Tuesday, 6:30am (Monday, 5:30pm ET)
Well, now I’ve gone and done it: I said good-bye and got on the plane. Even now, on my second of three flights to get to Seoul, South Korea, it doesn’t quiiiiite seem real.
So here’s how it went: I went to bed Sunday night, Eastern Time, pretty late (as you can see by my last blog entry). When I finally got to bed, it was impossible to sleep. Anticipation, you think, or nervousness? Certainly those had their roles to play. However, the worst part was the sneezing, running nose and congestion. For some reason, every night and morning in my parent’s house I have some terrible reaction and sneeze, sniffle and snot my way for awhile. It was worse last night. I’m fairly sure I didn’t sleep more than a few hours, and even those were broken up by full-faucet-like snot attacks, bouts of sneezing and so on. You get the picture.
I got out of bed at 6:30am Eastern time and stumbled to the shower. My mom was already up and we spoke soft good mornings to each other. After a quick breakfast and making lunch to bring with me on the plane(s), I fussed with my packs. We thought of last minute things – gum, extra tissues, fruit – and then headed to the airport, with dad driving. Before piling into the car, of course, we took pictures: me with my packs, me with mom. I felt surreal and knew I should be pouring forth heartfelt thanks, love-you’s, insights and hopes and fears, but instead we just joked quietly and wondered aloud about what adventures might befall me.
We got to Raleigh-Durham airport almost exactly two hours early for my flight. There was almost no line for checking in, which I couldn’t do the day before online because I had to show proof of onward travel. In other words, since this is not a round-trip ticket to South Korea, I have to show proof that I’ve bought a different ticket departing the country. I had printed out my Seoul to Hong Kong e-receipt, which did the trick. The ticket agent was a very nice gentlemen, who spoke to me in Japanese when he saw I was going through Japan, then a little Korean when I thanked him in Korean. And he was no kind of Asian! He admitted that he loved to study Japanese. He let me weigh my pack, which is actually just 28 pounds!
Anyway, he also gave my parents passes to allow them to go through security with me and wait with me at the gate. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Wasn’t this supposed to be the start of my solo trip, independent in every way? But in all honesty, I’m really glad it worked out this way. I don’t know when I’ll see my parents next and to get another hour with them was nice. In addition, my personal snot factory hadn’t quite, was in fact working overdrive, and it was nice to lean against my mother, chat with my dad, and get hot tea and some anti-allergy meds. At around 9:30am, they had to go and we hugged, kissed, and said good-bye.
It was just a little hard watching them walk away and disappear down the corridor together, my parents, a pair of people who have no equal in my view.
Twenty minutes later, my flight boarded. I slept most of the way to Dulles airport in DC. Somehow, we got there half an hour ahead of schedule, so I had a ninety minute layover instead of just one hour. Also, my arrival gate was just ten gates away from my departure gate. With my extra time, I bought a large bottle of water and a meatball sub from Potbelly’s. I sat near my gate and ate, watching a huge crowd of school-uniformed Japanese teens mill around. Then, at 11:45am, I boarded my plane, as ready as I could be for the 14-hour flight to Tokyo-Narita airport in Japan.
By the way, I had zero problems getting my packs and lunch bag through security and onto the planes. Everything fits quite well in the overhead or under the seat in front of me. In fact, I’m in the front row of economy plus on this long flight, so there’s no seat in front of me, and both my packs fit in the overhead along with my seat-mate’s bag. Not bad!
According to the handy-dandy personal tv map, I’m currently north of Washington state, quickly approaching Alaska, at 34,000 feet. It shows that I’ve been in the air for five hours and six minutes, and have 4,134 miles to Tokyo.
And the snot factory continues to work overtime, alternately plugging up one nostril and then the other, clearing suddenly and then completely blocking everything up so I have to breathe through my mouth. I’ve slept a bit and hope to sleep some more. It still feels like just another trip, but that nagging feeling of not knowing where I’ll be in a month is making itself more insistently known. Adventures and uncertainty await. I chose this. And yet emotionally, I’m feeling completely … well, arrested, I guess, is the right word. Not quite numb. Just… awaiting emotion. Hah!
The beginning of my adventure has gone as smoothly as I could hope. More later!
Tuesday, 4:30pm (3:30am ET)
Fourteen hours in an airplane can feel like a lot longer, but I have to say, my Dulles to Tokyo flight went well. I had a nice seat mate (just two people and I had window seat, in the front of Economy plus so lots of legroom) and the whole flight went smoothly. I only watched one movie and managed to doze in hour-long fits on and off until just five hours were left; then I read, walked around, stretched and kept myself awake. Hopefully this will help me get onto Seoul time. I’m now at the Tokyo-Narita airport. I’d forgotten what a pretty airport it is, with interesting artwork in the hallways and clear, concise directions everywhere. I have about an hour and a half until my next (and final!) flight boards. I’m going to stretch my legs, e-mail folks and generally keep myself wide awake, if possible.
Thanks to all those that have sent me e-mails or Facebook messages with good wishes for my travels!