I met up with some of the CLS program participants at baggage claim when I landed at Dulles airport on Thursday. That place is massive. I had to take an underground tram two stops just to find my way out of the building to where my friends were waiting. I was very excited that it was a planes, trains, and automobiles trip! It was about the time that my bags came around on the carousel and the other program participants stared at me that I realized I had over-packed majorly. Most people have one large carry-on weighing about 45 pounds, a backpack, and a small suitcase for carry on. I had all of that plus another 45-pound bag. I’m blaming the shoes.
We rode the 5A metro bus into the city and were dropped off near L’Enfant Plaza, which, as we soon found out, was not directly next to the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. We ended up dragging our bags off the city bus, down five DC city blocks (infinitely larger than your standard city block), into a tunnel, through a parking deck, into a back closet where there happened to be an elevator, and finally through the elevator doors into the lobby of the hotel.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the city before a brief orientation and check-in that evening. We had to stand and introduce ourselves, and not even thinking, I stood up and said, “Hey y’all,” at which point everyone started laughing. I told Jessica Ly that “y’all” would make me endearing, and I was right! I am now known as “That Guy from Alabama” or “Jacob from Alabama” or simply “Roll Tide.” For dinner, a few of us headed to Chinatown for soup and sushi at Wok and Roll where they played country music which was a bit random. I decided not to continue my Southern act too much, and refrained from singing along to Rascal Flatts. Afterward, we walked around the National Mall and hung out around the WWII Memorial before heading back to the hotel around 11:30.
On Friday, we spent a full ten hours in orientation programming in the same meeting room of the hotel. It was absolutely exhausting. For dinner, we went to the Dupont area for Malaysian food, wondering why we were eating rice for our last meal in America. That was poor planning… We had some free time that evening to walk around Dupont, bus back to the hotel, and walk around the monuments some more. Almost all of us had been to DC before, but it was still a really fun way to meet everyone – just cruising around DC. Though some people stayed up all night, I decided that I would not have a good humor if I didn’t at least get a couple hours of sleep and decided to head to bed at 11.
I got up Saturday morning at 1:30 AM for our 2:30 checkout, 3:00 bus, at 6:00 flight from Dulles. By the time we got on the plane, everyone was exhausted, even those of us who had gotten at least a couple hours of sleep the night before, and we all slept most of the cross-country flight to San Francisco. We had a two-hour layover at SFO before embarking on the 11-hour flight to Seoul. Economy was a rather horrible experience with zero leg room and barely-edible dog food. There were of course a few strange characters to keep us entertained.
We arrived in Inchon-Seoul airport at 3PM on Sunday and immediately took a four-hour bus ride to Jeonju. It was an interesting trip since we got to stop at a couple of rest areas. Koreans love their rest stops. They are not like interstate rest areas in the US which may have a vending machine or two if you’re lucky. They have souvenir shops, multiple food options, live music, clean bathrooms, and tons of people. It honestly feels like some kind of carnival event. The farther we got from Seoul, the fewer foreigners we saw. When we got to Jeonju, we got stares and waves from the Koreans who rarely see Americans.
We checked into the hotel, had a brief orientation in which we got our Korean cell phones, and then went out on the town. It was a pretty chill evening. We walked around part of the city that night, eating and seeing what was up. Jeonju is a very homogenous place, and we did not encounter a single non-Korean besides us. This will definitely be a full immersion! Some interesting things we did learn:
- If a barber shop is open at midnight, let’s just say it doesn’t pay the bills cutting hair.
- Dogs may be butchered in apartments for dog stew at random hours of the night.
- Korean drivers stop for no one.
I'll post pictures later when I have faster internet!