The Work of Flying Home

It’s a sad way to end a vacation, but I’ve had a headache for over 24 hours now. Nevertheless, today the husband and I are traveling home by air. I have a new phone with a “learning curve” involved. I am flying on an airline with an unfamiliar app.  I am set up for disaster at worst, awkwardness and embarrassment at the least.

At the bag drop, I tried to pull up the boarding passes. I hate looking like someone who doesn’t know how to operate my devices when other people are waiting and looking (and my head is pounding) but clearly that was me.  The husband and I stepped away to figure it out. Our second pass in front of the same attendant was no better because even though I had found the boarding passes, they didn’t have barcodes on them. “Go print at the kiosk” she ordered.

In my opinion, this app needs serious tweaking.

The first kiosk I stood at for several minutes had an “Out of Order” sign on it that I didn’t notice at first. The second kiosk refused to scan my passport and trapped me in a vicious circular message of how to do what I was already doing without success. The third kiosk also would not scan my passport. The attendant, who had been watching, came over to see what I was doing (to help the elderly, confused woman who obviously was having trouble and about to pound on the machine). She said to type in my name and forget the passport. Out popped the boarding passes, of course. We checked the bag.

Next, we entered the security check area behind an Asian family, non-English speakers, who were having an  interesting difficult time understanding what to do.  The grandmother left her carry-on bag on the floor in front of me and tried to walk through the metal detector. I called out to her and she grabbed it and tried to pull it through the metal detector with her. Didn’t work. She was sent back to put it on the x-ray belt, along with her coat which the TSA person had to nearly take off her before she understood what to do. On the other side she walked off with her suitcase but I had to chase her down and give her the coat. It was so distracting. I also had to remove my boots with their big zippers before I could go through and retrieve all my stuff.

One of my most important jobs is keeping an eye on the husband as we travel, presumably together, but often yards apart. If he falls too far behind I wait for him so he doesn’t get lost. I am quicker at reading signs and hearing what others are telling me to do, so he naturally lets me do the navigating. Do I always do a good job of this? No.

Next, the husband and I found a seat in the waiting area by the gate. All seemed well until we began to be surrounded by families with babies and toddlers. I counted at least 10. Don’t get me wrong – I love children, but I know how much they don’t like to sit in a plane for three hours. My headache intensified.

Two hours later, somewhere flying south, as the babies began to cry and the parents began to plead I finally decided to take some Migraine Formula Excedrin. I zipped up my down jacket, which had been serving as a pillow, and put it over my head. It was nice in there. Dark, warm, quieter.

After arriving in Tampa, the remaining tasks were getting our checked bag, getting to economy parking, and getting out of economy parking. Nothing went horribly wrong but there were glitches. My whole point is that traveling is an adventure with challenges. From purchasing the right tickets, to finding one’s way through the airport labyrinths, using technology, devices and their apps, keeping track of traveling companions and their needs, managing your own comfort, and ending up in one piece at your final destination – it is a job, on its own right.  Do I get paid for this?

Something mildly crazy happens almost every time I fly.  How about you?

Going Again: Cambodia, Day 2

At least I think it’s day 2. When the trip actually starts I soon lose track of what time to call it. It makes no sense to keep on referring to the time in the zone I just left. I’m not sure what time it is where I’m going and the intervening time is hard to identify. The lights in the plane are kept low/off except when a meal or snack is being served.

The longest flight is over and I am in Seoul, South Korea with about 15 minutes until boarding for the last six hour flight to Phnom Penh.  It is 6:15 pm on June 5. I began the journey from home at 3:30 am on June 4th but somewhere in there I crossed enough time zones to gain nine or ten hours.

Getting my shoes back on after 13 hours of sitting was more difficult than I expected. Technically, I know it’s healthier to stay hydrated. Realistically, it’s airline torture to be trapped in your seat with a full bladder so I am staying more on the “dry” side.  When I think about how many people were on the plane, for all those hours, with so few facilities I get in touch with my claustrophobic self real quick.

However, I do eat all the meals, and almost all the snacks. It helps to pass time. I hadn’t heard of most of the movies but I did watch three and parts of a fourth. I couldn’t finish Star Wars: Rogue One. I used to love science fiction as a highschooler, but since then it seems more like a waste of time.  So many of the movies seem to turn to overuse of sex and/or violence in an attempt to entertain and end up being distasteful and boring. I didn’t end up reading as much as I thought I would either as I kept thinking I should try to sleep (but couldn’t).

Later: It is over. I am here and breathing a great sigh of relief. On the last flight I had a seat between two men, and we had friendly conversation as much as we could without knowing much of each other’s language. One was from Japan, the other from South Korea.

