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Thursday, July 10, 2014


So I finally have some time to sit down in front of a PC and let you know how the trip to America went.  In brief, it was long.

We left our home in Busan at 7:30, and found the traffic to be lighter than expected.  We were at the airport in less than an hour, so we had two hours to wait for our flight.  We wandered around, had some juice for the kids, coffee for me, bought snacks to eat on the plane, and sat and read until it was time to go.  One small snag: my name was spelled incorrectly, so I had to go back to the check-in desk and get it reprinted.  So that used up five minutes of the two hours.  As it turned out, that was the second biggest mishap of the entire trip.  The largest involved two sandwiches with a side order of sadness.  We set the pattern for the trip by boarding almost last, to avoid standing in line and spending any more time in the airplane than necessary.  Though this was only a one hour flight, I could already anticipate not wanting to be in the plane.  Maxine and Quinten, however, were super excited.  Maxine couldn't remember taking this trip, though this was her fifth trip across the seas.  (The first when we moved to The States in '06, a round trip with Horyon in '09, and our move back to Korea in '11.)  When the plane took off, Quinten actually howled with delight.  Little did I know how far his enthusiasm would wane.

Airports: 2 hours
Planes: 1 hours
Total: 3 hours
Enjoying a beverage at the Busan (Kimhae) airport.  Horyon's father took the picture.

Love those comic books.  Look how helpful Maxine is pretending to be for this picture!

Quinten pours tea for King Sae-jong, the most awesomest king Korea has ever had.  That's my boy!

Look how excited they are to get on this airplane!  We are going to America!  Yeah!

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Seoul's Incheon Airport, a lovely place.  We ate at KFC in the airport.  It had been a long morning, four hours since breakfast, and KFC was the first place we spotted.  As I was eating I found myself praying that the Colonel would not give me a rumbly tummy, as he sometimes does.  I try to live my life without regret, and this time I was allowed a poor decision with no cause for regret.

After lunch we came back to something we spotted after getting off the plane from Incheon.  There were some couples in very formal Hanboks (Korean formal traditional clothing).  They were clearing out, so I didn't get any pictures.  There was a souvenir shop that they had been in front of, so I went in to check it out.  I ended up buying some cool stuff, but more importantly than that, there was something to occupy the kids:  Free Art Activities!  The kids painted wooden figures in traditional Korean colors to make refrigerator magnets.  I did a wood block print of a tiger.  Traditional style.  It was all very traditional, though we have never done anything like it before, especially in an airport.  So yeah, ironic, I guess.  Because traditional but new... Whatever.

The four hours at Incheon Airport were not so bad.  We had to take a little 2-stop subway to get from the domestic to the international terminal, but our single suitcase was checked back in Busan, so I only had to handle the two kids and our carry-ons.  I made them carry their cute blue backpacks everywhere, as my backpack was plenty enough to carry.  After all, it was packed full with an extra set of clothes, medicines for common travel issues (bandages, ointment, tummy medicine), wet-wipes (water tissues), and a bunch of TOP SECRET PRESENTS FOR THE KIDS!!!  Yes, I did the prep work of buying a bunch of little presents, wrapping them individually, and keeping them absolutely secret from the kids until we were well into the second flight!  I am seriously proud of myself, even though Horyon did almost half the wrapping.

In the airport I sat next to one of the charging stations long enough to top off the juice in my phone.  I then politely moved to another seat so that someone else could use the rare electricity (about one set of outlets, 110 volt, 220 volt and USB for 50-60 seats).  I decided to not pay attention to anyone sitting there after me.  Why add stress to an already difficult day?

I chatted for a while with an American high school student heading home after three weeks with an older brother posted in Korea with the American military.  The kids found a t.v. tuned to a kids station, and enjoyed their last Korean t.v. shows for a while.  (I don't miss Bbororo the little penguin, but I am not five years old.)  At this point, it was mid-afternoon for us, and we were doing just fine.

Airports: 6 hours
Planes: 1 hour
Total: 7 hours
Painting birds for Grandma and Grandpa's refrigerator.

Quinten helped on this one for about three minutes.

Traditional music ensemble, playing "My Way" I believe.

The ladies who helped us do crafts.
Finishing the Oreos and Pringles left over from the first flight.
Did someone say Oreo?  Oh yeah, baby!
Our old frienemy, TV.

