As I said the other day I’m currently staying in Seoul for a few days. I’ve been to Seoul once before, about a year and a half ago, but that was at a time when I knew almost nothing about Korea and hadn’t even yet gotten fully adjusted to life in Japan. Since then I’ve pretty well used to Japan, and even a little tired of it for the time being, and the language, spent several weeks traveling in China, and even learned a tiny amount of the Korean language, all of which makes this visit a very different experience.

Despite having shipped 4 boxes of various sizes, I was still slightly over my legal baggage allowance. While flights bound for the Americas allow you to check two pieces of luggage weighing up to 30 kilos each, flights bound to Korea only allow a single piece of checked baggage weighing 20 kilos or less. Of course when transferring flights you’re allowed the allowance of your final destination, but staying for 5 days in Korea I was supposed to follow the stricter rules of that country. I called the airline to double-check their luggage policy and was told that every kilo over 20 costs 700 yen each, which is about the same price as shipping by boat. I figured it was worth the risk, and packed about 27 kilos. They didn’t even say a word about it at checkin. Until I entered the plane I was also nervous about my carryon luggage. I had my laptop backpack, stuffed fill with electronics and cables, as well as a soft duffle-bag half filled with books, as well as an small over-the-shoulder I had picked up in Hong Kong, and was carrying my jacket. I was under the impression that luggage checks were tight, but I went through the lightest security check I can remember, nobody even glanced once at the size, shape or amount of my luggage, and I collapsed into my seat like a rock.

I arrived tuesday afternoon feeling utterly dead, having spent the entire previous night getting ready to leave and only slept in spurts of a few minutes every time I rode in a vehicle. The taxi shuttle to the Kansai airport in Osaka, the plane flight to Korea, the bus ride from the airport to Seoul- these all took just about an hour and a half each. I took a bus from Incheon airport to the Plaza Hotel in downtown Seoul. Of course on my budget I was not to be staying in such a place. I was actually there to meet Son Jongmin, who was to show me to the place I actually would be staying-the student dormitory at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (韓国外国語大学). Why would I be staying at the dormitory of a strange university for only five days when I’d never even met a single person there? Well, my mom’s cousin Marian Palley, who is a professor at Delaware University, is close friends with other professors at several universities throughout Seoul, including both the president of this one, as well as Professor Kim Inchul, who was one of her students when he was studying for his PHD at the University of Delaware about twenty years ago. When I emailed Marian to tell her that I was going to stop by Seoul on my way home she insisted that I contact her friends at Hankuk University, and Kim Inchul arranged for me to stay for free at their foreign students dorm and to have his graduate assistant help me get there.

I’m pretty tired so I’m going to head off to sleep and finish this tomorrow.