Saturday, September 29, 2012

Korea Trip: Back Home Again

Wednesday morning we got up, finished packing, went downstairs for our taxi, and headed to the airport. We enjoyed the view from the taxi on the way back. We were able to see a little more of the city, the Han, and (I think) the ocean than we had on the train ride in from the aiport because we'd been busy talking to MJ instead of staring out the windows. We enjoyed the view. It was raining, and I always like to see what a city looks like in the rain. We were a little distracted by this monitor-thing the taxi had on his dash. It was like a GPS, but it kept beeping at the driver and talking to him, but it didn't seem to be giving him directions. Finally RR figured out that it was telling him that he was speeding. Yeah, he pretty much sped the whole way there. By a lot. I had heard some crazy things about some Korean drivers, and maybe everything I'd heard is true, but as far as I can tell, a taxi driver is a taxi driver is a taxi driver. That's a big generalization, but come on. You know I'm right about that. I've only ever been driven by two types of taxi drivers: (1) chatty drivers who drive too slowly because they spend too much time talking and not enough time focusing and (2) drivers who are totally focused on getting to the destination as fast as possible and are completely unconcerned about the safety of their passengers.  So this guy's driving didn't surprise or bother me.

At the airport, we returned our rented cell phone and bought a few things at some of the shops at the airport. They have some pretty nice shops at that airport. I could probably spend a whole day there. And I could be wrong, but the prices didn't seem as marked up as the stuff at the U.S. airports I've been to.

The flight back was not the best flight I've ever been on. Poor RR did not feel well at all, and I think she threw up twice. I spent at least 7 hours trying not to throw up myself. I rewatched the movies that I'd watched on the way over, plus the new Muppets movie, which I enjoyed. I don't know that it goes well with the other movies in the Muppet oeuvre, but I still liked it. I also watched part of a Korean t.v. movie that I didn't have time to finish. I cannot find it online anywhere, and I don't know how it ended. This will bother me for a long, long time. It wasn't even that great of a movie, even for a television movie. I know I can accurately guess how it ends. But I don't know. And I feel like I need to know, and not knowing will leave this tiny hole in me, like I'll spend the rest of my life feeling incomplete.

That seems a little over dramatic. Probably I have been watching too many k-dramas.

Another problem with the flight? One row back and to the left of us, a couple sat with their small child. He was somewhere between 4 and 6. I don't know. I can't tell with kids. We should have known he'd be a troublemaker because while the passengers were still boarding, he had already begun ordering his mother around.  He started with an angry "Mom, sit down," and he just never stopped.  The kid was a brat and didn't shut up for the entire flight. I certainly don't enjoy being stuck on a flight with a child that won't stop crying, but realistically, there's only so much a parent can do with young children. It's to be expected from kids if you're traveling on a commercial flight, and you can't expect parents to never, ever travel.  Allowances must be made if we expect people to keep procreating. 

But this kid was not just a young boy with the short attention span that all kids have.  No, he was a brat to his parents the whole time.  I don't blame him, I blame his parents. These were not parents who have tried and have just given up. I see those parents in the stores all the time, pleading with their children to just behave until they leave the store. These parents, however, were not at all concerned with how their kid behaved. They didn't even try to get him to stop. They had completely given him the control in their relationship.  They just ignored him, which clearly didn't work. The whole flight, y'all. The WHOLE flight. Thirteen hours. No, wait, I take that back. About ten minutes before the plane landed, he fell asleep. I don't blame him. Being that awful will wear a person out. I really hope that the parents had just had a really exhausting trip and normally at least try to help their child grow up into a functioning adult. Otherwise, he will have no real friends in life.

Moving on to my favorite topic: food! As I think I mentioned in my post about the flight over, we again ate the Jain meal, which was delicious but definitely contained something we reacted to. It was the height of stupidity to eat it on this trip considering we already suspected a problem with it from our flight over. The fact that we ate it again when they served dinner was indefensible. Yes, we didn't want to seem rude by refusing to eat the meals we had ordered, but I'm sure the flight attendants couldn't care less. And if we had had some kind of serious reaction, that would have been way more inconvenient for the flight attendants than the inconvenience of heating up food that nobody ate.

