So I didn't get a chance to update before I left.... been pretty busy since then so I have a couple days to catch up on. I spent my last day in Thailand mainly cleaning and packing and finishing a project on the computer. Yes, I still had things on my to do list to go see, but I needed to make sure I was ready to leave that night. Staying in most of the day made me less upset to leave in some ways, because I couldn't walk around everywhere wallowing to myself saying, "this is the last time I'll walk by here!" I did get a chance to say bye to my two favorite dogs, so that was nice. We all had a final group dinner at the Emporium and then Kevin and I headed out around 10:30 to the airport. The chaos and humor of our departing scene overcame my sentimentality and I actually didn't cry.
could be anywhere really...
.. amazing. I was definitely sad though and Kevin and I reminisced on the way to the airport. We both couldn't believe we were leaving. Our flight wasn't til 1:30 am so after we checked in I did some last minute shopping with my remaining baht. I think Kevin was appalled when I took a bag of coins out of my backpack and proceeded to count them into little piles on the seats next to me. I guess it's normal for me, I like to get rid of all the loose change at the airport before I fly. So after much shopping around in the duty free stores I scooped up my change and plopped it on the counter with my new purchases, much to the amusement of the cashiers. But they counted it all out and I had some new trinkets, and only five baht in coins left in my purse.
but nope, that's definitely Korea out there
Oh I forgot to mention my suitcase. I bought a big duffel a couple weeks ago at the market to fit all the stuff that I've acquired while I was gone. It turned out to be a bit larger than I expected, and even though it wasn't full, probably was the largest bag I have ever packed and one of the biggest that I've seen in a while. I was really afraid the airlines wouldn't let me fly with it and had all sorts of back up plans, but when I got to the counter the woman didn't even flinch! Ok that will make more sense later, but meanwhile Kevin and I had our first flight. It was relatively short, maybe five or six hours, and I slept almost the whole way. Pretty easy. We arrived in Seoul and found our gate and had a bit of time before our next flight, so I wandered around and got some souveniers for a friend who's from Korea.
I also got two more of my favorite sodas that I got in the Japanese airport on my way over!!! This next flight was the biggie, something like 17 hours. I think out of spite I didn't really pack anything to do, I was just willing there to be tv screens in front of us. I know I am a spoiled traveler, but there were no screens and we were soooo disappointed. It really makes such a difference on a long flight. So instead I slept for a while (in my "window" seat that turned out to be a foot away from the window, no leaning against wall for me!) and then watched one of the less lame movies they showed. But really it was a super easy flight. I don't want to say I barely noticed that it was 17 hours, but it could have been much, much worse.
I saw a 7-11 today!!!!
Unfortunately my luck ran out in Atlanta, where we had to go through customs. We only had about an hour and a half in between landing and boarding our next flight, and the ten minutes we were delayed and the ten minutes before we got off the plane added up pretty fast. I tried not to worry about it, it was out of our hands by then, but when we only had a half hour and hadn't gone through immigrations yet I was a bit concerned. But I watched Kevin walk through passport control with no problems, really easy. I had a different officer but I figured it couldn't be that bad. Wrong! I think I just got the wrong guy. It was like from the first question he asked he didn't like me and didn't seem satisfied about the answers I was giving.
Boston subway system
He flipped through my passport and said, "so you've been a lot of places," and I didn't really know what to say so I just sort of nodded. Then he said "looks like you've made quite a few trips to Amsterdam." And I knew where he was headed with this and didn't like it one bit, but said calmly, 'yes, my brother lives there.' And the officer said laughing to himself, "oh sure, blame it on that." I was outraged!!!! I wanted to be like "actually, my brother and his wife are lawyers for the state department and I resent any suggestion that I have traveled to Holland to participate in illegal activities." But I didn't. He still had my passport at this point. So I muttered something about my brother moving back home as I left but was absolutely fuming.
this is Gizmo
I was still fuming when I got down to baggage claim and didn't really pay much attention to what was going on around me. I saw some carts out of the corner of my eye but figured I didn't have time at this point and you probably had to pay and I didn't have US coins. So I find my bags (Kevin has gone ahead at this point) and start dragging them across the floor. I have a backpack on, a tote bag and a medium sized duffel on my shoulders, and I am dragging the largest suitcase known to man across the floor, desperate to get through customs so I can make my flight. People are staring at me like I'm on crack, and the workers all feel the need to say "well didn't you know the carts were free??" And I wanted to be like NO I DIDN'T KNOW THE CARTS WERE FREE BUT I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR A STUPID CART so I kept dragging my bags along behind me to the checkpoint.
