Sunday, March 24, 2013

Almost home!

Dang, after 5 months and 10 days, I will finally be back HOME! This tour took me through Mexico, the US- Cleveland, DC, FL, and Chicago, Costa Rica and finally US again- San Diego and LA. In each place, I met or made new friends and continue to be touched by the generosity and love by so many people in my life. Thank you to each person who hosted me, shared a meal, a conversation, a project or an interview! This has been another whirlwind tour and I could not be more happy to celebrate the end of my 30th year and start of the 31st traveling back to my home and my heart.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The big 2

Someone is getting another year older today!! Great cake with all his "people"! So wish I could be there to see him shove some of this in his face :)

Happy Birthday, Carter! Go get it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rice, Pasta, & Potatoes

Staying in the home of Michael and Lola, we eat a lot of rice. All because of Lola. Michael would prefer something else. He is polite.

I offered to cook, but when you are in the home of a great cook, you can only be the sous chef. My meal suggestions are far off from their typical cuisine. Potted Italian beef stew, Italian wedding soup, pastas, breads, pizzas. I never thought I cooked much Italian fare, but being in the home of Lola, and her rich Mexican influence, mine starts to become evident, as well.

Michael grills. One night we have delicious, juicy chicken with mashed potatoes. It is evident Lola is missing the rice. Another attempt includes a steak salad. Lola adds lime rice to the mix. Michael politely declines.

Michael becomes a bystander, most days, as well. We eat delicious meals of her past. Huevos rancheros, tinga tostadas, and sopa fideo- her answer to my mac n'cheese.

Being in their home, it is the first time I realize that I begin with pasta and Lola with rice. For Nicholas, it's potatoes. It makes me smile to think that we can simmer each other down to the starchy staple of our childhood. It also makes me crave farfalle and pesto :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flight to SD

I was the last one to board my flight to SD. Somehow I was flagged and had to go through extra security at the gate, which included each of my carry-ons to be opened and each of the items to be taken out. A pat down by the female guard, followed by another guard who requested I take off my boots while they thoroughly searched each one. I cursed them under my breath, that if they took out my gel inserts there would be hell to pay. After I gathered my items, repacked, and reclothed myself, I was able to board the flight.

We all had to fill out customs/immigration papers to fly into the US and the couple next to me clearly were having trouble with theirs. They had asked the flight attendant help them read the document but she did not have the time and after she rattled off the items listed, left them in a daze.

The older gentleman tapped me and asked if I would help them with their papers. I obliged and went about learning new travel vocabulary. Luckily, one of the documents was half in English, half in Spanish, so I could compare some of the words that I did not know. The last thing I wanted to do was help this couple by filling it out incorrectly. After I finished his and the family papers, he handed me his wife's and I started all over again. Asking the same questions I had just finished with him.

They were grateful for the help and I was thankful for the vocabulary lesson. When we touched down, I was also grateful that I do not have to board another flight for several weeks.

Flight to MEX

After my adventure to San Jose, I looked forward to boarding a normal size plane and having a smooth ride to Mexico.

I went up to check my bag and head to security when the gate agent told me that I had to submit my departure papers one full hour before my scheduled flight. I explained how my flight to San Jose had been delayed and we had just arrived moments earlier. He said he would do the best he could, but that I should not expect to make my flight out tonight.

Crap... I had booked a hotel in the airport in Mexico City. It was non-refundable and I had an early morning flight out from there to SD. This would be a very expensive delay, if I were not to get on my flight. I flashed my smile again and asked him to do whatever he could. He ran my departure papers up to the gate and I watched the minutes pass by on the large, digital clock across the aisle. When he finally returned, he told me I had to wait 5 more minutes for their decision. It was now 6:10 and my flight was scheduled for a 6:25 departure...

What would worrying accomplish? Again, I stared at the electronic numbers and said a quick prayer for there to be some goodness in the world. I had already had my share of bad fortune with the lost phone and the terrifying flight. I was destined to make this flight. As soon as 5 minutes had passed, I reminded him and he called up to the gate. After a minute of conversation, of "uh huh. hmm. uh huh" He printed out my pass and told me to get to the gate as quickly as I could to try to make the flight.

I ran to security where the officer looked at my ticket then his watch and gave me a snarky smile. I told him that I knew I was late and would be running to my plane. He nodded and passed me through. When I made it to my gate, the boarding hadn't even begun and our departure had been pushed back 10 minutes. "Typical," I thought, grateful that things never run on time here. I boarded my plane without problem and we were off.

I realized quickly how bad the weather was, when I felt the strong turbulence on this large plane. I again said a quick prayer, shut my eyes and said a quick thank you that I had made it on the tiny plane. I was on my way!

Flight to San Jose

My first flight on Saturday was to San Jose. I booked through United but ended up on Sansa air, an airline I had never heard of. When I went to check in, there was no one working the counter and I had to wait for over an hour for someone to show up. Once they did, they checked my luggage and then had me stand on the scale with my carry-ons... This made me slightly suspicious. I asked the woman what kind of plane I was taking and she only responded, "small."

