My flight to Korea – Part 3

The plane was seriously huge. Back in Economy class, it was nine seats to a row: three on each side and three in the middle. More than that, though, I was just amazed that all the people in the waiting area where able to cram into this thing. I guess everyone was spread out in the waiting area, and that’s why it looked like more there.

Anyway, I got on pretty quickly once I started moving. In fact, once the lines started moving, they were able to get all of us on fairly quickly considering how many people were boarding.

I had a window seat, again, on the right side of the plane this time. Two sisters, probably from the Chicago area, sat down next to me.

One of the first things I noticed about the Asiana airline was their stewardesses. No offense to our local, American stewardesses, but theirs looked awesome, like I would imagine ours looked back in the ’50s. Skirts, tailored little coats, neck ties, bright smiles, hair pulled back tight into buns, and – topping it off – hats like what the U. S. Navy used to wear but more feminine.

Maybe it’s because it was an international flight, and the Koreans wanted to show off for foreigners. Maybe they’re not so picky for their local flights. I don’t know, but they pulled it off so naturally I’m more likely to think it’s normal for all their airlines.

Anyway, enough gawking.

I’d heard international flight are roomier, even if you’re not toward the front. When I found my seat, though, I wasn’t so sure that was true. It still felt pretty cramped. They’d left a pillow and blanket on my seat. I stuffed the blanket into the pocket on my seat in front of me and jammed the pillow against the wall to my right. Might as well make the best of it.

“How did you get here to so fast?” one of the sisters asked, shuffling into her seat.

I told her how I’d waited toward the entrance so I could get on quickly.

She ended up introducing herself as Erica, and her sister’s name was Don. Erica was adopting a son from Korea.

“Wow, that’s awesome,” I said. “Why Korea? I mean, why did you decide to adopt from Korea?”

She said the process seemed easier. They only had to have one parent visit the country. She wanted her husband to stay with their other son at home. “It just seemed to work for us,” she told me.

“How long did the whole process take?” I asked.

“Oh, I guess about a year. We did homestudy and then legal stuff. Yes, about a year altogether.”

“That seems pretty fast,” I said. “Very cool. So your sister’s just along for the ride then?”

Erica looked at Don. “And moral support,” she said.

A stewardess gave us some disposable slippers for the flight and then asked us what we’d like to eat. She offered two options: a Korean dish, Bibimbap, or beef and potato stew. I went with the Bibimbap, and I was suprised that both Erica and Don did too.

It turned out to be a pretty fantastic meal, actually. Bibimbap is meat and vegetables plus a red pepper paste and sesame seed oil, and then you mix it together with white rice. They served it with soup, a sweet sauce, and some fruit.

After that, the lights dimmed, and they turned on the video screens on the back of the seat. We each had our choice of a number of videos, but I’d either seem them before or they were just lame. I ended up watching the one with Denzel Washington where he tries to stop the runaway train, as I fell asleep.

I drifted in and out over the next couple hours. I’d had a long day already, and it was the middle of the night Kentucky time.

I’m not sure what time it was when I woke up because I was bouncing between home time and Korean time. I remember I woke up, though, surprised to see light shining through the crack in the window shade.

That’s odd, I thought. And then without thinking it through too well, I opened the shade.

Light beamed into my face, blinding me and pretty much everyone else down the row. I quickly shut the shade.

After a minute or so of trying to get my sight back, I checked the flight monitor. Each screen in front of us had a channel that gave info on the flight: altitude, outside temperature, ground speed, flight path, and so on. It was pretty cool.

But that’s when I finally realized what was happening. I’d assumed the whole trip would be 14 hours of darkness. It turns out, though, that we had taken a polar route. We took off from Chicago and flew straight north until we were above mainland Canada. From there, we traveled east over Alaska and part of Russia before turning south again and coming down to Korea through China.

I wish I could have adjusted my eyes to the light and then watched through the window, but no one else seemed to like that. So even with the awesome flight path, I didn’t get to see any of it. Still cool, though.

I finished up The Tourist instead. After that, they served another meal, and I again opted for the Korean option: rice with kimchi. The kimchi had meat in it too, which I wasn’t expecting, but it was good.

The rest was a bit of a blur, sometimes literally. I think I talked with Erica and Don again, but I don’t remember much of those conversations. And then when we started the descent, I couldn’t see anything, literally nothing but the light at the end of the wing, until the wheels touched the runway. That’s Korean fog and pollution for you.

It felt like we drove 12 miles taxiing around the place. And we still couldn’t see anything the whole way. Finally, we saw people signalling the pilates into the parking space.

Ding, ding. The seat belt lights turned off. Everyone stood up.

Don and Erica stepped into the aisle, pulled their luggage down, and then pushed a few steps toward the front.

Erica turned around. “Good luck,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. “I hope everything works out well with your adoption.”

“Yes, nice traveling with you,” said Don. It was the only thing I remember her saying the whole flight.

“You too. Enjoy Korea.”

And that was it.