I was so grateful to be on the ground and out of a sitting position at the Phnom Penh airport. There were probably 50 of us in line to apply and get visas, and as usual at least ten very stern faced men and women sitting behind glass taking all our passports and passing them down the line to each other. I can’t figure it out – some of them don’t seem to be doing anything. We wait at the end of the line for our passports to be returned with the visas attached, one at a time. Although I was early handing mine in, I was second to last getting it back. Although I paid $3 to have a picture taken, no one took my picture. But I was motioned on to the next desk. Every time I shoved papers back in my pack, there would be another need to drag them out again. They seem to like regulation and uniforms and scaring tourists. Not one smile, all business. Oh well.

This unusual water feature is actually the pool at the hotel. We pass it as we enter the lobby.

My lone suitcase was going round and round on the carousel, thankfully no waiting for that. My hotel driver was outside the building holding a sign with my name. It was so sweet! The Double Leaf Hotel is near the Russian Market and I am very pleased with the room and the service. It is now 12:30 am here and I certainly should be tired enough to sleep, except that my internal clock says 1:30 pm and is trying to be alert. I will make it adjust. So glad to be here safely and be able to rest.

What a welcome sight this was!
2017-06-06 23.09.00
This simple type of art is found throughout the lobby and rooms of Double Leaf Boutique. Clearly hand drawn and painted.

People Go There in the Morning too?

I go to Alki Beach quite a bit at evening, as do lots of other people, but who knew that people wake up and go there in the morning too? It’s a couple blocks away from the house and I don’t usually want to wait that long for the first coffee of the day. This morning I practiced delayed gratification and walked to coffee.  There are four or five coffee shops in the short stretch along the beach (because this is Seattle…) but I go to the one farthest away because my daughter would consider joining me later at this one.  She gets coffee that comes from a particular farm in a particular country (more on that later) while I ask if they have Folgers.

All kinds of things were happening this morning, the most interesting being an open water boat race of some sort.  I got there just minutes before the starting horn so boats were lining up along some imaginary line which wasn’t very straight.  I guess they were going quite a distance so a few feet here and there wasn’t going to matter.  Anything that could be paddled was eligible for this trek across the sound to a rock near some island and back again.  Naturally, the scullers took off in the lead and the poor guys on paddleboards were bringing up the rear.  It’s a cool, gray day with a light chop on the water and mist in the air.

Cyclists are out. Families with children wanting donuts are straggling in. Seattle dogs are out in numbers.  The weekend is here. Happy Saturday everyone!

A boat line up (loosely so called)
A boat line up (loosely so called)
Sea Hawks fans ready for the day
Sea Hawks fans ready for the day
A solitary pigeon
A solitary pigeon
Seattle dogs go for coffee
Seattle dogs go for coffee

Traveling Home: The Cambodia Saga

This is the last post of The Cambodia Saga

We arrived back in Phnom Penh and did a temporary camp out in Green Pastures Inn. It was only a few hours until the Hamilton’s flight but it was adequate to make another trip to the Russian Market. On the way we stopped at Alma Cafe for lunch. Alma is Mexican fare and the tortilla soup I had was spicy good.

The Russian market was cooler this day. What were people looking for? An odd assortment of aged cow bells, cassava flour, cashews, peppercorns, T-shirts, and a Go Pro selfie stick were just a few of the items. Every trip I learn a bunch of new things. This time I got educated on durian, which you’ve already heard about, and peppercorns. Both are major crops in the province we visited and I was curious to have some of the pepper. I guess I also learned about the selfie stick (which I might never want to have, yeah, probably never). We walked back to the guest house and I had fun taking pictures of Street 450 where we stayed.

And to think that I saw it on 450 Street...
And to think that I saw it on 450 Street… (notice the wiring)
and the protected construction site, complete with signage…
Behind each gate a private world exists...
Behind each gate a private world exists…
for those wealthy enough to have a  house and a car...
for those wealthy enough to have a house and a car…
Make it beautiful if you can...
Make it beautiful if you can…
but don't worry about it if you can't.
but don’t worry about it if you can’t.
throw in a cell tower once in a while...
throw in a cell tower once in a while…
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Supposedly, the more privileged live as high above the street as they can get.
Our walk ends here...
Our walk ends here…
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.
On our last evening we finally get a look at this one who has been making a lot of noise.

After Hamiltons left we still had hours before our flight at 11:00 pm so we tuk tukked to Sorya Mall to tour a grocery store and look for the selfie stick again. Julie had curiosity about the grocery store and how it compared to stores in the U.S. The Lucky Grocery in the mall is not where the average Cambodian shops for food but it was pretty busy this time. Other years the prices have been wickedly high and there have been empty shelves, but this time it was quite well stocked, clean, and attractive. The prices were noticeably lower than other years and lower than at home.

