(Tuesday, December 22 - Wednesday December 23)
We drove to Chicago on Monday to be ready for an early flight Tuesday morning out of O’Hare. The flight from Chicago to our connection in San Francisco was almost five hours in a cramped plane, but we were excited.
Our layover in SF was only an hour, and it was even less time after we got off the plane. We had to run to the international terminal and go through security again. It was stressful, but we made it to our gate. Nati made a friend with a little girl in the gate line and said fervently, “Oh, you’re my new best friend. I hope you sit next to me on the plane!” She didn’t, but it was adorable.
Our flight was long - thirteen hours, but the plane was much larger with a whole extra foot or so of legroom and chairs that actually reclined more than 2 inches. It was relatively comfortable on the whole. The food wasn’t the best, but in that situation I’d eat just about anything. The kids were great - Jake wasn’t feeling well, and I felt bad that he had to fly when he wasn’t feeling great, but he was a good big brother. We started off with Natalie sitting next to him, but that didn’t last long, so she came over to sit by me.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well Nati handled that long of a flight. She was squirmy, but didn’t throw any fits or anything. I told her that I think she gets the “best 4-year-old traveler in the world award” and she seemed to like that.
Coming into Seoul, there were so many lights - it really hit home just how large the area is. Wikipedia says this about Seoul:
Seoul (서울; Korean: [sʰʌ.ul] ( listen)) – officially the Seoul Special City – is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea, forming the heart of the Seoul Capital Area, which includes the surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi province, the world's 14th largest city and second largest metropolitan area with over 25.6 million people. It is home to over half of all South Koreans along with 678,102 international residents.
So… a bit different from our tiny town of 500 or so people. The lights were beautiful:
We landed and Nati charmed the flight crew by giving hugs to a couple of the stewardesses and a high five to the captain on our way out. She was a hit, as usual.
We went through immigration with ease and then went to grab our suitcases. Everything arrived in tact. (Is this real life?) and we went through customs declaration and out the door and were greeted by a WELCOME REHA FAM sign
And a huge hug from Brie. This is a blurry photo, but I don't care. You can totally feel the love.
*pic of Nati hugging Brie
:) :) :)
Totally worth the travel time!
We got bus tickets to take us to our hotel, which is very near a large subway station and about a 15 minute walk from Brie and Tyler’s apartment. As we were standing in line waiting for the bus to arrive, a man walked up to us and tried to convince us to take his taxi instead of the bus. I couldn’t really tell what he was saying, but Brie was all over it. “NO!” She said with a firm head shake and a slice of her hand for emphasis. “What you’re doing is illegal. We have our tickets. NO.” He left after a bit and she explained that he was trying to get us to go into the taxi with him, that he said he would charge a similar rate to what our bust tickets were, but that he was trying to rip us off. We had already purchased our bus tickets, so it seemed weird overall to me, but the main thing that I learned was that my little girl totally knows how to stick up for herself. I’m super glad she and Tyler are here to be our tour guides.
An hour or so long bus ride took us from Incheon to Gangnam Station in Seoul. We didn’t get to see much on the way - the windows were fogged over and it was night, but what we saw was so unlike home. A sprawling metropolitan area with lights, neon, and so much activity. There were Western brands we noted: Outback Steakhouse, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme… and other places that we recognized.
Samsung is apparently taking over the world, by the way. They have a clothing store nearby, and of course their headquarters is about two blocks away. (Weird side note: I’m currently remodeling our kitchen and the quartz we ordered for the countertops is made from Samsung. What?!!!)
We got off the bus and walked just about a city block to our hotel. I was nervous about where to stay - there are so many of us and we wanted space to relax a bit, have our Christmas celebration, etc. I initially looked on airbnb for an apartment, but was nervous about the property manager who kept changing appointment times for Brie to tour the property we were considering, so I stumbled upon the hotel that we ended up with.
It’s called a “SErviced Residence” and is a spacious room with a bedroom, a huge living space with a ginormous TV, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. We got two rooms next to each other, which is going to be nice. As I type this, it’s 6:19 a.m. I’ve been up since about 4:45 local time, and Dusty is still sleeping, so we came into the other room to be noisy.
The hotel is furnished with glossy, gilded lavishness and the girls are impressed with how fancy it is. The staff spoke english, were helpful and courteous. There is a rooftop terrace with a spot for Dusty to have an evening cigar, which will go a long way toward reducing his stress levels, so I’m happy about that. So far, this place is a hit.
We didn’t check in until after 10 pm. So we spent a couple of hours just hanging out and talking. It was so nice just to hug my baby girl and son-in-law and chill out. This is what we did when we got in. I don’t know why there’s a My Little Pony on Dusty’s head.
This morning I was up ridiculously early. It’s Christmas Eve now, and Brie has to work today. Tyler is coming over and we’ll do a bit of walking around to get acquainted with the area. We’re going to take it easy, maybe watch one of the LOTR movies (it’s a Reha Christmas break tradition to watch those) and do a bit of shopping. We’ll find a place to eat tonight and try to get to bed early and see if Santa knows his way to Korea.
Nati’s major concern this morning after we woke up so early: “Mom, do Koreans have ice cream?”