We had a long weekend for Lunar New Year (February 11 & 12)
I also ended up getting some of my winter break during that week sooo I had the Monday-Wednesday off for break and then Thursday & Friday off for the New Year.
On the 5th of February, I packed my suitcase before work. On the way to work, I bought a T-money card at CU. You can also get them and add money on them at 7 or any convenience store. There are different cards that you can get but I got the one that works with everything (subway/bus/train/taxi) because it makes life easier.
There’s also an app called BucaCheck (not sure if it’s the same for Androids) where you can just place your card at the top NFC and it scans your card and tells you how much money is on it and the history of usage. Cool.
The card that I got was only ₩2200, plus however much you want to put on it. It wasn’t that hard to get the card. But luckily, the guy that worked at CU spoke English. You can also use a translator such as Papago if you have trouble.
At 10pm I was speed walking home. I opened Kakao Taxi and was on my way.
My friend Jules that I met in Thailand lives up north in Gimpo. After (almost) three months after being here (Covid sucks!!) I was able to visit her.
The drive was not too bad. It was a little over an hour.
It’s funny cause I accidentally put the wrong address into Kakao Taxi, sooo that was fun.
I ended up walking to McDonald’s that was across the street and they had a shrimp burger and mozzarella sticks. They were both okay.
After I got my food, I had to take another taxi to get to her actual apartment.
About ₩130,000 later, I ended up outside of her apartment.
Yeah, it was a lot of money 🤷🏻♀️
The next day I got to meet Jules’ two friends who she works with- Kylah & Charlie. We walked our way to a tasty brunch spot called Flapjack Cafe. I got a salmon sandwich with some mozzarella fries. Yum.
After brunch, we went to Bonay Cafe on Cafe Road.
Cafe Road defines itself. The road was an interesting, deserted and winding road. Most of the cafes seemed to be closed.
The nice part about living up near Seoul is that there are subway stops at every corner. Jules’ apartment is less than a five minute walk from the station! For that reason, I was able to go to many different places that week!
Itinerary from my trip (more posts have yet to come):
2/06: Flapjack Pantry, Bonay Cafe & Gurae
2/07: Flapjack & Netflix
2/08: Lotte Mall
2/09: Bukchon Hanok Village
2/10: Korean restaurant
2/12: Holly’s Cafe
2/14: Starbucks & journey home
I ended up staying in Gimpo for 8 days. We had loads of fun.
Honestly, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was going to be. But ask my friends and family how I’ve been and they may say the opposite.
I got a box from the government within the first few days of being here. It was filled with tasty food. How sweet of them?! I also received a thermometer and a white bucket with an orange biohazard bag to throw my trash in (Don’t worry, I am allowed to set my recyclables aside). Yay. My TikTok has videos of the goodies that were in the box that I received. I’ve eaten about 80% of what they sent (some of it is meat). Even before I got the box, the head teacher at my school went food shopping and had my fridge stocked before I arrived. She let me borrow some of her cookware for the two weeks. I felt at home right when I walked through the door.
South Korea is really on top of it when it comes to Covid. Four days after I got to my apartment, I was taken to get another Covid test. I was picked up and dropped off. It was exhilarating to see the outdoors. The quarantine app is pretty cool, when it works. My health officer has called and texted me when she couldn’t see my location. If you have an iPhone, I recommend leaving the app open at all times and having the Background App Refresh on. Expect a phone call or Kakao message if your location isn’t visible. I have to log in at 9am and 3pm every day. A few times my health officer has messaged me asking what my temperature was, even after I had logged my info in. I had some complications with the app at first because I was trying to write my address in Korean. It took a whole 12 hours to fix it so that was my thrilling activity for the day.
Here are some of the other activities that have been keeping me busy:
Netflix & other apps (I’ve probably mentioned it 10x recently)
Meditating (I listen to a few different podcasts, but LOVE Chel Hamilton). Podcasts in general are pretty awesome.
Practicing Korean (I listen to YouTube videos by Korean Unnie, Mina Oh, & Korean Class101). I also downloaded this cool app called “Write Korean.” It’s my favorite so far because it doesn’t throw the whole alphabet at you all at once. I’ve also used other apps such as Duolingo and Memrise but I found that they had different pronunciation for each of the vowels which was super confusing. I do love Memrise for other languages though.
FaceTime and WhatsApp. Zoom and Skype. You know, those apps. It’s hard with the time difference but I’ve made it work so far!
Cooking has also been a huge part of my day. I LOVE to cook. Having a stove top in my apartment really makes my life easier and more enjoyable.
Organizing my apartment was also on the list but I am not in my official apartment yet. Living out of a suitcase was easier said than done.
Self care is always important! My favorite part is putting on a face mask and watching TV. I really needed a face mask after wearing my mask for 20+ hours.
Exercising is a great way to pass time. I have been slacking during quarantine but now I’m back at it with my little weights and resistance bands.
TikTok has been entertaining (when my internet works). I started making them the day I got here and I can’t stop.
I cut my hair because my friend told me about the #BradMandoChallenge 😂 It looks nice and healthy now.
A great idea I had when I was back home was to buy a projector in case I didn’t have a TV, like in Thailand. I bought an HDMI cord and a Lightning to Digital AV Adapter off of eBay because they were cheap. BUT, make sure the AV Adapter is the Apple brand because it might not work if it’s not. Another amazing idea of mine was to read some posts on Facebook to see which VPN would work best. I decided to buy Nord VPN for a month so I could have different options aside from Netflix. I’ve been able to used Hulu, HBO Max and Disney Plus. Love that for me.
As time goes by, I regret unpacking my suitcases. I haven’t unpacked fully but let’s just say it’s going to take a few trips to get all of my belongings to my new apartment. It’s only a floor upstairs so it’s not a huge deal.
