Friday, January 10, 2014

The Long Way Home

I'm not a nervous flier, but I AM a bitchy one.  I HATE being crammed into a tiny seat behind someone who feels justified in leaning their seat back into MY legroom.  I'm not a huge fan of putting my backpack under my seat, but I also hate not knowing exactly where my gear is.  And - so help me! - if you get in the way of me leaving the plane and getting to immigration AFTER all the homeslice whities who don't know how to fill out a bloody form, you're gonna have a bad time.

But I feel a lot better about putting up with all those things if I'm on Korean air.  For starters, the majority of people on the flight will be Korean, which means they're less likely to be morons, and even when they are, I'm more tolerant of it, because Koreans in general are about as cute as buttons. Another advantage is the long layovers in Korea.  Live there long enough, and eventually you'll know people who stay.  Live there long enough, and you'll be able to hop off a flight and take a jaunt into town without even needing a subway map.  Also, you'll know how to amuse yourself on your 20 hour layovers.

This is the same itinerary I had last year, and it made the process of repatriation so much more enjoyable that I had to do it again.  Getting this ticket at a decent price took some finagling, but by purchasing the UB-Chicago portion through Korean Air's website and the Chicago to Omaha part separately on Kayak, I ended up paying less than I did last year.  I was worried that I would have to pay to check my bags when I left Omaha, since it was a separate and domestic flight to begin with, but I managed to dodge that bullet, too.  Go me.
So the evening of December 14th found me abandoning Champ and Wallflower, who were also on my flight, before they could even get off the plane.  Azhaar was meeting me at the airport, and we were an hour late getting away from UB.  We didn't get to have doner kebab this year, but instead chowed down on Macca's while sitting on the train into town (like a homeless person).  She got a good laugh from the scare I gave a transit workman when I went up to the machine and said, "Yang-o, chuseyo!" (English, please).  Of course, that was about the time I realized I had to sleep on the floor with her devil rabbit, Doog.  She swears Doog's mellowed in her old age.  I don't believe it for a minute, and when I woke in the morning, I said a prayer of gratitude that the evil beast hadn't fluffocated me while I slept.

(What the heck does that mean?  It's a new word I made up - it's when you get suffocated by fluff, such as that of the adorable bunny wabbit pictured above.)

So I called my Dark Lord and Master when I got into town.  At first, I didn't get through, because some dumbass (ahem, me) reversed the first and second part of the number when she wrote it down - so I was a little confused when a Korean woman other than his wife answered the phone and told me I had the wrong number.  I was saved by the incredibly good wifi at Incheon, which allowed me to send a message to Diablo's spawn, who straightened me out.  Since he wouldn't be available for another 4 hours, I had some of the aforementioned time to kill.

I went to COEX because they used to have an On the Border Restaurant there, and while I had a shitload of Mexican food while I was home, Omaha, sadly, does not have an OtB. As I was wandering though, trying to figure out why nothing looked right, the realization that they were renovating the whole damn mall slowly dawned on me, and it sucked.  So instead, I went to Butterfinger Pancakes.  This was originally my plan for Sunday morning, but luckily for me, I can improvise.

I set out for their Apgujeong location in a taxi.  It was a balmy spring evening (by Mongolian standards) and if it weren't for the facts that a.) my back was absolutely KILLING ME (a combination of my way-too-soft bed and 13 hours on a plane) and b.) I was lugging Blondie's brand new cement MacBook in my carry-on, I would have hoofed it.  As it was, I had to scramble to remember the words for directions in Korean (eetzhezhou and chigadei flashed through my head before I finally remembered that chichin is "straight" in Korean).  But it was all worth it.  Butterfinger's gingerbread pecan pancakes have been the stuff of my dreams since I last went there with Dougie Poo, two years back.  Free refills on coke are nothing to sneeze at, either, especially considering they are an unheard-of thing, here in the hinterlands.
I killed a little more time at a coffee shop before heading down to Bundang to meet the devil himself.  I couldn't believe how grown up the little spawn was - she is the same age as my darling 11th graders, which pretty much blew my mind.  The best moment was when, in response to something Diablo said, all three of us simultaneously responded with his catch-phrase, "DETAILS, DETAILS!"  Being a Korean kid, she had to go home and study, but Diablo and I sat in the Jeongja Tom-n-Tom's and caught up til the wee small hours, when he dumped me at a jjimjjilbang, for a much needed hot bath and sleep on a piping hot floor, which pretty much made everything right with my back again.

People who know me wonder why I haven't gone back to Korea to live.  I talk about it a lot, and while most of the people who made it the amazing experience it was are gone, Diablo and Azhaar kind of keep the torch burning for me.  My Korean students are some of my favorites, and I could eat Korean nearly as often as I can eat Mexican.  I guess the truth is that I see Korea as a place to come back to after my wanderlust has run its course.  Until then, the world is a big place, and Korea is perfectly positioned between the States and Mongolia.