day.one.korea.trip

Our day started bright and early as we woke up around 5 in the AM. We got to the airport and spent the next couple hours in the Minneapolis airport. My dad pointed out the original Hulk – Lou Farrigno – who was looking for some overpriced dvd’s at a kiosk. I really don’t know how old he is (although I’m guessing IMDB could tell me), but is still enormous. My parents said they also saw Mickey Rooney at the airport. I was confusing him with Andy Rooney (who I believe is dead – correct?!?). He was a child star around the same time that Judy Garland was a child star. Either way, seeing to somewhat celebrities was a little cool.

I was pretty excited for our trip to Chicago. For some odd reason, we’ve had our flight switched three times within the last week. We actually wound up getting bumped to first class for free. A small part of me felt jaded that my one (and probably only) flight in first class was only about 55 minutes. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, it is a billion times better than coach. Although they didn’t come around passing out warm towels like in the episode of Seinfeld. Once again, it makes me wish I was rich and/or famous.

After a slight mishap in Chicago (we sat down at the wrong gate for about 45 minutes), we headed over to the international terminal. We had to go through security again which is always fun. As soon as we boarded our plane, I came to the following realization – Korean Air rocks! Their first class is simply insane. They have something called “sleeper seats” which actually fold flat into a bed. Each seat in first class has a 13 inch LDC tv and power outlets to plug in whatever you need.

Getting to our seats, the first thing I noticed was the “AVOD” (audio-video on-demand) system in every seat. You basically have about a 7-inch LCD flat panel in the back of the headrest in-front of you. Using the remote in your arm rest, you can use the system like any “On-Demand” pay-per-view, only you don’t have to pay! I can’t help but think that if this was in an American airline, they’d find a way to stick you for like $20-30. Anyway, there are something like 30 movies, a bunch of tv show and documentaries, both Korean and American music, and videogames that you can play by yourself or with someone else on the plane. I was killing my little sister in Tetris, but she absolutely owned me in Yahtzee.

The food on the plane was fantastic. We were served two meals, countless times coming around with drinks (seriously, I bet they came around with drinks 10 times). I’m a huge fan of bibimbop and the stuff on the plane was great. Sara was a little freaked out when I started eating seaweed soup, though. Yes, that’s right – seaweed soup. It doesn’t sound too great and it doesn’t smell to wonderful, but it actually doesn’t taste to bad. I should mention that I am completely game to eat and try new things while I’m over here.

Another cool thing on the plane are the flight attendants. Again, maybe I’m a little jaded by American flight attendants. To me, though, the typical flight attendant looks like a middle-aged person who normally looks about 5-10 years older than they probably actually are. They always seem somewhat annoyed and the only time they seem friendly is when it is forced (getting on or getting off the plane). The flight attendants on Korean Air wore cute teal outfits. Their hair was up with a little teal bow. From the moment we got on the plane, they were just going up and down the aisles. Sara accidentally bumped the “call flight attendant” button like twice and instead of being annoyed, I think they thought it was a little funny. They are constantly giving you so much stuff on the plane. I know I’m going to forget something, but they gave the aforementioned Seinfeld “hot towels,” two meals, about 10 beverage trips, headphones, a sleeping mask and toothbrush, and much more.

Since I’m a movie buff, I should talk a little about the movies I watched. The first movie was Alpha Dog which starred Justin Timberlake and Emile Hirsch. A couple years ago, I would’ve been more likely to rent “The Crossroads” than go to a movie with Justin Timberlake acting like a thug. Alpha Dog was a surprisingly great movie, though. It had an interesting plot and a bit of a surprise ending. I saw the trailer for this movie and was thinking “meh,” but I had a handful of friends who told me it was good and it did not disappoint.

The next movie I watched was a Korean film called Star Highway. It was about a Korean guy who wanted to be the singer in a rock band. To make ends meet, his band played backup for a cheesy lounge singer. After the bar closed and his band was just practicing, a producer spotted him and wanted to make a solo star out of him. He completely bailed on his band, signed a contract, and headed for Seoul. When he got there, he was completely disappointed that they didn’t want to make a rock star out of him, but rather they wanted to make him into a “Trot” star. I don’t know how to define the genre of Trot. It’s really cheesy from the songs they sing to the outfits they were (think sequined jackets). Here’s how I would compare his situation – it would be like trying to make a punk-rocker sing Merle Haggard songs. He wanted to get out of it, but he couldn’t because he signed a contract. Of course, he learned to love it and became a star. I’m not going to pick this up on DVD, but I’m glad I watched it. I wanted to watch at least one Korean movie on the way over.

The next flick I watched was Academy Award nominee – Letters from Iwo Jima. I haven’t seen Flags of Our Fathers yet, but I can pretty much guess that this was the superior of the two films. It was good to watch some foreign movies (or at least subtitled movies). Sara isn’t a huge fan of subtitles, so it was nice to see a couple movies that I’d been wanting to see, but knew she wouldn’t really be too excited about. I think I’m going to watch Apocolypto on the way home which would fit into the same category.

The last movie I watched was Zodiac. I don’t know why this movie didn’t get as much attention because it was awfully good. Being a David Fincher fan, though, I expected no less. I’m guessing that people didn’t like it or it didn’t gain popularity because there is no real huge twist ending like The Sixth Sense or Se7en. It was exactly what it was trying to be though – a thriller that kept you wondering “whodunit?” until the very end.

A couple of other thoughts on the flight: I have absolutely no idea of what time it is. It seems that we are just following the sun as well, so my body really doesn’t have a clue of what time it is, either. I was wide awake until we were about an hour away. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but the flight is just under fourteen hours. I didn’t get to see as much out of the plane as I thought I would as when you open the window, the entire plane lights up. I did get too look out over the Bering Straight which I thought was extremely cool. You literally could see Russian and America almost touching. It would have been nice if the world was labeled with those handy labels that globes all seem to come with. We didn’t really fly over any big cities in Russia, but we did fly over some mountains that were beautiful. It literally mountains right next to the Ocean. It seemed like an extraordinary amount of time that we were flying with literally no sign of civilization, though.

Ah – one more thing I forgot from the airport in Chicago. I should mention that probably 2 out of every 3 people on our flight were native Koreans. I saw one Korean family that would probably be similar to your typical All-American family. A tall dad, a thin mom, and two children (a boy and a girl) both between like 4-6. The little boy was acting up and his mom gave him the “…hana… DUL…” treatment. My little sister and I both looked at each other and just started laughing. For those of you who have never learned Korean, “hana” means the number one and “dul” means two. So basically, the mom was counting to three just like my own mom and dad did numerous times growing up. It just struck us as funny that they use similar threats against children worldwide.

We got to the airport in Seoul and met up with all of the other people from the Korean Ties group. They were flying in from all over the United States. We packed our things aboard a bus and got on board for the trip to the hotel. Some people almost immediately went to sleep as we were all tired. I was too excited to be in a new place, though. I was busy looking at mountains, funny looking cars, and signage that I couldn’t read. After about an hour, we finally got to the Sejung Hotel which is where we were going to be staying while in Seoul.

Our family took a quick tour of the shopping area around our hotel and then it was off to bed for all of these cats. Although we were all excited about tomorrow and the “official” start of our trip, we were just way to tired to do anything but sleep.

Check out the Day 1 Photo Gallery.

If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white,
-B-

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