Friday, January 4, 2013

The Beginning and the End

Two and a half weeks later, I am sitting back here in Ulaanbaatar.  Sorry it's been so long; the internet at my parent's house takes more patience than I have to do much more than check my email and facebook.  I thought about doing a series of posts on Omaha, but that just didn't happen.  I do have a few things to share with you, but they can wait til tomorrow.

Someone once said that getting there is half the fun.  Generally I hope that person died a horrible death.  Getting from point A to point B is NOT fun, not in the age of airplanes, at any rate.  I hate being squished into a tiny seat with tiny legroom next to a complete stranger, who may smell bad, be sick, or take up your armrest.  In fact, I learned a new level of seatmate hell yesterday.  The man next to me on the flight to UB snored the whole way.  I mean it; we weren't even off the ground before he fired up his jackhammer.  And I'm not exaggerating the strength of his snore.  It was bad.  I spent the entire flight with my headphones on.

However, this trip taught me a new love for "getting there."  When I booked it, I had three choices, essentially.  I could have a long layover in Beijing, Seoul, or Chicago.  Well, I've been stuck in Chicago overnight, it's no fun, and I had absolutely no desire to find out what Beijing's airport was like at 3 in the morning.  Korea, on the other hand....I have friends still in Korea, and if they weren't available, Seoul has the charming quality of being a city where there's stuff to do 24 hours a day.  So even if it was a little more expensive, I went with the Korean Air flight, and this has slightly altered my thinking on whether or not it's fun to "get there."
Haesindang Gongwon - ah, memories.
On the way home, I had 14.5 hours in Seoul.  Azhaar, the best of all belly dance teachers and my personal friend, is a night owl anyways, so I crossed my fingers that she'd be available, and she was.  We met up in Itaewon (it was close to 11 pm by then) and ate the first doner kebabs I've had in a long, long time.  They were delicious!  Not ready to go home yet, we hit Tom-N-Tom's for coffee and hot chocolate and one of my favorite snacks, their honey butter bread, and sat and talked for a good long while.  Another one of her students, whom I've met before, was with us, and we had a good time hanging out and talking, before she went her way home and we went ours (in opposite directions, as it turns out), and Azhaar and I stayed up even later, catching up on what was going on in each others' lives, while I admired her humidifier (it was a really cool humidifier - I don't normally admire such things).  The next morning we had brekke at Macca's - the first time I'd been to one of them in a long, long age - and she sent me off to the airport for my long-haul flight.  Not bad.
Just another night at the office

On the way back to UB, I had even more time - I got in at 5 and didn't leave again til 1 the next day.  I crossed my fingers and hoped and prayed I'd get to see my Dark Lord and Master (of all the people I've worked for, my favorite, in spite of the fact that I lived in terror of the man for my first four months in Korea) on this layover.  I had a little more time and I got in a little earlier, which would mean I wouldn't have to keep his family up waiting for me.  And up until I was on the ground at Incheon, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out, since I had technical difficulties with Skype in Iowa, but it worked out just fine.  I had a little bit of time to reminisce in Samsung Plaza (I refuse to call it anything else, even if the name has changed) and then we went for some galbi up in the 'Dong (Bundang-dong, my old stomping grounds) before going for coffee near Samsung Plaza.  It was awesome catching up.  Afterwards I stayed at a bathhouse near Sunae Station.  The next morning I tried for breakfast at Butterfinger Pancakes in Jeongja, which had a sign up that said, "Sorry - currently out of order" (???) so I shivered my way over to the closest Tom-N-Tom's for more honey butter bread and to plan my next move.  I'd thought about the fact that my ears were desperately in need of a cleaning, and that the ENT I used before wasn't far, so I ended up going over there.  I'm not sure if my health insurance would have paid for it or not - I've been told that our insurance is more or less worthless - but it was only 25,000 won, so I could absorb the cost without any problem.  Although considering my seatmate on the way back to UB, maybe I should have gone looking for an electric blanket instead.  Oh well.  The moral of the story is that Korea is a great place to be stuck overnight.  Of course, I realize that if you didn't know the city you wouldn't have had as much fun as me, but if you ever take my advice and want to go have fun, I can give you directions, because I'm just that awesome.

And also, Korean Air is an awesome airline.  Not only did they fix my luggage issue (caused by American's representative in Omaha) and change my suitcase to go through all the way to UB instead of making me pick it up in Seoul, they were able to change my seat to an aisle seat (which was unavailable when I checked in) at the last minute.  That's dedication.

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