Expat Dribble

Andrea Avery Jackley: An expat with lots of dribble to write about.


Day two, otherwise known as my birthday, was spent sailing through the air on the way to Asia ~ a perfect arch from one continent to another, rising above the United States into Northern Canada, Alaska and back south, clipping the Pacific on the way to Tokyo. I watched the flight path sporadically as it was displayed to us on the large screen at the front of the cabin. It crossed my mind that, as we flew over Alaska, I might be able to get a peek of Sarah Palin’s house, but the urge quickly passed. Upon arriving at Tokyo’s Narita airport, past security, I met my first American abroad. “You look like a teacher,” he says as I pass him. Ryan is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, of course, and has a slimy, guido-like overtone about him that I find simultaneously amusing and slightly repugnant. So I enjoy talking to him. 

Dressed in a black-collared white button-down, with his chest hair slyly – but I suspect purposefully – protruding, a black sport coat and shiny square-toed shoes, I think to myself that Ryan likes attention. It turns out he’s has taught English in South Korea for almost five years, and is in the process of opening a Korean restaurant back in Eau Claire. He was on his way back to the motherland to buy supplies and visit his “uncle” in Seoul (the nature of this relationship I’m not sure, and wasn’t compelled to ask). Ryan is as white as they come, but I applaud his enthusiasm of Korean culture. We exchange information as he tells me that I am someone he might like to do business with someday. Just one thing bothers me… why did I look so much like a teacher to this man? Oh yes, I’m the only other white person on the plane.

Note: Tokyo’s Narita airport is disturbingly quiet, quite to the contrary of my American disposition. 

I loose track of Ryan as we pass through customs, where I am pulled into a small room to be, I assume, ruthlessly interrogated. In reality, my Visa has been cancelled! It appears as though the school I had originally signed with terminated their sponsorship of my Visa one day before I arrived, causing all kinds of problems. I am admitted entrance to Korea as a visitor for ninety days, but only after passing the thermal body scan.

My flight is, as expected, delayed almost two hours from Narita, due to engine problems. In the meantime, Ryan and I have a wonderful discourse. 

Once I arrived at Incheon International Airport in South Korea, I wandered around aimlessly in search of my luggage and, of course, my ride. The first person I encounter is a fellow American, doing the same thing. She’s a pretty young African-American girl, and we quickly exchange ideas about where we should go from the baggage claim. She tells me about rumors she’s heard that Koreans don’t like Americans, particularly Korean-Americans, because they are afraid of our violent tendencies that they witness on television regularly. Fabulous. We part as rapidly as we meet. 

I walk out of the baggage claim and into a mess of people holding signs. To my dismay, there is no sign proclaiming “ANDREA”, but rather a voice shouting from behind: “Hey! Hey! Come here!” It’s “Steve”, my agent-in-charge. He’s a tall, slim, attractive Korean man, dressed in athletic gear. He’s kind, but obviously exasperated from having to wait an additional two hours for my arrival.

Steve leads me out of the fray and toward the large glass doors. As we’re walking, he asks about my flight and I tell him, eloquently, that it was very long. To the right of us cheering erupts, and I notice many camera flashes from a flurry of reporters. Men wearing leis around their necks come striding through the crowd, and Steve informs me that it’s the Korean World Classic baseball team, returning from a crushing five-game series defeat by Japan – which I learn is “Ilbone” in Hangul.

Steve drove me to the Topaz Motel in Incheon’s Bucheon district for my first night in Korea. I laugh hysterically as we pass a building displaying a sign that reads “SEXY BAR.” Steve asks me what is so funny, and when I tell him, he replies tentatively, “Oh yes, sexy bar. It’s funny right?” The room was clean and comfortable, with a sleaziness that didn’t go unnoticed. This seems to be a recurring theme for me so far, but I don’t mind. It’s amusing. A late night excursion reveals an… adult-oriented vending machine on the second floor, to the right of the elevator. But foremost on my mind is the room’s comprehensive remote control – which turns on everything from the lights to the air conditioning to the heated flooring. And the TV, of course. Astonishing!

And last but most certainly not least was the room key: the flat plastic card attached to it plugs into a panel on the wall, which activates the room’s electricity – and of course deactivates it when removed. Phenomenal! On my list of top inventions I’ve witnessed in the twenty-first century (since I’m not really sure how long Asian hotel rooms have incorporated this feature).


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