Then we got on the plane.  Again we waited while the line to board stretched out through the terminal.  I'm not sure what people are thinking, hustling to be at the front of this line.  I'm pretty sure these are the same people hustling to get off the plane, so what exactly is the goal?  Reserving space in the overhead bin?  We only put one bag up there, no problem.  Getting a good seat?  My ticket had a seat number.  Perhaps the rest of the plane was festival seating?  Rushing to get one of the few English newspapers they had to offer?  I got one on the first flight.  It killed 15 minutes worth of reading, and maybe 45 minutes worth of crossword puzzle.  (I haven't done a crossword in a long time, so it made me feel pretty clever that I could actually make progress on it, especially considering that I was unable to Google any answers.)

We had three adjacent seats by the window.  There was no cheering from Quinten on this take-off.  He was still interested, but it was no longer the thrilling experience it was that morning.  "Are we going to America?" was his constant question.  "Yes, Quinten.  This airplane plus one more, and we will be with Grandpa and Grandma!"  Three plane rides.  Three.  Plane.  Rides.

From our seats we could see one of the smaller t.v. screens.  The main screen at the front of the cabin had some color issues that made everything look like   Maxine and I watched some of "Divergent."  I think she gave up on it because she couldn't understand it, and I gave up because I could.  (Just kidding!  It wasn't bad, but I couldn't pay attention to it because Quinten kept wanting my attention.)  Maxine watched an episode of some sitcom, "Friends" I think, maybe a "3.5 Men".  At the end of the flight I watched almost all of "Mr. Peabody and Sherman."  Unfortunately, our flight ran quickly, so we missed the last 10 minutes of the movie.

By "we" I meant "me".  Maxine and Quinten slept for about the last four hours of that flight.  In Korea their nap would have started around midnight, way past their bedtime.  We were flying East, so the sun set rather quickly on us.  

The present idea got rolling for me a couple of weeks ago when my friends, Justin and Chelsea Hartzell handed me a couple of coloring books, some colors and stickers, and told me that they had read online about some ways to keep your kids happy while travelling.  Horyon and I wrapped about 7 presents for each of them, and one to share (a package of paper for folding projects with glue sticks for making it more awesomer).  There were some little toys, blank sketch books, more stickers, bracelet kits, and some little hand powered fans that I have not yet given to them.  They never really got hot, and in fact were often chilly, so I figured the fans might be better received in Kansas.  If you haven't tried summer in Kansas, but you have been to a sauna, it's pretty much the same most years.  Fortunately, the heat broke the day before we arrived, and we have been very comfortable.

We flew with United Air, and I have a couple of things to say about that:  first, it would be nice if they could put entertainment units in the seats.  Or at least outlets to recharge devices.  On an 11 hour flight, with only one choice of entertainment, it is difficult to keep kids from going absolutely bonkers.  Of course, if I were to upgrade to business class I would get all that, plus enough leg and hip room to start thinking about being comfortable enough to sleep.  I did not sleep at all on this flight.  I think I had some stretches of delirium, but no real sleep.  I know, I know, first world problems.  "I am crossing from one side of this planet to the other in one five-hundredth of the time it took my great-great-aunt Maxine, but I can't plug in my phone!"

But I have decided it is worth it to be with United employees.  They were unfailingly courteous, chatted with me about our travels, asked if the kids needed anything, and they laughed.  They didn't have lots of food to offer, but they scared up some bread for my kids well after the set meal that they only picked at.  (And yes, I ate more than I really needed, finishing off most of their meals.  It wasn't great food, but boredom and hunger team up to whoop my will power.)  They also said nice things about my kids, which is a shortcut to getting on my list of people I do not want to just go away, please.

I didn't take many pictures on this flight.  The lighting wasn't great, and I was starting to run out of steam.

Our last meal was breakfast.  I ate my breakfast sandwich, and kept the kids' in a bag for later, along with some individually packaged yogurt.  This plan was completely destroyed by U.S. Customs.  Thanks, guys.  You see, there was ham on the sandwiches, and you can't bring foreign meat into the United States because it might be a terrorist or something.  The yogurt was okay, but I forgot to pick it up after our bags got x-rayed.  So I showed up in America with no food to feed my children.  Tragic.

Airports: 6 hours
Planes: 12 hours
Total: 18 hours

Thanks Justin and Chelsea!  The presents worked!

The last leg of the journey began in San Francisco.  We arrived at the airport early, around 11:30, with our flight for Kansas City leaving at 4:30.  Ordinarily, I'm happy when my flights arrive early, but this time I really could have done without it.  It just meant one more hour in an airport.  SF airport had one runway shut down, so no one could tell us what gate to be at until an hour before our flight.  We settled in to the originally scheduled gate, and were lucky enough that it was only moved to the next gate over.