Because of the combination of my already developing motion sickness with the nausea that often accompanies an allergic reaction, neither RR nor I felt at all well. Because of that, I started eating the food I had brought on the plane with me because sometimes eating bland or absorbent food (like bread) will help settle my stomach. So I ate some gluten-free rolls that I had brought on the trip. Then I ate a rice cake. Then I ate a ginger cookie because the cookies was soft and because ginger supposedly helps with nausea. I say supposedly because the only time I'd ever tried it before was before I had learned to love ginger, and the taste of ginger ale at that point was enough to make me gag. Anyway, I didn't stop there. I pretty much ate all of the food I had left over from the trip.  I figured I didn't need to ration it anymore since it's purpose--to feed me on the trip--was over as soon as the plane landed.  And that's true. But just because you can eat an enormous amount of food does not mean that it's a good idea to do so.  I started off pretty well, pacing myself and trying not to eat more calories than I would normally consume in a day. But after awhile I got confused about what day I was supposed to be counting calories for--do I finish out the Korea day, or do I just go ahead and start on the next (well, technically, previous) U.S. day? Do I go by Korea time or U.S. time? After awhile, I just said screw it, I'm nauseated and I love food. Of course, at some point in this it did occur to me to just stop eating, but . . . I didn't.  Sometimes when I don't feel well, I'll just keep eating on the assumption that at some point, it will make me feel better. It never does unless the reason I'm nauseated is hunger, but I still keep trying.

Anyway, back to Korea. Or rather, back to us coming back from Korea. Next up: customs for the uninitiated!

When we finally landed, nauseated and exhausted, we then had to figure out how to navigate through customs. We didn't understand that we didn't have to list every single item we purchased on the customs form, so we started out using a bunch of them. We couldn't understand why pretty much everyone on our flight only needed one form. Thankfully, someone came along and told us that we could group things together, so, for example, we could list "souvenirs" and then state the value of all the souvenirs together.  That made things easier. Of course, I still had to list everything I had bought so that I could figure out how to value everything. As I wrote my purchases in a notebook, I realized, "oooooh, this is where all my money went. Food and beauty products!" It seems there's truth in that expression about how you can't run away from yourself and no matter where you go, you'll still be you. 

I realize that most people probably just guess at the value of the stuff they are bringing back from overseas, but we do not do that. You know how in the movie French Kiss, Meg Ryan's character gets mad at Kevin Kline's character for using her to smuggle a plant into the country without her knowledge, and she demands to know what would have happened if she'd been caught, and he responds basically that someone like her would never get stopped because she would declare a pack of gum? That's us. We are that type of person. We are not scofflaws. And if we decided to deviate from our comfort one and not to declare something, we'd spend the rest of our lives feeling guilty--and a little nervous that at some point, we'd have the feds knocking on our door wanting to know why we didn't see fit to declare that candy bar or those Q-tips.

That being said, when I glanced over at the form RR was filling out and saw that she had dutifully noted "brown rice" on the form, I thought, "Mistake!" Thanks to one of our friends who spends almost as much time out of the country as he does here at home, I was pretty sure that uncooked brown rice was something that they'd have to inspect before letting it in. I didn't think RR was going to wind up in the slammer for trying to bring back food, but I did think it would complicate our departure from the airport. And it did. The man who went over her form before stamping her passport to let her back in the country told her he didn't think it was a big deal, but he knew the customs inspectors would want to look at it, so he marked her customs form. Then when we got to the customs part, the man who looked at her form said he didn't think it mattered, but since the first guy had flagged it, he had to inspect it. I don't think those two departments are communicating very well. 

I had no idea what was going on with the customs part because I'd been passed through already and wasn't allowed to wait for her in that area.  Meanwhile, my mom, who was our ride home from the airport, was texting me frequently wanting to know what gate we were near and how long it would be. And that was interrupting my response to our well-traveled friend who had texted me a welcome back to the country message asking how our trip was. And here I will say that he is a much better friend than I am. He knew not only the day but pretty much the exact time that we'd get out of customs, whereas when I never know where he is. We spend a lot of time doing this:
Me, texting: "Do you want to go to the movies this weekend?"
Him: "Well, like I told you a few days ago, I'm in [Hong Kong/Mainland China/Italy/Paris/Mexico/India], so . . . no."
So anyway, I was trying to text two people at once, including my mom who would send me a new text while I was still trying to respond to her previous one. All I could tell her was that I didn't know how long we'd be because I don't know anything about customs and I was waiting for RR, who'd been stopped by customs because of a bag of rice. Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to get passed through. I think absolutely none of the guys dealing with the rice situation really wanted to spend time dealing with rice.

So, anyway, we left the airport, and our mom took us back to my parents' house, which isn't far from the airport. I'd left my car at their house, so we went by there to pick up the car.  We were ok on the sleepiness level on the drive home, probably from the adrenaline we got from getting home.  But not long after we got home, it became apparent that our plan to stay awake to avoid jet lag was going to be difficult to stick to. I cannot remember the last time I felt that sleepy. Everything was painful.  We watched movies to stay awake, by which I mean we stared at the television without comprehending anything we saw. It was awful. I think it would have been fine if we'd been able to sleep on the plane, but thanks to motion sickness and That Child, that didn't happen. We finally allowed ourselves to go to bed a little after 7 p.m.  When we woke up on Thursday, we weren't too off schedule.  The weird thing was, it didn't feel like we'd been out of the country at all.

And that was it for our first trip to South Korea. I hope we can visit again--and that next time, we don't have to fly economy class.

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