I decided it was time to resurrect my blog because I've gotten a lot of questions from so many of you about our experience in Korea so far, and let me just first say, how much it means to me that so many of you have taken an interest in following along with our journey over here! We appreciate all your love and support so much!! I hope that by sharing some tid-bits on my blog about our lives over here, it will be easier to answer your questions and to keep in touch with all of you, and to give you a better sense of what our life in Korea is really like!
For those of you who don't really know what we're doing moving to Korea, I'll catch you up to speed. My husband graduated from dental school in the spring of 2015. As a way to pay for dental school, he applied for a military health professions scholarship. The military paid for 100% of his tuition + books + a small living allowance while going to school in exchange for him paying back 4 years of service as a dentist in the military. After graduation, he decided to extend his military service by 1 additional year so that he could do an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency program. So after completing his residency in South Carolina in 2015/2016 our "payback" years in the military officially started. Our first duty assignment is South Korea. We will be here 2 (possibly 3) years. When my husband went the military route, the one thing I said from the very get-go was that I hoped we would get a foreign assignment, and my wish came true. :) I could not be more excited that we get to spend the next couple years in the beautiful "Land of the Morning Calm."
So for my first post, I'll start with getting here, because that was certainly one of the most eventful days of our Korean experience so far!
We left our home in beautiful South Carolina in June and were able to spend 2 amazing months visiting family in Utah before our foreign journey began. On Saturday, August 13th we left for the airport at 3:30 am, with 11 bags, 6 carry-ons, 2 carseats, 2 kids, and 1 stroller. It was bitter sweat saying good-bye to family the night before and that morning at the airport, but I couldn't hide the excitement I felt about the journey ahead! I have always loved traveling to and living in different countries and I have been SO ready and excited for this experience in Korea to start!
We took the 6 am flight from UT to LAX. Long story, but the military would only book our flight from California to Korea, so we had to book our own flight from Utah to Cali. Because of this, we had to collect our bags in LAX and re-check them onto our next flight. HUGE hassle. We got down to the baggage claim and grabbed our bags. We originally thought we had 11 suitcases total, and claimed 11 bags from the baggage carousel, but we had TWELVE baggage claim tickets from Salt Lake, which caused us to believe that we were MISSING A BAG! (We had several green Army duffles, so we figured we had miscounted those duffles). Airline relations searched the number and said that the bag never left Salt Lake and there was nothing we could do before we had to catch our flight to Korea. (Insert hair pulling emoji!) They promised they'd do everything they could to locate our bag and send it on to Korea but they couldn't make any promises.
Reluctantly, we had no choice but to trust the airline, and get ourselves over to the international terminal to catch our next flight. And that's where the real fun began! How do you get 11 bags, 6 carry-ons, 2 car seats, 2 kids, and 1 stroller from the domestic terminal of LAX clear over the the completely separate International terminal of LAX IF (here's the clincher) you had to exit the airport security to claim your luggage at the baggage claim?? We were now outside the airport and couldn't get back past security to ride the convenient sky tram unless we could check into our new flight at, you guessed it, the international terminal. So.... we called an Uber. And we were so lucky that an Uber driver in the area had a large SUV that could fit all of our stuff. So we paid the uber driver to drive us and all of our luggage one mile, yes, ONE mile, to the next terminal. (Insert eye rolling emoji.) But it was the easiest solution we could think of.
So, 1 mile later we unloaded all of our stuff (we were really tired by this point) and got ourselves into the Tom Bradley International Terminal to check into our next flight. Our layover was long enough that we were able to to brush teeth/freshen up and change our clothes (we'd been up since 3 am, it was now 9 am, and I wanted to have something fresh on for the next 16 hour leg of our journey), and to grab some lunch and let the kids run around for a bit. I had to laugh because out of all the options at the food court, Beckam wanted Panda Express. We tried to explain to him that we were moving to the mecca of oriental food and that this was his last chance for real American food, but alas, he wanted the sweet and sour chicken haha. The rest of us went with pizza. :)
At 12:40, our flight began boarding. It was the biggest airplane I have ever seen! 2 stories and absolutely massive and it was a completely full flight. But Asiana airlines conducted the most seamless, efficient and quick boarding of any plane I've ever been on. I was so impressed! We'd been told that Asian airlines are much nicer than American ones and that was true of Asiana. We were impressed with every part of our flight.
