We’re in Korea! In fact, we’ve just finished a marathon day, so the following thumbnail sketch may not be as good as it could be. This long post is really a series of short posts in one. 🙂
State College → Detroit
On Tuesday morning, we got up at 2:45 (Eastern Time) on about 3 hours of sleep (thanks to lots of last-minute baby prep, not the least of which was installing a car seat for Ethan’s car ride home). We drove to State College to board a plane scheduled for a 6:10 am takeoff. As it turns out, it was a good thing that we arrived early.
One of the things we needed to do at the State College Airport was get a paper ticket (as opposed to an e-ticket like we had) printed for Ethan. We discovered at the University Park Airport that Northwest Airlines did not code his ticket correctly when we made our reservations. Thanks to Irene at the Northwest ticket check-in for her persistence on the phone, even before the appropriate offices opened for the day, in getting this corrected before we left State College (otherwise, we would have been trying to get this fixed in Seoul before returning home).
Our first flight was short — about an hour, through heavy fog and, as we later learned, over some thunderstorms (which explained the ride!). We had a long 4+ hour layover in Detroit. But we made the most of that time by walking, talking, and relaxing.
Detroit → Tokyo
This was the long flight. Unfortunately, the long (scheduled) 13-hour flight turned into a 14-hour flight. It was a good flight overall (on Northwest’s largest aircraft) but we landed in heavy rain and turbulence. It wasn’t too bad, but we, apparently, circled the airport a few times before actually landing.
I’ve never flown more than 5 hours on one flight so I was concerned about the length. It really wasn’t too bad. I think I dozed off once or twice; Joleen probably did a little better. Otherwise, we passed the time reading, watching a couple movies; I listened to Sara Groves (including multiple listenings of “When the Saints” — see my earlier post on songs for leaders) and a sermon by Andy Stanley on my iPod.
One of the real highlights of this trip was seeing the Northwest Territories in Canada and Alaska, particularly the mountains there, which were completely snow covered (our route from Detroit to Tokyo went northwest through Canada and Alaska before turning southwest toward Tokyo).
Even with the longer-than-expected flight, we still had an hour and a half layover in Tokyo for one final connection.
Tokyo → Seoul
Fortunately, the last leg of the trip only took a couple hours. We arrived at the gate around 9:00 pm local time (7:00 am, Eastern Time).
In all, nearly 25 hours had elapsed from the first wheels up to the last wheels down. And with all time before and after the flights, it was at least a 30-hour day.
Finding the SWS Guest House
Imagine landing in a foreign country where your language is not the predominant language. Imagine taking a shuttle bus from the airport and getting dropped off somewhere in the middle of Seoul (around 10:45 pm), an international city of 10 million people, and trying to find your place to stay with not-the-clearest directions (shuttle buses drop people off at various hotels; we were told to take the bus to a nearby hotel and follow the map to the Guest House). Our attempts didn’t work out too well. Add to all of that the fact that we were exhausted and that it was bitterly cold.
Fortunately, we found a police station and one of the police officers spoke English well enough to help us. He looked at a map on the wall, then loaded our luggage in a police car and took us to the SWS Hospital. That wasn’t the right place, but he made a call on his cell phone, then walked next door where we found the SWS Guest House.
But not only did he take us there, he repeatedly rang the doorbell and banged on the door and yanked on the door until the night guard on duty came to let us in. We can’t tell you how grateful we are for this officer!
Well, I’m finishing this post at 12:10 pm (Eastern Time), but it feels more like Korea time — 2:10 am! We’ll try to get some much-needed rest tonight and then get out and enjoy the Lunar New Year tomorrow here in Korea.
As I said in my last post, we will both try to post stories and reports over the next several days. We will also try to post photos.
Thanks for your prayers over the last several days … as well as those in the next several days!