Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Odyssey back to the States (11.-13. March)

Okay. It's time that I share my journey back to the States. This was my worst and longest journey involving airplanes. Well, this had to come at some point. Didn't want this to happen at this particular time, but GOD was with me through it all. It also helped me see a few (from tons) of my own personal character flaws. Either way, get ready, 'cause the bumpy road is about to begin . . . 

It all started on March 11 around 20:30 @ Cheonglyangli (spell?) station. I took a taxi there with all my luggage. I wanted to take the airport bus that departed from this station to Incheon International Airport. I learned quickly that one must have the exact change (10,000 Won) ready to board the bus. I came in time for the 20:45 bus, but because I didn't have the exact change, the driver refused to take me. This bus even left a few minutes early, which irked me. Something you should know is that these buses leave every 15 minutes and the 21:00 bus was the last bus until 4:00 the following morning. 
GOD was good in helping me get on the 21:00 (the last bus) with time to spare. I had to run in the station--with my 3 pieces of carry-on--to break my 50,000 won note and run back to pay the driver. I'm so grateful of being permitted to leave my check-in bags in the bus--I'm not leaving all my stuff on the street unattended! This may be Korea (where everyone is considerate and no one steals), but I trust no one, especially when I'm alone. 
I got to Incheon International Airport around 22:30+. I wanted to take a nap in the bus, but I also wanted to see Seoul at night, for the last time. I should've slept . . .

At the airport, I got a trolley and walked around a bit. The airport was empty and I wanted to soak it in. I found a nice spot with chargeable plugs (both Korean & American) to charge my American cell phone and my computer as I took delightful advantage of the free WiFi. 

The "charge" station one can use for free. 

A closer look at the plugs.

Just look at how empty this is!

I'm not sure, but I believe these people were busy filming here. I was a bit too tired to get closer.

Oh, so Incheon International Airport has won the World's Best Airport award for 8 consecutive years. That truly is a great feat.

I believe this is the proof, available for all to see.

I kinda wanted to stay up all night. Didn't work. I ended up sleeping for about 2-3+ hours on a hard row of seats.

(Just to clarify, my flight left @ 8:55 the next morning. I could've stayed with my friend (an SDALI teacher in Seoul) that night and then make the trip over, but then I would've had to get up and leave around 4:30 or so. I didn't want to wake her up, especially since she had to teach the next day.)

So yeah, I spent the night in the airport. Next morning (not rested), I checked-in, went through security, and decided to avoid waiting over an hour at the gate and walk all over the gated area until it was my time to leave. I even splurged a bit on electronics and books.
(I thought this would be my last time in Korea and I wanted to get something with the 100,000+ Won I still had left. I got plenty of American dollars when I closed my Korean bank account).

I had to capture this bathroom.
Who came up with this design? I'm in love with the creativity!

We women are incredibly vain.

Oh, a cultural experience center before leaving the country--it's never too late!

It's great to be a foreigner.

Oh, and try on traditional costumes too!
Too bad it opened after I left the country.

Welcome to China Eastern Airlines

The view of the seat in front. I like how there's a separate holder for the cup without pulling down the entire tray.

No Korean.
Only Chinese (don't know if Mandarin or Cantonese, or if it's another)

That's the end of my time on Korean soil, now off to my connection in Shanghai, China.

At Shanghai, things got interesting. First, I had to go through a maze to get to security and then to the gate for my flight to NYC. This long and unnecessary maze (in my tired eyes) led to a place where everyone had to go through one of two lines of security. There were (at least) 2 flights of people waiting in a very narrow line through a dark corridor to get through said security. I get there and they took my barely 3 oz./100 ml hand-sanitizer and emptied out my water bottle. Apparently, no liquids are allowed on carry-on at all.
I had no idea.
Praise GOD I put all my other liquids in check-in.

I leave security and look for my gate in an unhappy mood. I get there and I wait for a bit. At least the restroom was clean and very presentable. I wasn't in the mood to check out anything there. I've never really wanted to go to China. Ever. With this experience, I was even more anxious to leave (true, it's not so dramatic, but I wasn't ready for it). 

My gate was 24, I believe.
The architecture was kinda nice, actually. I like the use of sunlight.

A closer look at the ceiling.

 We boarded the plane late. The staff didn't seem to care that much. I could barely understand their English. Maybe I didn't have enough sleep or the right state of mind to understand. 