Gizmo is very, very concerned about some squirells in the tree
As I get there I see that the officer is directing people to two different points. Most get to go straight and some are directed to a special area to the right. I look at my piece of paper and it has a number on it and I realize with a sinking heart that my lovely immigrations officer upstairs has screwed me over. I just know it. Sure enough, I hand my sheet over and the guy points to the right and says "agriculture." I am furious again, not only at the guy upstairs, but at the fact that the path to the agriculture section goes in a huge loop around the room. I could walk straight there in about ten seconds but when I ask to do that I am informed that I have to walk the long way around. So I start the trek pulling my bags in back of me. When I finally make it to the line I am about to a) pass out, and b) cry. A nice worker offers to bring me a cart as I can't leave the area now, and I am so grateful for it. So that makes things easier. But then I realize I am stuck behind a family that has at least twelve huge suitcases and doesn't speak any English. So I wait for all their bags to be loaded for five minutes before I haul mine onto the conveyor belt. At the other end a really nice woman asks me a few questions about food items I have brought with me, all of which I answer no, and she says ok you can go. Woohoo! After I dig my bags out of from under the twelve ones that are crushing them I practically run with my cart over to the baggage reclaim area. At this point I have five minutes until my flight boards and I'm not sure I'm going to make it, I still have to go through security and find my gate. My spirits rise though as I see the baggage guy lifting my bags onto the belt, but then he stops... the luggage tag that has all my info and bar codes etc. has lost its stickiness and isn't attached to my bag. "You'll have to get another tag" he says. I start panicking a bit, I don't have time for this!!!! So I ask him if he can't just tape it or something. Ok, he says, I can do that, and picks up my other bag. But then he points to it and says "this one doesn't have a tag at all, you're going to have to go to the Delta desk and get new ones." This is my last straw. I turn away and start bawling as I am walking over to the Delta counter. I have to take a minute to compose myself before I can even manage to blubber out the words "I need new tags." Luckily the guy at the counter is super nice and prints them out really quickly, along with an updated boarding pass, and tells me that even though my flight has started boarding I shouldn't have a problem making it. I stop crying, thank him, and start to bring my bags back to the belt. A really nice worker has been watching me and comes up to me and says "honey you go through security and catch your flight, I'll take care of your bags." I want to hug her. I sniffle out some grateful thank yous and watch her wheel my bags away as I go through security. Luckily there is no line and I go right through. I also know the Atlanta airport really well so it's only a few minutes before I am at my gate and I find Kevin. I tell him my story, laughing about it by then of course, and we board the plane. That flight was pretty easy too, only a couple hours. I was sitting next to a soldier who was returning home for two weeks from Baghdad, and it was interesting to hear his answers to the other guy in our row's questions. I felt kind of bad that this guy was grilling him about everything over there, but he had really thoughtful answers to everything and didn't seem to mind talking about it. I asked him a few questions and suddenly didn't feel so bad about my airplane adventures when I found out he'd been traveling for four days and the temperature was 120 degrees when he left. The flight attendant made a special announcement when we landed thanking the several members of the military that were onboard, and of course I started crying again. It was a very touching thing though, the whole plane clapping for these men and women on our flight. At the baggage claim I was surprised to see my mom waiting for me, she had originally told me to take a cab to where we were staying in Boston
for the night. So it was a nice surprise to see her there and she, along with the rest of the passengers on the plane, got a good laugh as we dragged my big bag out to the car. We spent the night at her cousin's house, which was very nice, and there was the cutest little dog named Gizmo there that I of course had to take some pictures of. We spent the morning and afternoon in Boston today taking care of some business there and shopping before driving home this afternoon. It was really weird to be taking the subway (T?) in Boston because it's so different from Bangkok. In my head I'm thinking oh man Bangkok is soooo much better, but then I have to remind myself that the subway system there is less than two years old. It probably won't look so nice in another ten. At home I was greeted by a mountain of magazines, which was very exciting, except that I never actually subscribed to any of them. So if anyone can explain why Newsweek, Seventeen, and Modern Bride are being sent to my house that would be great. Not that I mind, magazines are never a bad thing. It's just a pretty random selection. After dumping everything I own on the dining room floor, I've started organizing things into piles, doing laundry, sorting through presents and clothes to pack, etc. I have a lot to do before I fly out on sunday. Tonight we went downtown and had dinner at..... our local Thai restaurant!!! It was sooo hard not to say "sawatdi kha!" and "khap kun kha!" all the time to them. Normally when I come back from somewhere I have a pretty bad food craving for something that I couldn't get while I was gone. Not now though, I wished I was back there to eat at all those great restaurants! But my Thai meal here was pretty good, although I think I'm a bit spoiled again because the mango I had with sticky rice for dessert was the most terrible piece of fruit I've ever eaten. Tasted awful. But my mom thought it was great and said it tasted normal to her. So apparently the Thai mangoes are like a million times better there and I just didn't know how good I had it. Ok this is turning into a boring and rambling entry..... I've gotten used to this whole blogging thing now so it's normal to just sit down and write everything that has happened, even though now it's probably significantly less interesting. I'll probably keep this up for the next two days and then I guess start on my summer blog. That will have to be a bit different, definitely can't write very often, so we'll see what happens. But I'd like to thank everyone who has been reading this and sort of sharing in my trip. It was a great four and half months and I wish it didn't have to end, but I'm looking forward to returning in the fall starting again with some new amazing adventures.