After getting back from shopping we had time to take a quick shower and say goodbyes to a group of the dorm students who stopped by. Some of them followed us to the airport to say goodbye again. Goodbye is a pretty big ritual in these trips. Many of the kids and houseparents from PE 4 and PE 5 were there to see us off and there was much hugging and picture taking, and a fair amount of tears. It takes place outside the main entryway from the parking lot. Although this is a very dear time for us, we have often thought it might be easier for all concerned if it were shorter. It is always a late departure time and some always come by tuk tuk and moto – we worry about them. It is also exhausting and emotional. That can’t be helped. We were somewhat relieved to find out that everyone left when we entered the building instead of waiting another half hour to watch us go up the elevator to the departure level. Good move.

A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
A literal layover in Seoul, Incheon airport.
St. Johns River and Jacksonville's harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled...
St. Johns River and Jacksonville’s harbor in sight as we circled, and circled, and circled…

The flight home was pretty much a backward replay of the flight over. The long section was only 13 hours instead of 14 because of a different trajectory across the Atlantic. We slept, we ate, we slept and ate again. We walked what seemed like miles to get to Customs in Atlanta. Our last flight to Jacksonville kept us in the air longer than expected due to a storm over the airport. We finally landed after doing circles over the ocean for half an hour. How good it is to be back in this country. In some ways I can understand the things people say about Americans, because there are differences in the people that give a different flavor to our country. Not all of that flavor is good, but most of it is. There is a craziness and a casual acceptance of unusual behavior that is fun to watch. Glad to be here.

God Bless South Korea

We are at  Incheon International Airport in Seoul after a safe flight from Phnom Penh.  The  Koreans are so … I’m not sure how to say what they are.  When they do something, they are so determined to do it really well. I’ve always been impressed with Korean Airlines. For example, I think most of us getting on the flight leaving Phnom Penh came from the same time zone where it was midnight.  They could have let us sleep the whole six hours in the air, but no. They wanted to give us a meal so breakfast came, at 3 am.  And I ate because I’m  in obedient mode (having just been on a mission trip).  And somewhere in the six hours they passed snacks and drinks twice. 

Ok, and as I mentioned we are now having a short layover at Incheon in the Prestige  KAL lounge, thanks to the Hunsader’s many miles on this airline.
I am grateful for warm water to wash my face for the first time in ten days. And that’s not all that’s warm.

A tired person could easily fall asleep on the heated toilet seat with separate flushes for adults, seniors and  – I forget all that the controls had options for, but it was so extensive that they had to put a separate label on so people could actually flush the thing. Awesome.

And now I’m off to the food bar for a cup of coffee before we head out for the long flight.  Still thinking about all the people who came to the airport to see us off, the 45 minutes of hugging and gift giving, the hands pressed against the windows and the heart hand signals pointed in our direction.  What precious people they are. I’m just sayin’, it’s impossible not to love them.

Here we go again…

???????????????Here we go again…

I am excited.  It is only hours before a season of travel begins, and instead of getting ready I’m sitting here writing about how I’m not ready.  Thoughts about traveling are fighting to get out of my head.

I am going to my first, original home to be with family and friends, celebrating Thanksgiving.  I love everyone I am going to be with. Even before that, I love talking to strangers in the airport and on the plane.  I love being free to watch what is going on around me and observe people.  There is such freedom in not having a job to do other than keeping bombs from being planted in my luggage. Almost every routine of my daily life is changed to something new.

Flight attendants bring me the beverage of my choice – this happens never at home.

I get to sit in/drive a nearly new car.

I can eat fast food without feeling guilty because it’s about the only choice.

And at my destination I have that unique position of half guest, half helper.  It allows me to work alongside others and see what is going on in their lives.  It means I can stay up late visiting if there’s an opportunity, or get up early and have that first cup of coffee with someone special.  It means I can probably take a nap if I’m tired, or take a couple hours off to write or read.  There’s time to think about living while I’m doing it.

And even while the excitement builds, there’s a conflict. I feel it every time.  I am a split personality when it comes to travel.  There is so much to like about being away, and yet I am as much a home body as anyone could be.  I love my home, the husband, the cats, the yard, the old car, the commitments, the friends, even the job (sort of) (don’t spread that around).  To be happy and involved in one place, you have to lose touch with where you’re not.  And even when I know I’m coming back, there is a bit of sadness in stepping away from the familiar.

Will the husband be able to find food in the refrigerator?

Will my strawberry plants die if we get a freeze?

Will my cat forgive me for being gone?

Will I come back to a mountainous pile of junk mail? Laundry?

Will I be the same person that I was?  Probably not.

I’m just sayin’, here we go again…