The US Filming finished mid-day on January 31, 2012 which meant I had two and a half days to make sure all my responsibilities at work were organized and to get myself packed before I left from S. Korea. At 5:30 on Thursday night I shut down my computer and looked to my friend Erin and said “I’m going to S.Korea tomorrow, Wow”. It just hit me mainly because I was so focused on making sure things were organized at work. I went home to finish packing and go to bed early. I had to be up at 3:00 am to catch my shuttle to the airport to make my 6 am flight to JFK, New York.
I have say 3:00 am is way to early to be awaking up at even when you are in bed by 9 pm. I got up and ready and by 3:45 my shuttle was at the front door. It was a quick ride into Logan airport since there were not that many people on the road. Once at the airport things went quickly, I checked in and waited for wheelchair assistances this was going to be a long day and so I was going to limit my walking. By 5:30 I boarded the plane and was sleep within seconds and next thing I knew we were landing at JFK. I meet up with Andrew after landing and we waiting a few hours for our connecting flight to South
I flew Korean Airs in the largest plane I had even seen it was two stories referred to as the airbus. We had coach tickets and they were nicer then I expected. I had an individual tv to watch what I liked when I liked. They also gave out little bags with slippers, toothpaste and a toothbrush. I have to say I have never been feed some much on a plane and the food was pretty good too. The flight was way to long 15 hours on a plane I read, watched movies, listened to music, slept a few different times, played video game and had time to spare. By the time we landed I was so done with the plane and happy to be on land. My legs were a bit sore and swollen despite my efforts to walk around on the plane and feet barely fit in my shoes. I was happy that I had a wheelchair reserved. As we existed the plane the reality that I had traveled half way around the world set in. There was little to no English written or heard around me we were brought to get our luggage and then to customs I was completely lost. We existed customs and were meet by the Korean filming crew. After 15 hours on a plane I was sore and a little disoriented and now I was on film again. They wanted my impressions on Korea I did not have much to say as I had only had seen the airport.
We had about a 45 minute ride to Hotel M where we were staying. Seoul is a pretty modern city lots of people, businesses, buildings, and traffic as with most cities no parking. The hotel I stayed at was very nice. You had a little walk in area where one would take off their shoes and put on the provided slippers. The floor was heated! Then you had your usually hotel amenities. Now the bathroom setup was a bit different. There were different slippers to change into when going in there. Took a little bit to figure out because everything was written in characters. The shower stall drain out on the floor instead of a self contained space. This I figured out after soaking two towels as I usually leave things on the floor. I later realized this is a typical setup it just goes to show you the small culture differences. I made it to 9 pm on my first night and feel fast asleep.
My first full day was scheduled tightly. First stop was Kukkiwon, the headquarters of Tae Kwon Do, I had been told they were having an event that day and I was invited. It was not until that morning did I realize that this event was the weekly testing that occurred for students in Seoul. Students did not get tested at the local but came here. The place was packed three was an easy three to five hundred people there. When we first arrived we meet with a number of the Masters and then I interacted with some of the students. Students lined the hallways practicing and the testing space was was huge. During the meeting I realized they wanted me to do forms out in the testing space the idea was a bit scary. I was fine with it but told them I need a little practice time before hand.
Before I knew it I was changing into my Do-Bulk (uniform) in order to perform my hyung (form). I had sometime to practice in the hallway which was great as I was nervous. As I was trying to practice the camera was staring back at me and I told him he needed to leave. I needed to get centered and having a camera in my face was not working for me. He understood and let me be asking if he could film practicing in a little bit and I agreed. I agreed but the practicing only lasted a few more minutes and I was called to the floor. Since I know little to no Korean and an interpreter was not brought to the floor there was a lot of gesturing to get me to the floor. Once there I waited my turn to be brought forward. There were many people there and three ring setup to accommodate all the testing so lots of activity. When I was brought forward things were brought to a stop. A man introduced me , at least I assume he did as it was all in Korean, then I heard charyot (attention), kyung-nae (bow), jhoon-bee (ready) and she-jae (start). Thank you Bruce McCorry’s Martial Arts for teaching me these important Korean words. It all went fast as forms do not take very long. I was presented with a new uniform and another blackbelt. When I was done I thanked the Masters. I then did some practicing in the hallway for camera. Then there was pictures with everyone. People were coming up to me left and right. It was a trip.
We then went for lunch on the ground and I had my first Korean meal. It was pretty good except for the spicy cabbage which I later learned is what everyone eats there. I also impressed everyone as I used my chopsticks with lunch. Thank you Mr. K’s, Asian African Class. Then we went to a museum upstairs from where we ate. It was really interesting as it held all things Olympic Tae Kwon Do. It also had pictures of a less modern Kukkiwon. Then we were off to our next scheduled event with the Scouts.
It was interesting to realize that there are boy scouts and girls scouts in Korea as I have always seen that as an American Association. That is probably more my assumptions then anything else as I do not know the history of the scouts and the world is a smaller place now. Why not have scouts all around the world. I was a part of the days event. It was great to speak to the scouts about my life regarding bullying and Tae Kwon Do.
It was a fun full day and I was fast asleep by 9 pm.