Week 1: Arriving and Getting Settled

Gwangju Travel Blog

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We are living in Gwangju, a city of 1.2 million people approximately 3.5 hours south of the capital city, Seoul.



Here we are safe and sound in South Korea.  Everything went well with our flights. We left on Wednesday July 11th and flew from O'Hare to Minneapolis to Tokyo to Incheon (just outside of Seoul).  We were only delayed going from Tokyo to Seoul so we ended up missing the bus. That was fine with us!  We were exhausted after travelling for 24 hours.


When we got to Incheon International Airport at 11pm on Thursday, July 12th we called Jay, Justin's boss, to let him know that we had missed the last bus to Gwangju.

Our Guest House room in Incheon.
He gave us the option of either paying 100 bucks for a taxi ride to the Seoul bus terminal or staying the night in a hotel and taking a bus from the airport in the morning.  We ended up finding a cheap guest house with apartment style rooms for less than 50 bucks. We could have slept 8 people in there comfortably, the room was huge!  We took a shuttle the next morning back to the airport and caught the 9:20am bus south to Gwangju. We ran into some traffic leaving Incheon but the ride wasn't bad, only 4.5 hours or so. The scenery was very pretty along the way. The landscape consisted mostly of mountains with extensive rice paddies throughout the valleys.


Once in Gwangju Jay picked us up and took us to our apartment. Along the way he told us a funny thing- he just found out a few days ago that our apartment was not furnished but he would be getting us furniture ASAP.

Sunrise over Mudu Mountain... this was before I adjusted to the time change :)
Well, here in Korea ASAP is a relative term. I might have mentioned prior to leaving the country that things are done very last minute here. So far I'd have to say that's completely true. 


Our apartment is nice, especially by Korean standards-things usually tend to be very small and compact here. The wood flooring is beautiful and we have a great view of the city.  We have a small bedroom with ample closet space, a small kitchen with a mini mini fridge, a regular sized fridge with a freezer, a 3 burner stove and a teeny tiny grill that you'd be lucky if you could fit more than one fish stick on. Our bathroom is nice, there's a western style toilet, sink, medicine cabinet and a shower spout. There are no doors to the shower, but at least when the water's on it (usually) doesn't get all over the toilet.

Southeastern view of Gwangju from our apartment.
   The biggest room is  the master bedroom/living room. This is the room with the great view of the city. Apparently the last tenants were pretty piggy so Justin and I have spent a lot of time scrubbing walls, floors, counters and windows.


Jay told us he'd be getting a bed soon.  (Soon in this case means 10 days).  In the meantime we have been fortunate to experience sleeping on the floor. Luckily we have two quilts which offer 1/4 inch of padding :)  A few days after arriving we went to a grocery store so we were able to get our own pillows. We also bought two spoons, two forks and chopsticks so we at least have some utensils to eat with. Plates, bowls and cups are supposed to be on their way…


My boss, Mr. Shin stopped by our apartment to introduce himself.  He took us out for lunch at a traditional Korean seafood restaurant. Traditional means we sat cross legged on thin mats on a wooden floor at a low table. I haven't sat cross legged that  long since kindergarten!


Our first meal was a spicy seafood soup. It consisted of shrimp, clams, various veggies, pieces of what Justin claims to be calamari but I swear it was intestine and big clumps of fish eggs. It was actually really good, but red chili pepper was the main spice and it was a little "zippy". Here it's rude to pour your own drink so when I finished my glass of water (which took .005 seconds) I sat there hoping someone else would offer me some. Jay and Mr. Shin were engaged in conversation and Justin couldn't find the pitcher of water so I sat there, my face beet-red, with sweat rolling down my back trying not to cry. Justin looked just as bad as I did, he was a brilliant shade of red from his mouth up to his forehead.  Eventually we did get more water so we are both alive and well :) 


At every meal we are served a bowl of rice and about 12 different side dishes that are shared between everyone at the table. Usually these dishes consist of spinach, beans, seaweed, tofu, and several types of kimchi (pickled cabbage, calamari, radish, etc. soaked in chili pepper seasoning). At the seafood restaurant we also had a bowl of pupae- they looked almost exactly like cicadas before they hatch. Apparently they are a very good source of protein so I tried one, then a second for good measure and decided that the flavor and texture weren't so bad but I just couldn't stop thinking of that creepy scene in "Silence of the Lambs" when the moth pupa is extracted from the throat of the female corpse. Tasty, right?  I'm sure there will be many more food anecdotes to come throughout the course of the next year :)


So far it's been difficult to adapt to our surroundings because for the first time we can neither read, write or speak any of the language.  Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to ask for a hot dog yet...poop, that's still one of the only Korean words I know!  I hope to study a little Korean each day so I can at least ask where the bathroom is :)  

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We are living in Gwangju, a city o…
We are living in Gwangju, a city …
Our Guest House room in Incheon.
Our Guest House room in Incheon.
Sunrise over Mudu Mountain... this…
Sunrise over Mudu Mountain... thi…
Southeastern view of Gwangju from …
Southeastern view of Gwangju from…
photo by: khartl731