Don't know if you can see it, but in addition to the tray table and cup holder, there's also an electric plug behind each seat if you need to use or charge anything. This is probably one of the most positive things I've seen/experienced on this flight.

Now, on the plane . . . oh boy . . . I was reminded that this airline belonged to a communist country.
You know how in most big, international planes each seat has it's own monitor and one can choose what he wants to watch? Well in this it was 1 screen per 3 or 4 rows. They all showed the same thing. The choice was in watching it or not. Not that this was the most important factor, I just like having more options than "to watch or not to watch". Call me spoiled. I had books with me, but I was too light-headed/too much of an insomniac to read (plus the reading lights were too dim, even when the plane was dark). There were about 2 Korean films, at least 1 Western (from the Americas, not cowboys and Native Americans), and the rest must've been Chinese. That wasn't bad at all, but what irked me the most . . . .
The worst part of the flight were the people! I wonder if this was their first time to travel by plane. If it was, then it explained a lot. 
I had an aisle seat in the center row and there was a lady seating beside me who wanted to go to an empty seat as the plane was about to take off--literally! The plane was gaining speed and she asked me to let her pass. I was like, lady! The plane is taking off right now! She said ok, she'll wait. She didn't wait very long either. 
The girl sitting in front of me reclined her seat and kept it that way until the plane was about to land (oh, and said girl was American. Did I mention this flight was about 13-15 hours?). 
There were several Chinese who were talking with each other loudly (and almost in my ear) for most of the flight. I must've been really fortunate to sleep the 2-3 hrs. I was able to get. The lady who was right beside me was constantly wanting to get out and move (in and out, in and out, etc.) all during the flight. She and her husband took turns sleeping on the 2 center seats, sprawled out, and even taking my pillow for extra comfort. There wasn't much I could do with limited leg room, a seat reclined in my space, and this strange lady almost half on my lap. They never even showed on the screen the map/GPS or the time or where we were or anything like that. I really wanted to know, but that wasn't available to us. Again, all this served to remind me that China Eastern belongs to a communist country.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed to leave the airplane at JFK in New York City. My flight arrived an hour late, but I was on American soil. 
I had to check-in again because the flight from Incheon to Shanghai to JFK was separate from the one from JFK to Florida.
I was going to meet friends, but they couldn't come and see me. Timing was against us.
It was a good thing they didn't come. 

My flight to Florida from JFK (for 19:15) was cancelled. It was raining quite heavily there in NYC, although the sky was starting to clear up. Drowsy and unable to understand my surrounding completely, I went to the counter to see what they could do to help me. They put me on a flight to Florida @ 22:45--from LaGuardia airport (also in NYC, but I had to get there by a shuttle bus). Fortunately, they gave me a voucher for the shuttle van to said airport, and 2 food vouchers for any food or drink in the other airport. I was happy with that. You can bet that I used them too.
All this time, I was informing my dad about all the recent updates. 

One really cool thing about LaGuardia is all of these tablet stations, like the one pictured above and below.
I guess laptops are becoming "old"?

Just look at all of these! You can even order food from the cafe or other stuff from a newspaper store from the tablets! There's no time limit and the internet is pretty good (a little slow, but still pretty good). Is this cool or what?!

So, my flight to Florida is ready. The clerk took a long time to get me a seat, but she got me one (her computer had issues). That was the best flight of the entire trip. Everyone was quite and considerate. I had both window- and aisle-seat all to myself. I happily slept for most of the 2 hr. 30 min. flight.

I arrived at Jacksonville International Airport at 1:15 am, March 13 local time (Korean time = 14:15 of the same day). Amazingly, 1 of my check-in bags arrived from JFK. The other was delivered straight to my door that evening. Dad picked me up. From meeting at baggage claim, we started catching up as we went home. We got home and talked a little more, but then he had to get up @ 6 am to pick up/drop a load in Orlando (2 hr. drive away). It was after 3 am when he went to bed. I had a 2nd wind, so I unpacked what I had. After I finished, I took a blissfully long and hot shower. Funny enough, around the time he got up, that's when I went to bed. 

That was my odyssey back to my parent's home. In a space of about 40 (+/-) hours that I spent in either an airport or an airplane, I slept 8> hours.

It is March 25 as I write this post and I can say that I'm now totally recovered from jet-lag.

Are you exhausted yet?

1 comment:

  1. welcome home Joann. when I write this is March 27 in Indonesia at 8.15 am :):)