Thursday, August 6, 2009

A thwarted trip to Taiwan

I’m writing this entry on what would have been our last morning in Seoul, but it looks like we will have at least one more day here. We got up today at 5am to catch the 5:50 bus to the airport for our flight to Taipei. Once there, we were told that our flight was postponed due to weather, and we would have to wait for further instruction. There were a number of people already sitting in what seemed to be the only available seats so we found a nice corner of the floor, got ourselves a Dunkin Donuts coffee and settled in for an indefinite period of time.

It wasn’t long before an airport official approached us. I thought he was going to chastise us for being on the floor, but he was just curious to know what we were waiting for and asked about our travel plans. When we told him, he confirmed that our flight was delayed and told us where some other chairs were that we were welcome to sit in. Ahhh; we got up and moved there; you may be glad to know that we were not sporting SBS garb while moving in nomad mode!

Not long afterwards, the same gentleman came by again to tell us that the flight had now been canceled; there is a typhoon moving into the Taipei area. He told us where to go to make ticket changes so we moved once again with all our luggage. At that counter we learned that it could be 2 days before we get out of Seoul and were given a number to call for up-to-date information about the flight. Andy and I were impressed by the humanitarian gestures made toward us and couldn’t imagine anyone taking such good care of foreigners at our own American airports. We are grateful for the Korean sense of hospitality. Gansa Hamnida!

We quickly found our way back to the bus counter and bought a ticket for the same bus we had taken a couple of hours before. However, this time we had a bus driver who LOVED Andy and kept asking her to teach him how to pronounce English phrases that he had written on old cardboard sheets (like what you find with shirts that have been laundered). Each time the bus stopped at a red light or in traffic, he would jump out of his seat, put another sheet in front of her, and ask for an English lesson. You have to admire the guy – trying to learn English while working hard. He was incredibly friendly and optimistic so I finally asked if I could take his picture. Of course, he said yes...

He understood what our situation was and even offered us cold water at one of the stops (which we gladly took; it’s hot today!). When we arrived at our hotel, our bus-driving student jumped out to get our bags but also asked another traveler if he’d take a photo of the three of us. Unfortunately, only the driver has that one, but who knows where Andy and I will show up someday!

So we returned to our hotel. True to Korean form, the staff was incredibly solicitous and offered us a room at an equal rate (which was reduced, thanks to one of Andy’s consultant friends here in Seoul) and for two nights. We can cancel if we need to tomorrow night. Nothing like coming home again! We quickly turned on the TV to get an update on the weather and look what greeted us on the screen. Nice touch that we hadn't noticed before; we never turned on our TV during the first round at this hotel.

So here we are, sitting in an internet café catching up and trying desperately to contact friends in Taiwan who are waiting for us. We are also waiting to learn if we have to cancel our reception tomorrow night or not. A lot to arrange! For those of you reading this in Taiwan, we will try to update you via this blog or the SBS Facebook page, OwlNet’s Student Announcements, and Mrs. Patt’s Facebook page.

I owe you an update on our several days in Seoul. Let me just start by saying that it has been a wonderful visit; it’s hard to imagine that we’ve gotten so much done and had such a wonderful time in such a relatively short period of time. Because this entry is so long, I’ll backtrack in the next entry and provide some info on our great stay here in this beautiful city.

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