We were so glad that we were all able to sit together on one row. And the plane was so massive that it felt very roomy. Just what you need for a 14 hour flight. On each seat they had the standard blanket and pillow, but they also had slippers and a toothbrush for each passenger. We got settled in our seats and the plane took off without any delays. How grateful I was that we didn't have to deal with any delays on either of our flights!!
Right after take off, we all passed out, including our kids, and took a good 2 hour nap. (Thank the high heavens!) When we woke up, we found that we'd missed the dinner service, but they had a cute little note stuck to the back of the seat in front of us that said we could ring the flight attendant at any time and she would bring us our meal. You could choose the "Korean" option or the "Western" option haha. We felt like the Western was a safer bet since you never know with airplane food. It was steak, sauteed potatoes and onions, a salad, a roll, and some lemon cake for dessert. And it actually tasted really good! About halfway through the flight they served us warm ham and cheese croissants and orange juice and then a couple hours before landing they served another meal of Teriyaki Chicken and Rice with lots of veggies and salad.
I brought a lot of activities for the kids to do on the plane but the in-flight entertainment was so good that it ended up entertaining them for most of the flight! The plane had lots of newer kid movies to watch and even Toddler/Preschool level video games. The things I was grateful to have though (in case any mamas need some ideas) were little cans of Play-doh (the party favor size), magnet play scene books/paper dolls, magic mess-free coloring books, sticker scene books (Usborne has great ones!) and a couple little Star Wars figures for Beckam and mini Frozen dolls for Haiya. Other than that, they watched movies or played on their iPads.
Some snacks I brought that were really great were little individual Jif Peanut Butter travel cups and some pretzels to dip in it, homemade banana bread and hard boiled eggs (for the morning flight), beef jerky and crackers, and Nutella cups that come with little breadsticks for dipping.
I was also really thankful I brought two changes of clothes/spare underwear per person. Beckam who NEVER has accidents, had an accident while he was sleeping during the flight and Haiya spilled some food on her shirt. It also just felt really good to have something fresh and different to change into since we were traveling for over 24 hours. I also loved having our toothbrushes and toothpaste, facial cleansing wipes, and a Little Unicorn muslin blanket for each of them (seriously, these types of blankets are so great for flights because they're so easy to pack and light weight).
I really thought that it was going to be the longest flight of my life trying to keep those two entertained for 14 straight hours in a confined space, but between long naps, mealtime, movies, and playtime everything went very smoothly and the time passed quickly.
After 14 hours we finally landed at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea. It was 5 pm Korean time (2 am Utah time). It was a long ordeal, as it always is, going through customs, collecting our luggage, etc. and we looked like quite the circus pushing all of our luggage and our extremely blonde and blue-eyed kids through the airport (we got a lot of stares from the locals needless to say), but we eventually found our way to the Joint-Military Reception Area. The next bus that would take us, along with tons of other incoming military personnel, to Yongsan military base (about an hour ride from the airport), didn't leave for 2 hours. That was almost like a death sentence after exactly 24 hours of traveling. But I found a place to get a fountain Diet Coke (maybe the best one I've ever tasted, or was that just the jet-lag talking?) and the kids were (shockingly) in SUCH good spirits. They played for the whole two hours.
We were finally able to board the bus to Yongsan-gu at 9 pm. All four of us slept the entire bus ride. After arriving, Caleb had to report and do some quick in-processing and then we finally were able to check into the Dragon Hill Lodge (a really nice hotel on the base). It was almost 11 pm by this point and I have never been so excited to fall into bed!! It was a long and an exhausting day, but I was so grateful how smooth and seamless it went!
And it turns out, we didn't lose a piece of luggage after all. Thankfully, I had made an itemized list of what was in each one of our suitcases, just in case a bag went missing, and emailed it to myself. Once we finally arrived, I was able to open each of our bags and check their contents against my list and found that all bags were accounted for. Next time I'll save myself the drama and just triple count our bags to make sure that I know exactly how many we have haha! I mean, I thought for sure we had 11, but the agent in SLC printed off an extra claim ticket by mistake and it really threw us off! Anyway, all turned out fine, and we made it to Korea in one piece!