She handed me a laminated card, which turned out to be my ticket. I asked her how many people were on my flight and she told me there would be 8 of us. From there, she walked with me to security and showed them my laminated ticket and they let me through. I waited at my gate and watched large, commercial sized planes load and unload passengers by the 100s. Five minutes before my flight was to depart my gate was empty, except for a handful of travelers. There was no ticket agent or sign of life. I kept gazing out the window to see when our plane would arrive but I saw nothing.

Finally, five minutes after our scheduled takeoff, a woman appeared and called us for our flight, collected our laminated passes and walked us outside. There, on the runway, was the second smallest plane I ever saw. The only one I had been in that was smaller was the one that Nicholas and I jumped out of back in 2009. That one had one seat and room for 4 of us to sit, crossed legged on the floor. This did not inspire confidence in me.
Our plan looked more or less like this, with a few less windows
I was the first to get on the plane and had the pick of seats. I chose the seat closest to the door. My heart started to race and I was feeling a bit uneasy. As the plane quickly loaded with the 7 passengers, 2 "crew" and 2 pilots, the doors were shut and the pilot gave us instructions. "Keep your seatbelts fastened. No smoking. The flight is 35 minutes to San Jose." My carry-ons did not fit below my seat, but no one noticed.

The engine was turned on and the plane started moving down the runway. I was unsure if we would gain enough momentum to get off the ground, but somehow we did. I am not sure the pilot believed we would get liftoff either, since his reaction was a bit too excited when the plane was airborne.

Once we started our ascent, the plane was dropping and violently tilting to the right. It was like a rollercoaster, without all the safety features. I said a quick prayer and decided in place of being scared, I was going to enjoy the adventure. I put a smile on my face and each time the plane had a sudden drop, I laughed. I heard the crew member trying to reassure his friend that it was going to be fine. The other passengers who were eagerly taking photos before the plane took off were all silently watching the pilot and gripping their seats.

Once we got high enough, the flight was more or less smooth. There were still far too many drops than any of us would have liked and when we came in for our descent in San Jose, it was almost more frightening than our ascent. One of the passengers, an American woman, looked back at me with giant, terrified eyes and I flashed my biggest smile. She smiled back and I hoped that my fake confidence in the situation calmed her a bit.

The landing was terrifying and I thought for sure that the plane was just going to collapse, but instead, it bounced to a stop. When I was sure we were safe, I started clapping and the most of the passengers joined in, including the crew member next to me. The pilot held up his right arm in a victorious fist pump and I had a feeling, he was also just as relieved to be on the ground. The crew member told me that was the worst flight he had ever been on. That because of the wind and storm coming in, we had faced intense turbulence.

The woman whom I had shared a glance with on the flight came up to me when we were grabbing our bags and before she could say anything, I told her how that flight was more like a rollercoaster than a quick jaunt. She agreed and said how glad she was to be on solid ground. She grabbed a cab and was heading into the city. I, on the other hand, had to race to try and make my next flight...


I am in the home of a great friend and I feel rejuvenated. I was exhausted in Costa Rica and just ready to go home to Korea and be with Nicholas. I could not imagine traveling for 3 more weeks. I felt like I was running a marathon and I had hit the proverbial travel wall.

When I landed in San Diego, the sun was shining and Lola was there to get me. When we arrived to her paradise of a home, she set me up with a long, hot bath and cooked a delicious brunch. We had a great day of catching up. I went to bed early and slept in late, catching up on lost sleep. When I got up, she had a pot of coffee on and a quick breakfast for me before we headed to yoga where I cleared my head and worked out the kinks from the last three flights.

After getting all my laundry done and my bags unpacked, I feel settled and at peace. I no longer feel anxious or frustrated or sad. I am getting back into a "normal" routine, taking this one day at a time, and am so grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Lola and I getting into shenanigans in DC

Phone gone :(

I learned a tough lesson that you should never leave your phone unattended at a wedding. I recorded all of the speeches, the fireworks, the first dance and took a bunch of photos throughout the day to give to Ashley as a souvenir from her very special day. Unfortunately, someone needed my phone more than me and swiped it at the wedding. Luckily, Nicholas set us up on the cloud, so the only photos that I am missing are the ones that I took at the wedding. I still have a lot of gems, like this:

I am bummed, for the lost photos but mostly because that was my tool to communicate with Nicholas via kakao talk. It never felt like he was far, since there were always messages when I woke and we could talk when he was home from work or on his way to the office. The first two days after the phone was taken were rough. I didn't realize how lucky I have been to feel so close to someone who is thousands of miles away. Anyways, the pity party is over and I will have to get a cheap-o prepaid phone until I get home to Korea.

To whomever took it, jokes on you. That phone is on its way out and the home button doesn't even work.

3 Countries, 3 days

Saturday, I woke up on my last day of my trip in Costa Rica where I spent 2 weeks with so many great friends celebrating the wedding of AP and Mike.
Sunday, I woke up in Mexico, as part of a layover, on my way to my final destination.
Monday, I woke up in the US in the beautiful home of Lola and Michael.

Phew... I am ready to stay put for a few weeks in Southern CA before I head back HOME to Nicholas!