Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Home, Part 1: The inclement weather takes the stage

Oh, friends, it's such a ridiculous and almost an unbelievable story.  It actually brings back fleeting feelings of stress when I retell it, but, it's life, it's wild, and I know it'll make me laugh one day, so I'm going to tell you now about how I made it home for Christmas.

Let me set the stage.  I had tickets for flights to Tokyo, Dallas, and finally to Atlanta, the first of which would depart at 8 Saturday morning from Incheon airport here in Korea.  Incheon's about 2 hours from me, and I had to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of departure.  Instead of waking up at 3 and paying tons of money to take a taxi there (taxi fare is more expensive before 5 am), I looked for a place to stay in Incheon on Friday night.  My friend's friend, Susan, lived only 45 minutes away from the airport by bus, and she was totally cool with me crashing at her place.  Awesome!  I planned to be at her apartment by 9:30 so we could both get some sleep and have time to chill and not freak out before my plane left.

Friday evening after school I found out I was going to have to change my route to Incheon.  Instead of being on schedule at halfway to Incheon by 7:30, I was finalizing my understanding of the directions by bus.  I decided that I would take a taxi for 15 minutes to Yangjae then travel by the Red 9200 bus to Incheon where I'd take another bus closer to Susan's apartment.  I anticipated being about an hour behind schedule, but that still left a good amount of time to get sleep before my flight.

The traffic on the way to Yangjae made me feel uneasy.  When I finally arrived at where I thought my bus station was, I started to get a little distraught.  I couldn't find the stop, and my landmark was on the opposite side of the street from where my map said it should have been.  This street had no crosswalks, by the way, only steps that led into and out of the subway through which you can cross the street.  After asking some coffee advertisement guys for some help which they couldn't deliver, I resolved to go through the subway.

Ah, I need to mention that I had a 50 lb. suitcase with me.  That's why I didn't want to take the stairs of the subway.  That's why I had to change my route in the first place.  Bus steps are much more suitcase friendly than subway stairs.

Well how's this for an awesome surprise: there was an escalator leading down into the subway!  Better yet, there was a bus station map right there, too!  I found the stop I needed and headed up subway exit 9 to get there.  I didn't find the stop, though.  I walked up and down the street, but all I saw was the Red 9200 bus driving right past me.  Not cool.  Going back the other way on the street lead me to a sign that looked like it could be for Red 9200.  It had "200" and ripped paper where there could have been a "9".  As I was looking for someone to ask, I saw the Red 9200 bus pull up behind me.  I grabbed my suitcase, wrestled it up the steps, scanned by bus card, and collapsed into the first empty row of seats.  Ten minutes later, I realized I didn't know which direction I was heading.

I'm telling you, the Seoul Information Hotline is a lifesaver.  120 is my new favorite number.  Turns out, I was heading the right direction.  When I heard that, I was finally free to relax and let myself be taken to Incheon.  I put my earbuds in, turned on some chill music, and closed my eyes.  About 45 minutes later, I happened to look out the window.  I was surprised and impressed by the sudden and unforecasted snowstorm that was pouring snow onto everything that stood still.  Already there were drifts gathering on the sidewalk, and I couldn't see the black of the road.

The bus driver was going much slower and made more frequent stops for safety.  More and more people were leaving the bus to try their luck with walking.  Eventually, we came to a complete standstill due to traffic, and there was only one other passenger other than myself.  I called Susan and told her what was up.  I also told her how the bus driver sounded really loud and angry whenever he talked to people on the phone or in person.  I was kind of scared of him.  Susan told me, "Oh, well I'm fluent in Korean.  Just give the phone to him, and I'll talk to him for you."  Awesome!

The bus driver talked to Susan in the same voice and made everything sound completely terrible and hopeless, but when he gave me my phone back, Susan told me that there was just an accident up ahead, the bus had to stop, but there was another bus stop very close by that would take me the rest of the way to her apartment.  Okay, I could handle that.  And, I liked the bus driver even more when he got out into the cold with me, drew a map in the snow and designated the last remaining passenger as my guide to the next stop.

Here's a picture of  some Korean snow from the year before.  Just imagine it being dark, and probably a little more snow, and that's pretty much what it looked like.
Photo by Jason Ryan
via Mike Jutan's World
This story is pretty long, so I'm going to break it into three separate parts.  Stay tuned for Part 2 when the snow demands the leading role!

1 comment:

  1. Crazy adventures! I can't believe that there's 2 more parts to this story yet!


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