Previously on Jacqueline in Quarantine: “Woo-hoo we’re going to Korea!!!” “God, when will this flight end?” “What do you mean my bags got sent to Seattle?” “Well let’s make sure I have money and a SIM card.” *crying* “Is your internet working?” *multiple cut clips of Jacqueline on the phone with friends and family* “Wow, freedom from the hotel, this is so great. Maybe this trip won’t be all bad.”
In a hotel not far from the heart of Seoul, sits Jacqueline telling herself everything will be fine. It will get better…
Welcome back dudes and dudettes. Remember how I said everything was better last episode? Yeah, it got worse… Well, not physically, not the hotel – though I still blame some of it on them – mainly in terms of my mental health. Being locked in a room for multiple days does a number on a person. While in quarantine I began to stress over every situation I could imagine – most being unimportant at the moment or out of my control, but they stil seemed very important in my mind, at that time. I also began to miss home, Oxford, and my friends significantly – and as someone who rarely feels this way about anything, it was a doozy. If you want to know how I spent my time in quarantine, honestly – and it sounds lame – I spent my mornings on the phone with my mother and father – until he clocked out and went to bed at 10 CST (lame). So for 6-ish hours every morning my mother would keep me company on the phone because otherwise I thought I would spiral or loose it completely. Often times she and my father tried to talk away my doubt and worries. Though it didn’t always work.
I physically couldn’t bring myself to even watch YouTube until the fifth day of my seven day quarantine, and even then, it wasn’t much. I often found more solace just scrolling through social media and ironically watching random Facebook videos of all things. I didn’t watch Netflix once… though I did turn on the TV a total of three times and maybe truly watched it twice – I found a channel that played English movies with Korean subtitles and when the movie actually interested me, I watched and read. *Movie List Pt.2 can be found at the end ;)* But I had this fear of using too much of the data on my UNLIMITED SIM card – go ahead tell me it’s dumb, I know. I was worried it would stop working and honestly it tried a few times. I had to restart the hotspot, but whatever…
The day then comes when I’m finally going to sit/lay down and watch YouTube. I got through a video or two when I realized I hadn’t heard anything about going to get my second PCR test that morning. I had gotten up early on purpose to make sure I was ready to go. But not only had I not heard anything, but I hadn’t been brought breakfast. I kept checking the door, checking Kakao. Nothing… I text the people at the front desk if I was going that day. No response. Last time – even though I didn’t receive it because… no internet – they at least texted that they would be taking us between 9 and 10. So I text Seth, ask if he had heard anything… no reply. That means he is gone, no internet, something. I’m alone… I started to panic. They had forgotten about me. I hadn’t been fed and they took Seth to get his PCR without me. But, I tried to stay calm. I really didn’t feel like having another panic attack after the previous night, which I had spent crying. So instead of panicking I told myself I knew how to figure out what was going on… call the front desk. So I did. My phone call was answered with a ‘what do you want’ version of hello and an answer. Yes, I was to go for my test that day, and they would call me when they were ready. So slightly calmer, I sit back down and wait for the call – which came two minutes later. I got my test and it was fine, fun and dandy – once the other students actually started talking to me… I thought we were going to be silent the whole time. Thank god we weren’t.
