Third flight, Incheon to Pusan. I didn't manage to do any writing on the Chicago/Incheon leg. I did watch “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” starring Nicolas Cage. It was amusing, I think. Amusing enough to keep my attention after one a.m. They served me a pretty good steak. Probably my last big chunk of beef for a while. I heard an announcement that Koreans can't bring meat into the country, and I'm guessing that it's hard for anyone to import it.
The second flight itself went well, but we hit Chicago right around Quinten's usual bedtime, and hadn't had dinner yet. We do not have pleasant memories of Chicago, with all due respect to my friends from the windy city. Hopefully some day we can make up for this short, yet unpleasant stay.
We found a food court around 10:00, and the only place open served hot dogs, gyros, and some other greasy sandwiches. The food itself wasn't bad, but it didn't appeal to Horyon and it was so expensive that I just can't recommend it to anyone. And there was a McDonald's, but it was closed! The only thing worse than eating at McDonald's is wanting to eat at McDonald's but not being able to.
The kids were fussy, Horyon was fussy, I was fussy. It had been an emotional day, and we still had almost 20 hours of traveling ahead of us. So on to security to check in. One advantage of night flying is that the security lines are shorter and faster than during the day. The only bag that was consistently checked was Horyon's sewing machine carry-on. I guess all that machinery, combined with some kids toys containing magnets and odd plastic bits, looks a bit too much like a weapon of mass destruction, rather than the tool of individual construction which it actually is. It got opened at all three security check points on our trip. Good thing we didn't pack it with heroin.
Seoul was both the best and the worst layover. There were helpful airline employees at every airport, making sure we got on the plane early, talking slowly to us like the zombies we were, rearranging our seats so that we were less likely to explode. In KC the ticketing agent from United Airlines spent 20 minutes or more working with us, getting our luggage weighed (and ignoring at least one half-pound excess) and helping us to anticipate what would happen at our next couple of stops. I offered to buy him a snack or drink or something to say thanks, but he refused. In Chicago when we finally sat down to eat one of the cleaners asked us to change tables five minutes after we had sat down to eat. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but two hours past bedtime and coming off of an emotionally draining day the first response to come to mind was, “Really? Our first time to sit in actual chairs around a table and try to relax and you want us to move?” Of course, I actually just said, “Okay,” and we moved.
We had no trouble finding our gate. It was the one crowded with Asian people, as well as being the only open gate in sight. The flight was scheduled for one a.m., and mercifully left on time. By then we were hoping that Quinten would be asleep, but he wasn't. He couldn't settle down in the crowded, noisy, brightly lit departure lounge, though he was bedtime-fussy for quite a bit of the wait. Our Asiana flight left from Chicago, and they took good care of us. They boarded us early, along with people in wheel chairs and other baby families, which was nice. There were at least half a dozen other babies and small children on the plane. Big fun.
Once we were boarded (more than 40 minutes to board a 777), we took off with no delay. Once we got past the ear pain stage, both kids fell asleep. They stayed asleep for five or six hours, much to our relief, and that of the people around us, no doubt. That's when I watched "Sorcerer's Apprentice." I was too wired to just sleep, and have never slept well on airplanes anyway. I think I got some sleep after that.
I was seated with Maxine while Horyon and Quinten were across the aisle from us. They started with a passenger between them, but she was a nice lady and offered to change seats very quickly. A very sane move, in my opinion. For the most part, and for most people, this ability to choose your plane seat months in advance is a big advantage. But for a family hoping to sit together, it can cause problems like this. Our other problem was that the plane we were on had no more than 3 adjacent seats. No way for all of us to sit together.
Horyon spent most of Quinten's sleeping time squeezed into a corner of one seat so that Quinten could lie down on one and a half seats. I did the same for Maxine for a little while, then realized that she could sleep while being seriously contorted. She spent part of her sleep time with her legs off the seat, feet on the floor, and her back arched back. Not very long, but long enough to have caused me some serious pain.
Many people had recommended giving Quinten some sort of allergy medication to help him sleep on the flight. We tried it out the week before, and found that if anything it made him more active. Difficult to imagine, I know. So we did this run straight. Turns out that flying at night is probably the best way to deal with kids. Their sleep cycles are not easily altered; if they are supposed to be asleep, and they are not allowed to move, they tend to sleep.
By the time Quinten and Maxine woke up, most of the rest of the passengers were awake, too. Quinten did laps on the plane, more than I can count. Some with me, most with Horyon. Maxine colored lots, and didn't watch much of the in flight entertainment. Maybe a couple of hours. Less than the amount of tv she watched at home. Neither of them ate much, but that makes sense considering how little they moved around.
