Thursday, January 26, 2017

Epilogue: Unpacking

The fatted calf was mere bones for the Divine Madman to reanimate as I sat at Eppley, waiting to fly out.  I watched a parade of camo and plaid walk past as the clock ticked down towards boarding.  It's the biggest airport in all of Nebraska...which seems hilarious until I remember that it's still bigger than Chinggis Khaan airport - the biggest in Mongolia, a country much bigger geographically if not in population.  I had mixed feelings.  On one hand, it is hard to have good habits when you have no routine and you're surrounded by junk food.  (My Babysis would probably point out that nobody is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to eat it, and it's true.  My self-control is shit).
Seatbelt fastened?  Dattebayo!

On the other hand, it is precisely because I had nothing else to do that I was able to get so much done.  My manga-style resume (I'm an art teacher, and I want to work in Japan.  This is probably not as crazy as it sounds) was about 75% finished by the time I left the States.  I also got to work on my first plushie in a while, Naruto here (my original plan was to finally do Yato, but then I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and their remnants were 75% off and they had the PERFECT Naruto orange, so I let myself chicken out on Yato).  Was it annoying, sometimes, relying on internet that is slower than dial-up?  Absolutely, but at home in Mongolia, it's possible I would have found other distractions.

I've been back in UB for almost three weeks now.  It's a good thing I resigned my position over the holidays, or I might never have left again.  The trip back was hellatraumatic.  After boarding the plane in Omaha, we were informed that the water in the pipes had frozen (REALLY!?!  I mean, I know it's the Midwest and this sort of thing happens, but come ON, it's much colder in Mongolia!), and they were working on thawing it out.  Three hours later - and a disgruntled 30 minute call using my Skype credit and the shitty Boingo wifi - I was reboarding the plane with the knowledge that I was missing my connection and routing through Honolulu to Beijing to get home.  This pissed me off because not only did it mean flying through bloody Beijing, it meant that I didn't get to have my rendezvous with my Dark Lord and Master during my layover in Seoul.

Well, when I got to San Francisco, my mother convinced me I should check in with the United desk to be sure my luggage was okay.  This ended with me on a flight the next day to Seoul via Narita, which was much more my speed - although a complete tease at the same time, because when I got into the terminal and saw the duty-free shop called Akihabara, I might have cried a little.  Along the way I swear I met an actual angel.  The lady that helped me at the United desk in SFO was super-patient and didn't get at all flustered when it took over an hour to get me sorted out...AND she gave me a room and $30 in food vouchers.  It wasn't her fault that my luggage decided, "Screw you, and screw Ulaanbaatar, I'd like an extended vacation in tropical Hawaii."  Because when I checked in at the reclaimed luggage area, that's exactly what had happened.
So.  I got to Korea, but it was too late by then to meet up with my Master in Bundang.  I was also pretty stinky by then, so c'est la vie.  I went to Siloam, which is only the best jjimjjilbang in Seoul, had a good bath, had a maesil and the popcorn chicken from the snack bar on the fourth floor, and eventually snoozed...although I very nearly got spooned by neighboring Korean nappers a couple of times.  In the morning, I was torn between going to Butterfinger Pancakes again (I took Engrish there on our way home) and heading back to the airport.  In the end, the airport won because my feet hurt, and it was just as well, because when I went to check in, I wasn't reserved on the flight for that day.  I had to pay $50 and maybe cry a little (I don't feel bad - the emotions were real and the agent on the phone had TOLD me I was reserved on the Sunday flight!) before she gave me a receipt thing and told me to go stand in the check in line.  Which was an hour and a half long (I know...I could see the clock in the departures hall the entire time).  By the time I stumbled through the doors on the other side of immigration, I was done.  I went to Burger King and had my first - but not last, sadly - coke of the day.  I finished and was headed I don't even know where - literally, I'd been in transit for about 60 hours at that point - when I caught sight of Engrish.  She made me her plus-1 and took me to the Korean air lounge, where we met up with Five.  That was the high point of my way back.  Sitting there with a free fountain of coke (see, told you it wasn't the last) with my homegirls, on the way back to my beloved brats, everything was almost right with the world. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Writing this post was difficult, because I kept wanting to refer to places as home, but never really felt able to apply that word.  I worry that it hurts my family, that I don't consider their home to be my home anymore, even though I know it will always be there for me and I will always return.  At the same time, no matter how long I've been in UB, I know that just like in that Postal Service song, I'm just visiting.  I am not permanent.  At the same time, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  If the trade-off is new eyes and extra colors, I'll pay that price.  I am an art teacher after all.


  1. My compliments for your blog and pictures included,I invite you in my photoblog "photosphera" and "video blog".



    Greetings from Italy

    1. Thanks, Ivo - you have a very interesting blog! I especially loved the "White Venice" photo - you rarely get to see Piazza San Marco as a ghost town!