Then it goes back to my usual schedule of doing absolutely nothing and talking to my mother on the phone. I started my morning now worrying about classes – which I don’t have yet – though I got over that one quickly. Then hours after allowing my patient mother to go to sleep, the ball drops. Ewha had sent out a TWELVE page file on things regarding check-in!!! Not only was it vague, but they had changed requirements, added more to our plate for things that – in my opinion – as students we shouldn’t have to do, and were caused by things that weren’t exactly in our control. Let me preface this freak out with the fact that I can barely read a syllabus without having a downward spiral, so a twelve page document of rules and regulations and things I need, provides the same effect. But the things that got to me most were: one, I had to get another Covid test before I move into the dorms; two, they wanted me to apply for a student ID on a website I couldn’t log into; three, they wanted me to mail my luggage using a parcel service because they don’t want everyone showing up to check-in with everything they own – which valid, but a parcel service???? To deliver my bags 4 blocks away from where I’m currently staying as I write this… I think not. Though, I wasn’t the only one freaking out, so were Manny and Seth. I had long phone calls with both of them about everything that was written. We were all confused, aggravated, and upset for multiple reasons, many of which I won’t even bother to mention. We all had different worries, but quelled our anxiety by speaking to one another and planning to make calls to the university in the morning. Though I still called my parents that night, aka first thing in the morning for them, to talk about it because I was still worried. After reading through the whole file with them again, I realized I was being irrational about some of my worries, but still there were things they were confused on too. Long story short – in my mouth this phrase is always a lie – I called about the ID issue and received a rather… blunt/rude, ‘your IDs have already been made, I don’t know what you are talking about goodbye,’ and I decided the parcel service was dumb and if anything I would rent my hotel room, which is less than a 10 minute walk from campus, for another night.
Oh yeah, did I mention I had to get another hotel room somewhere else because they were kicking us out of our quarantine hotels from 8-10AM on the 18th… we can’t move into the dorms until the 23rd… So with the help of my parents, I booked a hotel very close to Ewha’s campus so I could get a feel for where I would be living for the next four-ish months. After contacting my quarantine company they did say I could stay for the original 10 days, the deal before quarantine time got shortened, but that I would have to stay in quarantine. In the end, I decided against it. But the next few days were spent worrying over little things/doing better while in quarantine/questioning my self-worth and skill/missing everyone back home. To my friend back home, who picked up the phone right before her class started, when it was 1AM here, and I just needed to hear your voice, thank you. It was a rough ride for me, something I cannot explain any way other than anxiety and stressed caused only by myself – and the lack of communication in that hotel (I don’t forgive them). I honestly don’t know if any bit of this sounds stressful or like a difficult time to all of you as readers. I just feel that I need to present to you all how I really felt during those seven days because if I don’t, who will?
NOW we move onto lighter topics (for the most part)! The food needs to be discussed. I was generally pretty good, but it was cold… I tend to eat foods cold though as I eat one thing at a time anyway, so I wasn’t very bothered by it. Except the soup… I refuse to eat cold soup, it’s terrible. At my hotel I was brought meals three times a day between certain times. Breakfast was always pastries and breads, while lunch and dinner where generally Asian meals always served with rice and soup. Some days we had tonkatsu, other days we had a beef, and a few times 잡채 japchae (a traditional Korean noodle dish) and 비빔밥 bibimbap (a Korean rice bowl containing a fried egg, meat, vegetables.) Overall, I enjoyed the food, but I was ready to eat something warm.
The Day They Kicked Us All Out: The morning of the 18th was something. I get a text from the people at the desk saying they want me to check out at 8am. So obviously knowing there was a time frame for the check out, I thought I had just been picked as one of the first to be pushed out the door, and that we would be leaving in groups, in what I assumed would be 30 minute intervals… I assumed wrong. Everyone had been told the same time and the line of kids stretched all the way back to the elevators so that as people came down, they couldn’t exit into the lobby. Oh and I had to order my own taxi. That morning, I had already stressed about switching the SIM card that had saved my life during quarantine with the one the hotel now provided, which had a Korean phone number. Thank god I did, but that’s not the point. I really didn’t need to stress over something as small as getting my own taxi. Anyway, after a long time waiting to get to the desk I finally check out and had someone instruct me on how to use the KakaoT (taxi) App.
