Friday, July 10, 2009

Just to say I'm home

Korea sent me off w/rainy season downpour. In reaction to my equally-paranoid American friends' advice, I had Julie come to my place in a cab WAY TOO EARLY, which dropped us off in the rain at the shuttle bus stop. We were to the airport in no time, so early that we couldn't actually check in. Julie was like, I told you! And I said next time, you HAVE to insist more forcefully. We ended up eating all of the snacks I had brought for the flight before I even went thru security. Turned out, of course, that they didn't weigh any of my bags. I should have brought another one for excess baggage...but this is all hindsight. In reality, I was so crazed w/finishing up business that getting even MORE things to bring home or spreading out into millions of bags was the last thing I wanted to do.

Once I finally got through to the gates, I looked for places to buy electronic dictionaries, but I couldn't find any. Plus I was bogged down w/way too many heavy carry-ons. I don't know why I did it (I think it was part of my denial), but I had taken out a big wad of cash less than 24 hours before I left. I guess it's all going to my mom for her trip to Korea in the fall. Hindsight: I should have gotten more snacks!

The flight to Tokyo was fine; I of course sat next to a soldier, who of course thought that I was Korean. I decided to go along w/it. I also realized before I left Seoul that b/c I am so bad at reading the 24-hour clock, the layover that I thought was 3 hours was really almost 6. And of course the terminal I had to go through was under construction. I was pressed into service at the American Airlines counter b/c their peeps couldn't speak Korean and had to do my final Korean translation of my trip. The rest of my time at Narita was spent drying my umbrella, typing notes from the book I had finished reading into my computer, napping, and finishing what I had cleaned out of my fridge: roasted anchovies. By the time we boarded, I felt as tired as I would have over halfway into a normal nonstop Asia-to-US flight. But I was only starting!

The flight back home was dreadful only b/c I kept comparing it to Korean airlines and service. I honestly want to know why US airlines bother to run international flights, b/c they are SO BAD at it. Why can't they just leave it to the pros? I used to think it was dreadful the way that Korean airlines only select the prettiest, skinniest flight attendants. But once I got on the AA flight, I realized that it's b/c it totally makes the flying experience so much more pleasant. In general, I knew I was going to have a rough re-entry in terms of customer service, but I would have preferred to deal w/that on US soil. It was a half-empty flight, but everyone else had spread out by the time I realized so I wasn't able to sprawl out. The worst part was that something was wrong w/the TVs, so we couldn't watch movies until the very end of the flight! That was serious torture. And the food was dreadful. It was like every stereotype of American food that I had heard in Korea: too sweet, too much bread, too much meat. I wasn't able to sleep much, as usual, even w/my dose of melatonin. Or even read b/c my eyes were so fried.

But I made it! Only to have to wait until the very last dump to get my baggage (this is the curse of checking in too early). Then I tried to wait for a manned cart b/c I didn't think I could actually pile all of my bags onto a tiny $5 cart. But once I saw the very last person load more bags than I had onto one cart, I just did it and was the last one to go thru customs to meet my parents, who were the only ones left at the gate.

It was completely strange leaving Korea. I had been there, and nowhere else at all, for over a year. Just going to a Japanese airport was incredibly jarring. Being on the AA flight, I realized that the whole hierarchical system in Korea, once you get used to it (and if you are not at the bottom of it), is actually very comforting b/c it is so orderly. But hearing all the English on the plane freaked me out since there is no high form - everything sounded incredibly rude to me. So that, I miss. It was also disturbing to see so much cleavage. Hahaa! Related to how Koreans are so much more concerned with the whole than the individual, which makes some parts of life quite pleasant and easy. I miss how most people are groomed and well-dressed and presentable. And that used to be something I hated^^

I'm in a complete mess of unpacking and sorting out what has piled up for me at home, and haven't been able to contact anyone in Korea yet to say I've made it back. I leave in an hour an a half to meet an old friend/teacher and then we'll see how the jet lag hits.

I can't believe it's over! I got an email from Kelsey that made me really sad since it's always hard to leave good friends. I wish there was an in-between time where life could just stop on this end so I could have some time to decompress, but it never works that way. And I woke up not to Korean food, but bacon. Ha! This truly is America.

1 comment:

mjc said...

Welcome back, though! And to the beginning of the processing, hopefully in dynamic and delightful ways.