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May 2008

spring break


i'm back in the u.s. and visiting family.  it only took about 24 hours to make it from vladivostok to des moines.  the flight from CA to IA always feels like a commute now after taking a 13hr international flight. 

it was nice to have an itinerary with a maximum of only 2 hours at each stop.  but still the worse part was just trying to sleep on an economy flight going overseas.  i can handle everything except the soreness of having to sit in a seat for hours on end.  but in between naps and movies, i would walk around and just stretch my tired limbs.

the first leg of my trip was vlad to seoul, the russian terminal was modern enough by today's standards but i did notice people would sneak a last minute smoke before the flight, in the men's room. it was a 1/2 empty plane with about 30 people.  i decided to find an empty row before we took off.  no offense to the russian teenager that i had originally been placed with.  but after listening to him play games on his cell phone and feeling his elbow and leg spastically hitting mine, i decided we both could use a little personal space.

the second leg was a flight from seoul to los angeles.  i had a couple hours in seoul before my plane was scheduled to leave.  i walked around a bit and look for something to eat, even though i wasn't hungry.  eventually, i just found a spot at the terminal and settled into one of the books i brought, "the ugly american" - by eugene burdick and william lederer.  the title, i had assumed, was given by other countries when they had encountered americans that were ill mannered and living abroad.  but after reading the book, i discovered it was for an american hero in the book that was described as physically ugly.  the book is somewhat dated but many of the foreign service policy problems still exist since its writing in 1958. 

"For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They're loud and ostentatious." -burmese journalist, the ugly american

sadly there's a lot of truth in that..

the flight to LA went well aside from my case of butt fatigue.  the plane was filled with about 99% koreans.  so everyone was speaking korean which i basically only know how to say hello in.  i do love the flight though since everyone is very polite and quiet.  i'd have time soon enough to hear shouts and complaining after i'd land in the u.s.  so i wasn't surprised when we landed when i walked through u.s. immigration, to hear the first complaints in english about long lines and missing flights.  sigh.

i had to hussle to make it to my united ticket counter to get my domestic boarding ticket. i had 30 minutes to make it to the gate and also check in with my mom and dad.  the counter agent sweetly issued my ticket, but not before circling my pass with the dreaded red felt tip.  mental note, allow another 5 minutes for an individual security screening. 

i made it to the gate with 5 minutes to spare before boarding, so i got my call in and grabbed a quick coffee.  the flight to des moines was a nice way to decompress after the long one from seoul.  i grabbed a quick nap and then struck up a conversation with my seat mate, a young woman from phoenix doing some computer consulting in des moines.  i never want to bother anyone on a flight, and end up being "that guy" that wouldn't shut up.  so i always stop once in awhile and give people an out, like "well i'm probably keeping you from your work, book, etc."  but it turned out to be a nice visit and helped the flight pass quickly. 

within minutes after landing i met my dad at the arrival gate and we were off to get my bags and start the 2 1/2 drive home.