Finally, I am free and I already have plans! So I wait for my taxi outside of the hotel. Almost as soon as I walk outside the building I get a call. It’s my taxi driver. You see, the way the app works is you request a taxi and are given the license plate number of the cabby that accepts. When they arrive they call if they can’t see exactly who they are coming for. So I answer… in Korean. The man and I communicate as best we can over the phone with him telling me he is here and me asking where. Finally, I see him and I drag all three pieces of my luggage towards the car, and have to explain it is me he was speaking to on the phone – I don’t know who he expected to be driving but it wasn’t me, as this took some convincing. He finally realized and saw all my luggage. It was more than could fit in his trunk so he helped me get it in his backseat as well. As I moved to sit on the other side of the backseat behind him, I hear “앞으로, 앞으로 (front, front).” He wanted me to sit in the front seat, so I did. We spent the ride trying our best to understand each other. He asked me many questions and I answered as best I could back in Korean. He even asked me if I like ‘Maria’ by Hwasa, to which I had to ask if I had heard him correctly because I couldn’t believe he would ask me about a member of my favorite Kpop group, and I answered that I did and that I loved Mamamoo. This got me an approving nod. Between this and him complementing my Korean, my day was off to a good start.
After a 20 minute ride, I arrived at the hotel I would be living in for the next five days. The Charm Hotel. When I arrived I didn’t even see it, spinning around and checking the map multiple times before I saw it. Then I thought I was in the wrong place, but the manager walked out and asked me if I had a reservation. After I said yes, he helped me take my luggage up the stairs to the lobby. He asked my name, and after looking for me in his reservations he looked a me quizitively. I knew what that look was for… it was 9AM and my check in time wasn’t until 1, but the emails said if I arrived early they would hold my bags until I could check-in. So, I reiterated this and he just said “You can stay, you can stay.” and started carrying my bags up to what is now my room on the second floor. As soon as we set them all down I started following him right back out the door, causing me to once again be looked at strangely. I guess he didn’t believe me when I told him I wasn’t going to stay here and had somewhere to go… But I left anyway. This is where my real adventure begins and when I say adventure I mean it.
My plan was to meet Seth back in Seodaemun, where we were then going to get our vaccine passes, something required in South Korea to go into any store or restaurant that does not sell groceries or medicine. But much like how I had to drop my bags off, so did Seth. So I went ahead and grabbed a taxi to the Health Center to wait for him there. Well, this took longer than we both expected and basically I froze outside, but it wasn’t too bad as for the first bit I met a girl outside and spoke to her before she had to go get tested. Finally, Seth arrived and we met inside of the Health Center, and after being separated soon after – Notice a pattern here? – we met back outside vaccine passes in hand. Our friend Alexia was supposed to meet us a bit later, so we grabbed some tea from a coffee shop nearby and went for a walk. She came later and after talking for a bit we walked back to the main street to get a cab to go to Hongdae. Well, our first cab cancelled on us because he couldn’t find us and we couldn’t find him. This led to us having to get another taxi. We finally did and made it to Hongdae, the place to be, the place for the young people of South Korea. This district also happens to be Seth’s area of expertise, so he was super pumped to be back and show Alexia and I around. We had a great time walking around, looking at stores, and eating. The first meal we got was Korean BBQ and it was so good! Then we went to a tea house, where I got a peach oolong tea that reminded me of home/work where I would make this drink often for myself.
Then Seth had to leave, as he had plans with another friend that night, but that was fine with us. Alexia needed to shop for her place, since she is living in an AirB&B this semester. We planned to go to Daiso, the biggest general store in Korea, to go shopping for her. So we shopped and shopped getting all the necessities she needed from all six floors. Then went to check out which took forever – also word of advice, bring your own shopping bags otherwise you buy them. By the time we got out of the store it was 9pm. I had been up since 6am. I was exhausted. So. we tried to call a cab to take us back to her place. But once again he couldn’t find us and we wouldn’t find him, so after getting yelled at on the phone in Korean for 3 minutes, he hung up on me and cancelled our ride. We then tried again to get a cab, but no one accepted. So we tried again… and again… and again… and again, until we had walked so far we had ended up around Seth’s place and just decided to give in and walk the rest of the way to Alexia’s, which was about a 15 minute trip. We finally made it to her place, and after she let me chill for a bit, I called a taxi – which actually came!!! I then headed back to my hotel, where I soon passed out for the night.