I found myself explaining over and over to Quinten that we were, in fact, in America, but we were not finished travelling.  I was made to understand that he did not want to get on one more airplane.  I was informed of this desire many, many times.

For us, it felt like the middle of the night, even though the sun was shining, and the kids were in a manic state.  For example, they insisted on sitting next to the Sprite bottle in the waiting area, and demanded that I take their picture with it.  There were tears, some running around, many reminders to use indoor voices, and a lack of focus from all concerned parties.  Fortunately, my senses returned in time to ask the desk clerk to seat the three of us together.

When the kids started to get bored I broke out a couple of presents.  This kept them in their seats for 20 or 30 minutes, but soon they were on their feet again, chasing each other around the gate waiting area.  I gave them some paper and glue, and they made paper airplanes.  Which we threw back and forth, and ran around to catch.  I couldn't say whether or not I got dirty looks for entertaining my kids, because I was too tired to give a damn.  Part of me felt like explaining to every person that Quinten almost ran into that he was a very tired little boy who had been travelling for the past 18 hours, and to please cut him some slack, but mostly I just didn't care.

We got on the plane towards the end of the line, but when there are less than 100 seats it doesn't really matter.  Maxine introduced herself to everyone official looking on our way in.  The two flight attendants were top-notch, inserting just the right amount of attitude into the seat belt and life vest demonstrations, and complimenting me on my wonderfully behaved (especially considering how long they had been travelling).

Once on the plane, the kids sat next to each other (window and aisle) and I sat in the aisle seat across from them.  We didn't have long to wait before we started taxiing to the runway.  When I leaned over to tell the kids we were about to take off, I found that both kids had fallen asleep.  Thankfully, they stayed that way the entire flight, including the meal, which was... oh wait.  There wasn't a meal.  Because 4:30 San Francisco time until 10:15 Kansas City time doesn't overlap any meals, like dinner.  We got beverage service twice, and a cookie.  Once again, the flight attendants made up for it.  They seemed kind of embarrassed about it, like you would feel if a friend showed up unexpectedly and you didn't have any drinks to offer them.  It didn't matter much, as the kids slept through the whole thing and I was in that rare state of being too tired to be hungry.

SF Airport. We seem cheerful, but if you look closely you can see quiet desperation in my eyes.
Wait.  That desperation isn't really very quiet, is it.

Last flight, from "Prepare for takeoff" until "We will be landing shortly."
I don't have any pictures of our arrival in Kansas.  The kids woke up about 20 minutes out of Kansas city, and Quinten started whining.  At this point I could not blame him.  We were on our approach, so they couldn't get drinks.  There was no book, toy or activity that could improve the situation.  The only thing we could do was put up with it.

Airports: 10 hours
Planes: 16 hours
Total: 26 hours

When we landed, a bit ahead of schedule, I was a bit disappointed that Mom and Dad weren't right there waiting for us, but after three and a half years, I decided I could wait a bit longer.  We hunted down the rest rooms, then the baggage claim.

I spotted my Dad while he was more than 100 feet away.  I bent down and told Quinten, "There's Grandpa!  Go give him a hug!"  Quinten was off like a tired, slightly drunken shot, wrapped his arms around Dad and yelled, "Grandpa! Grandpa!"

I can't explain how this felt to me.  It was the moment that made the previous 26 hours worthwhile.  We had Skyped with my parents, and Quinten had seen pictures of them, but we moved back to Korea before he turned two, and I wasn't sure how well he would do with my parents.  Maxine remembered them.  She was five years old when we moved, and she had spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa, and had many good memories to build on.  But Quinten felt like a gamble that I had no choice to make.

We won.  And not just on the day we arrived, but in the days following Quinten has taken to my Dad as though we had never left.

But that's another blog entry.  In the mean time, the trip is not quite finished yet.

Mom and Dad took us to the Condotel where we are staying after stopping at McDonalds to get the kids some comfort food and play time.  They took us in and showed us around.  They had bought us some food and toiletries.  It was almost 11:30 by then, way past my Mom's bedtime, but they stayed until they were sure we were comfortable.

After they left I ran a bath for the kids.  A cold bath.  Because the hot water wasn't working.  I looked at the hot water heater, but no luck.  I called Dad and he came out to look at it, but couldn't get it working, so he took us back to his house.  Once we were all showered, he took us back to the condotel, and I got the kids in bed by 2 a.m. (which is like 4 p.m. in Korea).  They settled down and went to sleep pretty quickly, I guess.  They could have been jumping on the bed singing, "Let it Go!" at the top of their voices for all I knew, because the moment I got into bed my day of travelling was finished.

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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.