On Sunday January 25, 2009, I arrived at Yongsan station in Seoul, feeling like I hadn’t eaten solid food in a week. I was met at the station by a friend I had met on livejournal, and her husband. Both of them were teachers as well, and had also decided to break their contracts and go home. Hanging out with Becka was like waking up after being asleep for six months: we talked about Battlestar Galactica for two days straight (including a rare opportunity to watch the show with another person…unfortunately it was “A Disquiet Follows My Soul” so neither of us really liked it), even though I had only barely recovered my voice (to be fair, we also covered vidding, Star Wars, various comics, Welsh politics and various other sundries).
I started taking my new pills and realized that they really were new pills. Two of them were completely different shapes and colours, and I still had no idea what any of them were. I took them anyway, because I didn’t want to stop antibiotics before I was out of the woods, and on Monday morning, I woke up with the most BRILLIANTLY FLORESCENT rash from crown to sole. It didn’t hurt or itch or cause me discomfort, but I looked absolutely awful, and started to worry about silly things like getting quarantined in Japan. My throat was definitely improving, though, so I just ate endless amounts of yoghurt along with the take-out pizzas we’d bought, the better to take advantage of the fact that Korean take-out pizzas come wrapped in a bow.
Becka and her husband were actually flying out before me. They left at 2AM on the 28th, and I wasn’t leaving until 8. I don’t think I slept well after they departed. I was kind of paranoid about oversleeping. Instead, I wrote my resignation letter, stating that they owed me $1800. I wasn’t enthusiastic about getting it.
On Wednesday morning (take one), I went to Seoul airport. As was typically the case, my trip began with a search for a taxi. I found one almost immediately, and thought to myself “I can’t be this lucky” and as it turns out, I wasn’t, because the driver did not understand the word for airport even with excessive charades and a PICTURE OF AN AIRPLANE. Eventually I gave up and tried to tell him to call the English Hot Line, and he managed to figure it out. Thus sorted, we took off for the airport, me dozing in the back seat while he called ALL OF HIS FRIENDS to tell them the hilarious story of the foreigner currently in the back of his cab.
I got to the airport SUPER early, checked in, waited, got on the plane and went to Tokyo. As the plane took off, I sang Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in my head. In Japan, we were delayed (but not because I was quarantined!), and so I took advantage of the time to eat EVERYTHING I COULD because when mum had booked my ticket, she had, as she customarily does, requested the fruit plate for me for meals. Generally, I’m okay with this, but since my mouth was pretty much an OPEN SORE, I wasn’t looking forward to crossing the Pacific with nothing but pineapple and melon.
If you ever have the chance, I recommend not sleeping for 20 hours, and then watching “Appaloosa”. I am not sure the movie was supposed to be that funny, but I was nearly in hysterics watching it. I spent the descent into Vancouver attempting to determine if the story was a Western retelling of Arthurian myth on purpose or by accident (or if I just had Merlin on the brain).
Wednesday morning (take two!) began at Gate 51 of Vancouver International Airport. It was 9:45. Start your clocks, please (and also start your engines, because you are about to run).
Thanks to what were then new air laws, I had to go through customs when you arrived in my final country and not when I arrived at my final destination. This was annoying. I got off the plane at 9:45 and walked for 15 minutes until I was at customs. Then I stood in line until 10:30 waiting to go through the line before waiting another 15 at the luggage belt. I was in possession of my bags for almost six minutes, before dumping them off again and getting in an elevator to go back to departures. By 11:00, I was in line for security, just in time for the machine to break. When they FINALLY got it going again (it was probably about three minutes, I think, but it felt like FOREVER), I was randomly selected for the full search.
At 11:15 I was back sitting in the same seat on the SAME PLANE that had brought me from Tokyo. I hadn’t had time to eat in the airport and they don’t feed you on domestic Air Canada flights anymore, but I was so tired that I just fell asleep. Apparently the flight staff were going to wake me for water, but my seat mate (who had come from Australia, so she hadn’t been on the plane with me from Japan), told them to just leave me a bottle because I was clearly exhausted.
We finally landed in Toronto, and my first bag came off the luggage rack really quickly. I stood there for about five more minutes, and then they guy with the worst job in the world came on the intercom and told us that a crate of luggage had been left on the tarmac in Vancouver, and if we didn’t get our bags in the next 30 minutes, to report to customer service. I scanned the luggage rather desperately, and was very relieved to see my second bag on the carousel. I picked it up, wished everyone around me the best of luck, and walked out of Arrivals with “Chariots of Fire” playing in my head…only to discover that no one was there to meet me. I will admit to crying for about ten seconds before getting ahold of myself. I blame the exhaustion and the documentary on Barack Obama I watched on the plane when I woke up from my nap. Eventually my older brother appeared (he’d been held up by weather and snow ploughs on the 427), and took me home.
The point of all this, these last two posts, is that I’d never really heard of Chinese New Year before I went to Korea. And it’s a pretty awesome holiday. You go home, you eat food, you reconcile and you wish peace and joy to everyone. I kind of love that. On a more personal note, it is the Year of the Dragon, and that is exciting to me for very many reasons. 🙂
So happy Chinese New Year, my friends. I wish you peace and joy.