Finally, I’m sitting down to write about my initial experiences since moving to Suwon, South Korea. Over the last six days, I’ve met so many people, tried so many new things and have come to feel rather at home here. But, let’s do first things first.
My American Airlines flight left MCI, bound for ORD, at 06:30 CST Friday morning. It’s a good thing that I had 4 hours to kill between flights, because I had to leave the terminal and go to another terminal in order to check in at Asiana Airlines. I found O’Hare to be a bit big and confusing – but perhaps that was the lack of sleep and the anxiety muddling up my brain a bit.
When we finally started boarding the plane around 11:30, I was a bundle of nerves! Not only was I finally and really going to Korea, but I’d never been on such a long flight – from Chicago to Seoul was 13 hours 50 minutes! Good thing the lady at the check-in desk made sure that I wasn’t stuck in the middle of the row.
I found my window seat, 33D, with no problems at the back of the aircraft. As I started to indicate to the elderly Korean gentleman sitting in my seat that it was mine, the lady next to him asked me to give up my seat so that her brother could sit in the row with them. The elderly man was in his 70s, they told me, and they wanted to all sit together. I saw that the seat I was swapping was in the middle of the middle row, so I was hesitant, but I decided that it wouldn’t hurt me any and I might even get some karma points from it. J
I had to wait a bit for the stream of people to die down before I could make my way back up to the front of the craft, and when I did I found that my neighbors were a middle aged Korean man and a younger Korean woman. The good thing about Asiana Airlines is that their seats are actually pretty spacious and comfortable – compared to most other economy seating, so sitting in the center was not at all miserable.
The first half of the flight was pretty typical. I watched a movie – but I don’t remember what it was. Then I started to watch The Amazing Spiderman, but fell asleep. I also read a bit of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. But who cares about that stuff, right? You want to know about the airplane food, right?
Asiana Airlines is a really nice airline, IMHO. The airhosts are so cute in their retro-reminiscent uniforms. They wore cute little aprons while serving and were actually very nice to the passengers – unlike their counterparts on pretty much every American-run airline. In economy, we had quite a selection of food and drink – I felt quite pampered. I opted for water and OJ over any of the (free!) booze selections. We were also given 2 meals and a snack. The snack was a boring (but tasty) ham sandwich; the meals, however, were far more interesting.
For the first meal, we were given the option of a Korean dish or a Western dish. In the spirit of my new life adventure, I went for the Korean dish – Bibimbap with soup, kimchi and fresh fruit. Luckily, this was nearly the same dish I had had when I went to the Korean restaurant with my friend Prasad the Wednesday before I left, so I kind of knew what to expect. Surprisingly, it was really tasty – not quite as good as at Restaurant Sobhan, but the best airline food I’d had.
The second meal was a little bit more of an adventure for me – Spicy Octopus with Steamed Rice. I’d never had octopus before – Calamari, yes, but not octopus. When I took the covering off of the main dish, I was a bit taken aback by the very visible suckers on the bits of octopus swimming in the sauce of my dish. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it – I was sure that it wasn’t the grossest thing I’d ever eaten or would eat. Though it was a bit chewy, I found that I rather enjoyed it – as long as I didn’t think about the suckers!
In the hours between meals, I got to talking to the younger Korean woman on my left. I found out that her name is Handeul, she’s lived in the US for quite a while – having been an exchange student as young as middle school! – and had just graduated college at Urbana-Champaign. Funnily enough, it turns out that she is from Suwon! She gave me her number and told me to look her up on Facebook – I just friended her yesterday and I hope that I get a Korean phone soon so that I can call/text her so we can meet up.
Other than surprisingly tasty food and making a new friend, the flight was pretty typical, even though it was almost as long as a Koala’s naptime.