs. They clean the bathrooms between each use. The bathrooms, in addition to being big for a plane, were stocked with everything: aftershave, drinkable water, lotion, nice tissues… Each seat came with a soft fluffy pillow, big warm blanket, tooth brush, tooth paste, and slippers. With all the amenities, there wasn’t much room for us, but we made do.
We traveled for a day and a half and were exhausted when we arrived. We traveled west, the entire trip was daylight. Straaaange.
Day 2: We woke up, ate breakfast, and took the animals to the boarders. Our hotel is very western, with full baths and patios on every room. The breakfast is a a buffet that has western food including bacon, eggs, toast, fruit, and yogurt and Korean foods like soup, rice, and kimchi.
We are in training in the city of Gwangju for 10 days and we are happy that the animals are at the boarders. But the first night, we had to keep them in our room, which was stressful for everyone involved. As one of our Canadian handlers said, the hotel “wasn’t too keen on” having the animals stay in our room. In the end, we promised them we’d keep the pets in their cages, which we mostly did, though after two days in transit they were nervous and shedding all over. Clark sprayed his kennel, and the next day, sprayed Remi’s. Needless to say, there isn’t a litter box in our hotel room.
Our hosts provided us with the name of a boarder, and helped us greatly with booking a taxt across town, and then translating our pet needs to her. It is run by a kind couple. They sell very small dogs, groom, and board dogs. They provided Ching and Clark a kitty castle with a monkey shaped pillow and litter box. Remi stays in his kennel. They walk him in the morning, we walk him after class. He seems to like the couple a lot. Every time we show up he is happy, not shaking or nervous. The place is very very clean. Today when we came in from the rain she gave us a towel to clean Remi off with and turned on a space heater to warm/ dry him before he returned to his kennel.
Later on day 2, we returned to the hotel for lunch, an opening ceremony, and a brief intro to Korea. We all met up and went on a walking tour of the city center. Then we went to WA Bar, in downtown Gwangju, for foreign beer. Mike had 2 Guinness, I had 2 Weiss Braus, and we won’t be doing that again. The Guinnesses were 18 dollars, the Weiss were $26. Lots of cash for not a lot of beer. We learned on day 3 that Korean beer is $1-2 a glass, and tastes like PBR. PBR is fine with me.
We had a class on Korean customs and expectations, lunch, and another class on the basics of the Korean language. They were okay, basically just repeats of what we had already read. After class we piled into taxis to go to the baseball stadium to see the Gwangju Kia Tigers destroy the Hanwan Eagles 8-1.
Baseball here is much more affordable than the Twins. Tickets were $8 for general admission, and beer cost $2. We got a tray fo Kim Bap (rice rolls) for 2 $2, and a bag of Oreo knockoffs for $1. There are vendors in front frying chicken to order as well as grilling squid. We made friends with a Korean guy who helped translate the player names and the crowd cheers. The game was well played, and the crowd cheered for each player, there are cheerleaders, and an event in the middle of the 6th inning. The “event” was a race of guys in car suits, similar to the fan competitions at Gopher Hockey games. Super cute.
Today we went to the hospital to have a health evaluation, including blood and urine tests so that we can qualify for our Alien Resident Cards. The hospital was quick, well organized, and painless. No complaints. After lunch we had a class on lesson planning. eh, it was okay. Mike and I took a nap between class and dinner, then we brought our clothes down to a laundry woman for washing. Finally we went to the kennel to walk the dog and pet the kittens. Everyone seems happy, clean, and well fed. There is a river by the kennel so Remi has had some fun walks with new things to smell.
Things are going well in general. The hotel is very nice, it is in a national park, in the mountains, in the city. Mike and I often wake up and walk around the mountain before breakfast.
The trees and flowers are blooming everywhere and the weather is beautiful. The Southerners and South Africans think that it is cold, but the Northerners and Canadians are all very happy. There are 50 of us. We are from the UK, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, and Australia. Our fellow teachers are very diverse, there are some fresh out of college, 5 teachers in our age group, and many in between. The teachers are white, Black, and Asian (I had heard that they only hire whites, mainly Aryans, but this is not true.) Our fellow teachers are very friendly, and many of them are in their third or fouth year of teaching, so people like it here a lot, and we think we will as well.
Well, that’s probably enough for now – more to come soon.