Well, this has certainly been one of the more interesting of our journeys. Our four days in Bangkok were filled with wonderful fruit, good friends (we unexpectedly ran into some Tansen friends at the Bangkok guest house—what a pleasant surprise!), new cultural experiences for Ana, and simple play. We resumed our journey toward Spokane at 11:30pm, on a night flight to Korea. This allowed for four or five hours of sleep. We arrived early in the morning in Seoul and since we had twelve hours to kill, we decided to take a city tour on a bus. Dave had investigated the possibility on-line, weeks before our arrival. It looked so simple: just purchase a ticket at the airport, for a city bus going to the tour bus starting point, get on the tour bus (which would take us around the city for two hours, if we didn’t get off), and then return to the airport on that same city bus. The website said that all of the tickets could be purchased at one place in the airport. Do you ever find that website claims do not always follow actual experience?
Well, this isn’t the first time that we have benefitted from Dave’s persistence, but after an hour of seeking answers, we found ourselves on a city bus, experiencing the heart of Seoul. We tried so hard to stay awake, but the tour bus starting point was 90 minutes away, and I don’t think any of us made the entire trip without dozing off (and some of us saw less of Seoul than we had intended). Anyway, we did successfully make the transfer to the tour bus, and then selected our first stopping point: the national museum. The unfortunate detail of our one day in Seoul was the unusual downpour of rain. The walk from the bus to the museum entrance was between 5 and 10 minutes, which was plenty of time for our clothes and our carry-on bags to become drenched. We hoped that a few hours in the museum would give us adequate drying time. The anthropology and history lovers among us really enjoyed the walk through history at this lovely Korean museum. We were mostly dried (but our bags were not) as we braved the continued downpour several hours later when we had to return to our bus. Our exhausted Joshua managed to do a “face plant” on the slick pavement before we made it to the bus stop (and he wasn’t the only one to slip in the rain today). However, not a group to be easily daunted, we re-boarded the tour bus and continued another hour and a half, viewing Seoul, and hoping to get back to the part of the city where we had seen restaurants. Now we were battling hypoglycemia; the last meal was coffee/hot chocolate and donuts/bagels at 7am; it was now nearing 3pm. Ana’s instant protein shake (only needs to be mixed in water) was shared and helped stave off hunger pangs a little longer. Thanks, Ana!
Just as we were nearing what we thought was the eating district, we discovered that it was also the political district. Looking out our windows, we were seeing hundreds of police donning riot gear. We asked the tour guide what was going on, and she non-chalantly replied that this is the season of political campaigns and the police were simply present to keep everyone safe. So we disembarked the bus through a crowd of young police and soon found ourselves witnesses of one of the largest political demonstrations in many years. The protest was against several things, including the trade agreement with the U.S. and university tuition increases. The riot police had completely surrounded the crowd that was marching down the street and police barricades blocked one segment of the busy downtown streets. Hunger was really setting in, and we greatly desired to quickly get away from the unhappy crowd of demonstrators. After a long, circuitous route (Did I mention that it was still raining? Thankfully, it was only a drizzle at this point.), we managed to purchase a couple of buckets of KFC chicken. We didn’t have enough Korean wan to let everybody choose their own meal, but the chicken was consumed with gusto and thankfulness. (We were surprised to find that the Korean wan is considerably devalued; 1050 wan to the dollar. We were also surprised to discover how high the prices were in Seoul.)
Now, our biggest concern was how to get back to the airport when traffic was considerably backed up by the demonstrators. We weren’t even sure how to find the correct location for the airport bus pick-up, in all of the confusion at that particular place in the city. We were so blessed by an English-speaking Korean man, who clearly identified our confusion and offered help. LORD, please bless the man who walked us to the correct bus stop!
We did make it back to the airport, one hour before our boarding time…but alas, with delays for unclear reasons, it turned out to be three hours before our boarding time. And again, we were blessed: by free food vouchers for 10,000 wan each, in compensation for the extra wait. We have certainly re-entered the developed world, and our bodies were thankful for the extra food and the warmth of the airport. Now we are in the air, over the Pacific Ocean, re-living Wednesday June 29th. So far, it doesn’t seem as eventful the second time around. See you soon (for those who follow from Spokane)!
Reporter, on assignment with the Beine Bunch
Reporter, on assignment with the Beine Bunch
P.S. We’re still in Seattle. Our flight schedule has been revised four times now. We hope to make it home before dark tonight. In Seattle, where we thought all connections would go smoothly, we have found our cell phones aren’t working (for unknown reason), our Skype connection keeps cutting out (thank you to the three lovely strangers who have let us borrow their phones as our plans have changed), we got charged $150 to change our domestic flight because our international flight was late, they requested payment for each checked bag (Thank you, LORD, for the nice lady who waived that fee!), and we’ve abandoned our plan for burgers and hot dogs upon arrival in Spokane. Still, clam chowder at the airport is a welcome treat. Even with all of the unexpected changes, we have found nice people all along the way to help us maneuver the situations. We continue to hope to sleep soundly in our own beds tonight…and I hope we can find kindness for each other in our extreme exhaustion. Thanks for praying!