About seven hours into this thirteen hour flight, Maxine started asking if we were almost there yet. Nine hours in she got a serious case of want-to-be-with-Mommy. She got to spend some time with Horyon while I walked Quinten around and fed him a meal, but he was more successful at playing want-to-be-with-Mommy. I keep urging him to be more rational, but it's hardly surprising that he is in no hurry to learn to speak or think: he gets his way when he pushes hard enough. He also got to keep his binky for most of the flight. I swear, he is like a little chain smoker with that thing. When it is time to throw away the binky, it is going to be a rough couple of days, with lots of toys and stuff going into his mouth, I am betting.
We approached Incheon (Seoul's airport) from the Southwest, having taken a wide detour to avoid North Korea. They can't feed themselves, but they can sure as heck shoot down any airplane that comes near. Eventually we arrived in a snow-covered Incheon. Clearing immigration was easy, as we (Horyon) had done all the work in the previous four months. No surprises.
Picking up our luggage was no fun at all. I'm sorry we didn't take any pictures, but we had eight checked bags, two of which were boxes. They were all right up against the 50 pound limit for international checked bags, so we're talking about 400 pounds of luggage. Plus two car seats and a stroller, all of which were checked with no penalty. Plus four carry-on bags, one of which was a sewing machine. We never weighed them, but I would be surprised if any of them weighed less than Maxine's 35 pounds. We also had Maxine and Quinten, and to top it off, our two computers in a laptop bag. Yep, you can actually bring all that stuff when you fly international.
We had some help at the luggage carousel from some kind airport employees. We got all of our bags onto two luggage carts, and headed for customs. No problems there. Apparently families moving into the country are not worth searching for contraband.
Then we went out into the airport, Horyon pushing Quinten in the stroller, computers slung under the stroller, wearing her backpack/carry-on and holding Maxine's hand. (If I don't keep her busy she gets into trouble.) I had it easy: I was only pushing a couple of luggage carts that weighed about a quarter of a ton. It was weird. And not just because we looked like refugees and had more luggage than the Clampetts. I have spent most of my adult life in Korea, and so this was a sort of homecoming for me. I was sort of expecting that, but not the gut-level feeling of being back home. The airport was crowded. I'm sure most of them were starting their day with a little travel, rather than heading for the last leg of a 27-hour journey (door-to-door time). They tended to get in our way, completely oblivious to the 500 or so pounds of luggage rolling their way. Maybe I should have converted to kilograms. I was stared at. I couldn't understand most of the conversations around me, but snagged bits and pieces. There were signs in Korean, some of which I could understand. And it was crowded. I felt like I was back home again.
After some wrangling and waiting, we were booked on a flight to Pusan. Believe it or not, up until that point our tickets from Incheon to Pusan were abstract, if not downright indeterminable. The flight we had originally booked had been dropped from the schedule, but we had been assured that one way or another we would make it to Pusan. Even if we had a six hour layover.
Thankfully, that was not the case. I'm not sure how long we spent in Incheon. We had to drag our bags, selves and kids about a quarter mile through the airport, then up an elevator in two shifts, then a bit further to the domestic ticket counter for Korean Air Lines. They had to have a person from Asiana physically come to the counter to verify that we deserved to be sent to Pusan, along with all of our stuff. We had some spare time to retape a box that had started to fall apart, then we had less than 20 minutes until our flight boarded. Once again the sewing machine set off warning bells. Once again the car seats and stroller were checked at the gate. Once again we were boarded first.
No. Wait. We weren't. We had to go down an escalator, outdoors (time to put the coats back on!) and rode a bus to our plane. Another small plan, this one six seats across. I sat by Maxine, who immediately asked if we were in Korea yet. I gave the short version of the world geography lesson. She was disappointed to find that we were, in fact, in Korea, but had not yet arrived at our final destination. They got us all boarded pretty quickly, and took off with no problem. The flight was only about 40 minutes, just long enough for me to have some Coca-Cola, the beverage I choose when Pepsi and Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke aren't available. No ice. Time to start getting used to it.
If you go to Google Maps and search for Busan, Korea, you will see the airport. We came in from the South, and had a clear view as we approached, our first daylight landing. Click that Busan link and go to satellite view. It was fun to pick out the beach, roads, apartments. A few days later we purchased a high chair for Quinten from someone who lives in one of the apartments we flew over. My father-in-law, Youngsoo, drove us there, and I was excited to recognize the neighborhood that I had seen from the air.
It is now after midnight, and my impressions upon arriving in Pusan are too weighty to tackle when I am this tired. We have been here for 10 days, and the impressions are fading, but I will try to get them down before they are gone. Let me know if you find any glaring mistakes so far.