Thursday, August 5, 2010

Allison Wonderland: Part One - The Best Laid Plans

This was my second trip to South Korea. My first came in April 2009 when our skater was invited to do Yu na Kim's show, "Festa on Ice" after the World Team Challenge, and at the end of what was a very challenging and emotional season that ultimately resulted in a change of coaches and his relocation to the Detroit area. That journey was my first-ever to Asia; I vowed when I returned home that it would not be my last. 
   Now, here I was again. After another emotional season - but for totally different reasons - I was being given a second invitation to visit what was arguably one of my favorite cities, to reunite with friends and to experience more of the culture and history. So, when our skater called and asked me to accompany him for Yu na's summer show, "All That Skate," I jumped at the chance. I hadn't seen my son since Vancouver and the prospect of having even a small amount of "alone time" with him was a big attraction; the chance to return to Seoul for a second visit was also not a small part of the equation. 
   From the time I accepted the invitation to the actual date of departure was only about two weeks. I had to act quickly. I started reconnecting with the ladies from our skater's Korean fan club. I posted on Facebook that I was coming over and asked who was going to be there. The response was heartening - and a little overwhelming. Not only were my friends from last trip excited, they started planning for things to see and do in the limited time I had to visit. I also heard from friends in Japan who were coming to Seoul for the show. I found myself wondering if I was going to be able to accomplish everything I wanted to do, see everyone I wanted to see and still have time to spend with my son. But of course I am "Super Woman." I can do it all. There's never been a hectic schedule I didn't LOVE to meet and beat because - well - that's what I do. 
   I resurrected the list of Korean phrases I had dutifully studied the last time around. I actually remembered two things from my last trip: "Hello" (An-yŏng-ha-se-yo) and, "Thank You" (kam-sa-ham-ni-da!). These two words were my lifeline in 2009, along with "Excuse Me" ( Shil-le-ha-ge-ssŭm-ni-da) - a phrase particularly useful in subways, on the streets, in markets and when trying to fight your way to your seat for the shows in a throng of more than 10,000 faithful fans. Unfortunately, the MP3 file of pronunciations my husband placed on my iPod Shuffle had disappeared when we downloaded new music, so I was left to my own creative variations of expression. (It should be noted here that this is NOT a good idea when it comes to attempting Korean. Listen to a native talker. Like Danish, what you read is NOT the way it is pronounced!)
   I researched the weather, which brings up an interesting point: We are a strange country in the USA. We are the only ones who use Fahrenheit and not Celsius to determine temperatures. I had long forgotten how to effectively convert, so I looked at averages. 32c didn't "sound" so bad; I knew that 85% humidity with more-than-frequent rain during the monsoon season would be no picnic, particularly coming from the high and dry climes of Colorado. I also knew from my last trip the the Kintex Convention Center where the shows were being held, that it was, "Colder than a well digger's backside," as my grandfather used to say. We absolutely froze the last time. But that was April - the rainy season - and it was chilly outside. This time, I figured two sweaters would be enough. After all, why drag a parka to Korea in July? Worse case scenario, I could get one there. What I was lacking was clothes for really hot weather, but again, how hot could it be? I should be fine with my lightweight shirts with sleeves, my Chico's travel pants, a pair of shorts, some sandals and tennis shoes. No need for anything else. I was good to go.
   The organizers had offered a companion ticket to fly me over. This was very generous, but I also knew from my last trip that flying coach for nearly 13 straight hours was not something I was prepared to do. Thanks to the great generosity of our friends who work for United, I was able to obtain a pass that gave me the chance to fly business class. This gesture also saved the show company about $2000 in last minute ticket fees. When flying standby you have no guarantees of getting upgraded, but at least there is a shot at it. The flights looked good and it was worth the risk to be able to sleep in a fully reclined-to-a-bed seat while sipping champagne and watching only slightly out-of-date movies on a ridiculously small screen. 
   I knew the hotel. It was the same one we stayed at the last time and it was clean, comfortable and the lobby was full of screaming and adoring fans who never seemed to sleep and were there pretty much 24/7. I knew that the meals would be good and that I was going back to my "Seoul food"  - my comfort food of salmon, Dim Sum and steamed rice for breakfast (anyone can eat Western breakfasts; this was the real deal!). I knew that I could watch BBC and CNN International in English on TV, as well as some pretty wild Korean game shows where translation was not necessary to understand what was going on. I knew that the staff would treat us like royalty and every request we made would be met with politeness and prompt attention. 
   I had set my watch to Seoul time days in advance. I was already in the Zone. I was returning. Plans were laid out. The suitcase was packed. I had currency left over from my last trip which we supplemented with an additional 115,000 Korean Won (approximately $100 US). My passport was up to date and I was good to go. The PLAN was in place..


  1. Quick! I need the next installment!

  2. Coming to a computer near you this weekend. It's like eating potato chips..can't just do one!

    Thanks for following along. I always think I'm just continuing a diary for my own amusement; it's nice to know that others are peeking. :)

  3. I can't wait to find out if your best laid plans stayed on course or went awry!

  4. lol!

    At least we know your skater made it onto the ice and did a great job.

    But I do want to hear "the rest of the story"