I want today to go back to the roots of Story Time Sunday with just a cute story for all my readers. This week has been hard, I know that. Emotionally and physically draining, but we made it through. As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in South Korea for a year about three years ago. It was one of the most difficult and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had. I cried and danced and sang and swore and smoked and ate and had a fucking brilliant time. But after months of being without my family and friends it was time to come home, and I’m going to tell you my journey coming home.
My roommate Chaimaa and I were up early to get to Incheon International Airport by noon. We gave ourselves a bunch of time because I’m a nervous traveler, always convinced I’ll miss my flight. I had my two large suitcases, a backpack, and a massive purse filled with all of my goodies. We stood at the bus stop for what felt like an hour, and still, no bus for the airport came. So in our now mutual panic we went across the road and grabbed a taxi. Only realizing as we loaded up my baggage that we had been on the wrong side of the road waiting for the airport bus.
But alas, after too long we were on the road to the airport. As the cab driver took us we sat in silence as I remembered arriving months earlier and having no fucking idea what kind of terrible mistake I had just made. Now the buildings were familiar, I could read the signs in Hangul, the Han River was a place I liked to hang out, and the taxi ride was no longer a nerve wracking hour of silence. I was sad and excited for the journey home, but it was weird to think that I’d never be in Seoul ever again.
We arrived at the airport in record time. Our taxi driver drove like his job depended on it. We got out and I gathered my bags. Chaimaa and I had coffee and our last cigarettes together. We had said goodbye once before, but this was even harder. She lives in Morocco so it wasn’t like I could hop a plane and see her on the holidays. We hugged and cried and held hands over the barrier as I got closer to security. Then she was gone, just like that.
I made it through security, had checked my large luggage and was about to board my hour long flight from Seoul to Shanghai. I made it to Shanghai and that’s when shit hit the fan. Mind you, it was mostly my fault. I arrived at Chinese immigration and was supposed to present proof that I was allowed to stay in China or that I had a connecting flight. Being a bit disoriented from grief, I had forgotten that I should have screenshotted my tickets for my connecting flight. I assumed their would have been WiFi. Basically I am confused and trying to speak to the Chinese immigration woman who is cussing me out under her breath in Chinese. I was on the verge of tears when another official finally came over, took my passport, and confirmed that I did in fact have a connecting flight.
Remember how I said I was a nervous traveler? Well, my time between flights was short, maybe two hours at the very most and immigration had delayed me. So I rush out, grab my bags from the carousel and proceed to where I think I need to go for my flight. Turns out, there are two terminals and I was in the wrong one. So I had to walk about 20 minutes to get to the proper terminal, with all my shit in tow. I finally make it and I can’t find the stupid counter. I’m freaking out and tired and finally find where I’m going.
Okay, great, everything will be alright. NOPE. Make it to my gate and am patiently waiting to board. When boarding begins I get up and look at the board, turns out, this wasn’t my goddamn flight, they had switched my gate to the last gate in the fucking terminal and boarding had already started. I scoop up my belongings and haul ass. I arrive as they’re boarding the group right before mine. Phew, safe again. Finally get on the plane, this is it. This is the flight from Shanghai to San Francisco. After this one I’ll be back in the US and can use my phone again.
As we’re sitting on the tarmac we learn that our flight will be delayed due to inclement weather. Fucking great, I’m going to be trapped in China forever. After two goddamn hours we take off for our 11 hour flight. I try to relax, everything will be okay. I remember the flight attendants spoke English to me and my face must have looked super confused because she eventually just made the motion for drinking.
Anyway, I make it to San Fransisco, and then I’m on the plane to Chicago. Woohoo! Suck a dick, almost home. Then of course comes the worst part. Immigration. It wasn’t too slow, but still, I had to fill out forms and take my picture and talk to a customs agent and blah blah blah blah. I make it to the luggage carousel and my bags are nowhere to be found. My mom had texted me and I knew she was right through this last set of doors and I just wanted to leave my damn bags and run into her arms. Then, a flash of red, there the stupid bags were. I lifted them up with Hulk-strength and threw them on the cart. I rolled, showed my stupid passport for the last time and half jogged.
All of a sudden I heard “Saba!?” It was Natalie, and then I saw my mom and I was getting closer and eventually I was just full on running. I pushed my cart out of the way and within seconds I was hugging my mom. I was crying, my mom was crying, Natalie was crying, and my stupid brothers were pretending to be stoic. It didn’t even feel like reality I couldn’t believe this was really my mom and my best friend. Were they really here or was it just another dream. Everyone around us was just looking at our tearful reunion and smiling because you could just see and feel the love. The last person I hugged was my dad, I think. I don’t even remember anymore I was so relieved. But I remember nestling my face in his collar and smelling his aftershave and I knew, I knew right then that I was really home.