I cannot wait until I move into my apartment and unpack! I’m prettttty sure I brought more than enough of my belongings with me considering my two ginormous suitcases and also breaking one at home and another one other here. Guess we’ll find out.
Before I left for Korea, I went on a few Facebook groups and asked a bunch of questions. I was able to download apps before I left and I created a folder, just in case I didn’t have secure WiFi when I arrived. I recommend doing that, just to be prepared. However, the WiFi at Incheon airport was fantastic so I could’ve waited too. The apps that were suggested by the Facebook groups were: KakaoTalk, KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, KakaoBus, Gmarket Global, Subway (지하철), Lotte Cinema (the app has easier steps to change the language to English), Korail (코레일톡) and Naver Maps. The desktop website for Naver Maps is in Korean but the app has the option for English. You also have to download the quarantine app at the airport. They have a banner with the QR code. If you have to delete the app and start over, like I did, this is the link where you can download it or you can simply type it into the App Store: 자가격리 안전보호.
Since I am still in quarantine, I have only used the quarantine app. Once I use the others, I will post an update on how they work and my opinions on each.
I laugh about it now but when I was leaving BOS, I paid $500 for my two suitcases through United Airlines. I did not think it would be THAT much. But then again, I packed up my whole room and also broke a suitcase while my dad was trying to bring it upstairs so I guess I should’ve known. One suitcase was 80+ pounds (36kg+) and the other was over 60 (27kg+). My brother had to come to the airport and help me bring them inside because little old me overstuffed them. Along with my 100 and 30 some odd bags, I had a backpack and a duffle bag which were also stuffed. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the suitcases for a long time because the airport was not busy. I was also surprised with how packed the flight was from BOS to LAX. I thought it wasn’t allowed to be fully booked, but guess I was wrong. There was not an empty seat in sight.
Imagine walking around the LAX airport with both carry-ons, while dripping sweat wearing a jacket and sweatshirt? That was me. Not to mention when I landed in LA, I had no idea what terminal I was going to. I ended up calling one of my friends (thanks Christina) and she looked up the terminal which was TBIT and I was on my way. About 20-30 minutes later, right as I was about to walk into the gate, my name was called over the loudspeaker. What a memorable day that was. To be fair, it wasn’t my fault because the flight to LAX from BOS was delayed by 20 minutes.
But at last, I was off to ICN. Before entering the airplane, they took temperatures. I was scared that they were going to deny me because I was hot from sweating and nervous because I was hot from sweating 😅 I had never heard of Asiana Airlines before but in my opinion, they were up there with Qatar. The movie/TV show selection wasn’t that great but the food was delicious. I only had one meal because I passed out right when I got onto the plane. I had the whole row to myself which was awesome for a 14 hour flight. AND for the first time ever, I actually remembered to change my meal plan when I booked the flight to vegetarian. Yay.
During the flight, I filled out 4 forms: arrival card, travel record declaration, health declaration, and traveler declaration form. Make sure you have a Korean phone number and address to use. I only had my address in Korean at the time, so that took about 10 minutes to fill out per page. The flight attendant complimented me on my Korean writing which I am very proud of 🥳 I also downloaded a bunch of Netflix shows/movies, brought a book and downloaded games that didn’t require internet so I could keep myself entertained. Don’t be like me and pack your charger where you can’t find it. I went more than half the flight with thinking that I didn’t bring a charger with me when all along it was in my duffle bag. Will I ever learn to be organized? Probably not.
Since I had symptoms of Covid within the past 21 days (along with coughing on the flight) I got pulled aside once I went through customs. I got handed a lanyard with a note that said “Incheon.” I then sat down and waited to be called. The lady asked me what symptoms I had and I explained that I have allergies and also got a Covid test two days before my flight. Then, I followed these two guys and they gave me a KF94 mask and asked if I had any meal requests (how sweet). The staff asked me what my suitcases looked like so they could set them aside (if you don’t keep the sticker they give you from your suitcase, that’s okay. I only had one and they were still able to pull both of mine off the belt). Then, I was taken to a little cubicle-like area and I had to fill out even more forms. I had to write my Korean address down 3 or 4 more times. After that was done, one by one he sat us down. I gave him my visa and he called my school director and then showed me how to use the app and what information to put in.
The airport staff were super friendly and although we couldn’t really communicate, it was simple and straightforward. The three of us then went through immigration and our suitcases were there waiting for us. One of the girls that I was grouped with came from Virginia but was from Korea so she spoke English fluently and explained to me what was going on. She was so kind!
We then went onto a bus, drove for about 10 minutes and we all got tested. We were put into cubicle-like spaces again, along with our belongings and good WiFi. The room also had outlets and various chargers.
Eight hours, two meals, and four water bottles later we received our results. We were taken back to the airport and went our separate ways. My new friend helped me find a taxi. I gave the guy the sheet with my address in Korean we were on our way!
One hour and some change later, I was outside of my apartment building handing the taxi driver ₩190,000 (₩20,000 for the tip). That’s about $172. Just to be clear, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable price for the distance or if I was scammed. But either way, don’t make the same mistake that I did. I should’ve known to have the taxi driver use the meter because of my experiences in Thailand. However, I was tired and not all there so I hadn’t thought twice about it. So, make sure you have them run the meter before you leave the airport. Or if you have a working phone, use that to find out how much the fare.
Before I left the airport, I went on Google and saw that there drivers expect a tip of 10-20%. That was a swift Google search so don’t quote me. From the airport to my apartment I didn’t have any phone service because I canceled my plan before leaving so I had no way of asking anyone how much the ride should be. If I did get scammed, oh well. I mean he did carry my two humungous suitcases in and out of the vehicle.
I typed in the code to my building, broke my second suitcase, and entered my apartment. What a relief.