I have made it to Korea, after 14 hours of being in flight, 5 of which I spent asleep, 2 of which I spent eating (bibimbap at 1 am, half a ham & cheese sandwich 5 or 6 hours later, then pancakes for breakfast at approximately 4 am local Korea time), 6 of which I spent watching movies (Julie & Julia – cute, 500 Days of Summer – very cute, Taking of Pelham 123 – ok but not as good as I hoped), and the remaining 1 hour I spent wide awake eager to land already.

Seoul/Incheon airport is huge, modern and representative of the proud quality that is embedded in Korean culture.

The highway reminded me of home. Funny how a road feels familiar. The only things that reinforced the unknown in my new home were mountains in the distance, the never-ending curves in the road, and distinguishably-funky-but-can’t-tell-from-what smells. My first impression of Korea? Korea stinks. Literally.

There are random smells of sewage, kimchee, gasoline, sulphur, and once I got a whiff of potatoes. You never know what your nose will come across while driving through the Korean country.

After a few hours of rest, I ventured into neighboring towns of Pyeongtaek (where I am living). Songtan (spelling?) is about 20-25 minutes away by car. A mini-NYC, it is filled with neon lights, big Korean signs, restaurants with more pungent smells, shops with music blasting onto the street, and a lot of young Koreans walking around eating seaweed-wrapped rice balls they bought from street vendors.

Michelle and I ate dinner at a Pizza Hut because both a Japanese restaurant and Canadien-style pub were packed. We will never eat at a Pizza Hut in Korea again.

First of all, the place was a mess. The service was a mess and the food was a mess. The waitresses scuttled around, frantic. They would have been fired if they were working in the U.S.

There were people huddled at the salad bar and I figured they must have good stuff, so we ordered the salad bar for 2, too. We only got 1 plate. When we asked for another plate, we were told (through universal hand motion language) that we share 1 plate and can go back and forth for more food. And boy, were the choices enticing! Corn flakes, whole baby bananas, jello mold squares, pickles, yogurt, iceberg lettuce, green salad dressing (we guessed it was kiwi dressing), sunflower seeds, smashed yellow who-the-hell-knows-what-that-is, and jalapeno peppers were our salad options. We piled our sad little salad onto our teeny salad plate.

Our margherita pizza topped off the whole experience. Instead of basil, there was lettuce arranged onto the center of the pizza, in beautiful formation, but IT WAS LETTUCE.

So, I learned a few lessons in my first day. Wear perfume to fight off bad smells. Don’t expect to get what you ordered at an American knock-off restaurant.

Don’t expect what you would expect in the U.S., period, because this is Korea, my friend.