This is my first blog post and I admit I’m quite inexperienced and skeptical of the whole blogging fad. I don’t consider myself the type of person who needs to share every daily occurrance or accomplishment with the world. I am writing this for my family and friends so that they can share some of my experiences with me while I travel abroad in Asia over the next 8 or so months. In order to protect my privacy and safety and that of my companions, our current location will never be disclosed in these posts. I will try to update this site every time we change countries — which is fairly often — with a few entries in order to fill in my readers! I am open to suggestions regarding content, style, etc. I reiterate, I have never blogged and I would like to provide my readership with the type of material they desire, while still of course preserving an electronic record of the trip for my own benefit. So, let’s get started…
I am happy to disclose that the first few days of our group’s journey took us to South Korea. The few days in SK were a test of mettle for the group as a whole. Without any words of advice or directions (much less maps or language tips), we were told we had the few days free and were handed wads of foreign currency and expected to explore wherever we pleased and survive! It seemed a bit overwhelming with the time change and sleep deprivation, but now looking back it was a great experience that taught us lessons about how to travel as tourists on our own.
The following is a description of the experience I wrote while riding the Subway from Incheon Airport station, near where we were staying, and Seoul, South Korea:
We are exhausted. The group and I have been adventuring through Seoul for the day, exploring the busy city streets by foot — half-lost even when we are most sure where we are headed, but most of the time not caring anyway. Towards the beginning of the day it was easy to simply relax and people watch as we traversed the bustling avenues of the downtown shopping district, but as the number of miscommunications and small mishaps grew — e.g. getting off at the wrong stops, losing groupmembers, people losing traintickets etc. — the group’s spirits declined markedly. Currently, as I ride the subway towards Incheon Airport Station, which is only a few minutes’ walk away from our hotel, the Pac Rimmers sit still in silence for the first time since we embarked on the trip. The jet lag and constant walking, particularly our small but taxing trek to the top of the seoul tower, has taken its toll and bags have emerged under each person’s eyes, highlighted by the glistening of beads of sweat which have poured out of everyone’s forehead at a constant rate all day. It’s hot and humid here! The drama and tension at its height could be characterized by this brief, and fairly accurate although somewhat stylized, depiction of the scene in the Seoul subway…
Somewhere underground in South Korea a group of eight intrepid
adventurers faces its first great challenge. Plagued by self-doubt and
confusion the wanderers are forced to rely on one another in order to be able to safely find their way out of the chaotic subterranean setting. Strangers in odd garb whir by, either completely ignorant of their plight or, worse, occasionally staring, pointing and chuckling, leaving the group unable to respond in any intelligible manner. Men in shimmering silver suits pass at great speeds, dyed and gelled hair bouncing subtly as they simultaneously text and talk on a blue tooth devices. Short women in stilettos march by, whisking fingers through their immaculately shampooed, combed, dyed, and hair-dried locks as they glance back at them quizzically, wondering what on earth they are doing resting their feet while the great throngs of Asians march on deliberately. Clearly they don’t fully comprehend the situation in which the journeymen find themselves. Our heroes have nearly had it. Their feet are sore from constant walking and hiking; they are dehydrated from the long day of profuse perspiration; longing for any hints or clues to find their way out of the elaborate, chaotic maze that is the Seoul subway system; but, most of all, they are coming to grips with the reality that the next nine months will be full of many similar gauntlets.
Fast forward to a few minutes later inside the train — it is
clear that the entire day has been a test, and, although the group has been pressed and the normally vigorous and chatty twenty-somethings are staring blankly into the distance or at the ground, arms draped over their heads, each feels accomplished in some small way because he or she didn’t lose it. Instead, they feel bound together a bit already, openly sharing stories of college antics gone awry and comforting one another with cheerful waves and side hugs, leaning heads on one another’s shoulders. We found the right train– finally!! The road will be long, the journey will be difficult at times, but the camaraderie help make the travels worth it.
So, needless to say, several lessons were learned in the process. Namely, travel in small groups, take maps, agree on times and places to meet if splitting up occurs, agree on the itinerary for the wandering in advance — even basic things such as when do we want to eat, what districts do we want to see, etc. Much of our education from the first couple days will benefit us for the remainder of the trip and I am grateful that we were given (or gave ourselves?) a quick crash-course in a relatively safe environment, at least compared to some of the locations we’ll visit.
Some of the highlights of our brief South Korean experience included the peanut soymilk (incredible!); abandoning my summer experiment with vegetarianism for Korean style-barbecue; climbing the Seoul tower on consecutive days (quite a hike from some but an amazing view); a 5-minute conversation with a police officer trying to help us with directions that was so futile it resulted in both profound confusion and hilarity for both parties involved; exploring the many small shops, storefronts, and traditional marketplace; buying a watch with an alarm clock and new dressy walking shoes (all I brought were my hiking boots); our trip to the DMZ; and getting to know my companions a bit better.
Low-lights included losing my brand-new prescription glasses (meh, I’ve never really worn glasses anyway) and my towel (meh, isn’t that what dirty laundry is for?); laughing my way into a restaurant hysterically and thus prompting very poor service by being too distracted by the sign on the door advertising something along the lines of “hangover soup with pig bone” (sleep deprivation may have played a key role); being horribly lost and confused by the public transit system and experiencing traveller’s paranoia for the first time in a bunch of sketchy neighborhoods on our way to the tower (ok- both added to the adventure!).
Alright, there will be more content to come and I would like to add a few pictures from South Korea too so stay tuned folks!