“The next day I got out and explored the area around my hotel,” she said cheerfully without telling you all that she had a breakdown that morning fretting over her Korean proficiency, missing home, and making herself miserable. But no, really it was great in all seriousness. I forced myself out of bed after complaining to my parents once again, and showered so I could go get lunch for myself. I looked at the map and saw a place called Mother-in-Law’s Bagels – yes an American food place, judge me later – and started making my way there. I ordered the Philly Cheese Steak bagel and brought it back to the room to eat, as there was no seating area in the cafe/restaurant. It was really good and made me feel a little more connected to home. Then, after scrolling through Instagram for two hours and trying to get over the worry of getting lost, I finally left the room to explore. I set a goal point, which was a little park not far from where I was staying. But what was amazing was that when I walked out of the building, it was snowing. I don’t see snow like this where I’m from. It was random and light, stopping and starting whenever the sky felt. It was beautiful. In the slowly falling snow I began my walk, making it to the park easily. I got a little more brave and decided to walk wherever, telling myself you can’t get lost if you go in circles. Somehow I soon ended up on Ewha’s campus. Remember how I said it was close? Yeah? Well think closer. I had barely gone any distance and I was there, and just like the snow the campus was beautiful. The architecture, the landscaping, all of it.
I met Seth later that night for dinner as he was heading my direction on the subway, and thought he would stop by. We had some great fried chicken and a good time, planning to meet the next day as well with Alexia. The next day was chill. When I got up my friends and I did a big video call, Manny was there as well of course. I later met Seth in Hongdae, sadly Alexia couldn’t make it. We spent the day walking around side streets and the mall where he showed me an awesome One Piece store, and we had some amazing tonkatsu and croffles. This all leads me to this morning when Manny finally arrived!!! We haven’t seen each other since we were separated in the airport, and I couldn’t wait to have him by my side again. I was so excited to see him in the cab as he rode up to the hotel. We were finally together! Though this did lead to us going to stand in the cold to wait for a PCR test that would allow us into our dorm in two days, only to be told we are only allowed to get two PCRs and now had to get a rapid test. This we can only do tomorrow, so our plans are kind of set. But we did almost freeze to death for this information…
But in general, I said it last time and I’m going to say it again, I’m doing better. *knock on wood* We move into the dorms soon, and then we have a week or so until school starts. But I’m hoping and praying for things only to go up from here. I have reached a point were I am happy to be here, ready to experience Korea to its fullest, and enjoy everything it has to offer. But I am also in a way ready to be home. This is a strange feeling, but I don’t dislike it. Once again thank you for reading all of this. I know it’s a lot, but someone has to tell it like it is and I guess that will be me. See you next time!!!
ON THE NEXT EPISODE (PROBABLY): “AHHHHH signing up for classes is stressful.” “I hope I got all the ones I want.” “Please let me do well on my Korean placement test.” *fun stuff (hopefully)*
Once again what you’ve all been waiting for *drumroll~~~*
- Shazam – 8/10 – from what I saw of it, it seemed like a good movie, probably even better with sound (a common phenomenon among all these movies)
- Knives Out – 5/10 – would probably be good if I had the sound on and knew what was happening, but I also don’t like the way it was shot, half interview style/half general movie style
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – 6/10 – it was on and I just wanted noise, movie still makes me extremely uncomfy
- Bloodshot – 9/10 – looks like a great movie would be even better with sound, love Vin Diesel
- Another movie I can’t remember – 10/10 – I may not remember what it is but I remember it made me feel better and more normal when I was feeling terrible in the hotel room 🙂 also the only movie I actually watched with sound