Well, that was epic.
It should have been a simple journey. Taxi. Train. Taxi. Direct flight from Incheon, Seoul to Seattle. Airport pick up, ferry to the island.
Well, no. I nearly died multiple times. Nearly didn't make it out of Korea. Nearly didn't get into the US.
It started out as it seemed to want to go on. Our good Korean friend, Ju-Hye, organised a driver to take me to the bullet-train station. Instead of picking me up, as he has many times before, the driver went to the station first and waited for me there, 40 miles across the city. Fail #1. After 20 minutes I realised he wasn't coming and I messaged Ju-Hye, who was traumatised and ordered a cab immediately.
Cab came, and I was off. When he started doing 105 mph on the free way, I knew it was because Ju-Hye had told him to go fast. I am not a great passenger, and I would rather miss my train than arrive dead. I shouted at him in Korean, and he complained that he was just doing as he was told. I put him right and we slowed down to a better (legal) speed. We arrived at the station some 45 minutes later, where I was to meet the original driver who had something for me from our friend.
There were still 10 minutes before the train. The original driver told me to wait, so I thought, okay, good, he's going to buy my train ticket as an apology. So I waited whilst he chatted on the phone. And I waited. There were 5 minutes until my train now. I still needed a ticket. Finally I made him hang up and asked what was going on. He turned, smiled, and said, "I m sorry. Goodbye.' He left, and that was that. I had waited for nothing. I scrambled, got a ticket and made the train with seconds to spare.
The train ride was lovely, speeding in silence on the luxury train to Seoul station, arriving 2 hours 20 minutes later the other end of the country.
There are no airport shuttles currently running, so I got a cab at the rank. I somehow got the only cab driver in Korea who didn't know where the airport was. Finally, we were off and hit the highway. And he fell asleep at the wheel. Twice. I went a little mad. Did I mention I'm not the best passenger? So for 30 miles I was as nervous as I've ever been (not true, I've been on Indian roads) and kept my eyeballs on his in the rearview mirror. If there was somewhere to stop and get out, grab another cab, I would have. His eyes kept flickering and it was only my constant taps on his shoulder keeping him awake 🤛.
Once we finally got to the airport, I told him Bay E at Terminal 1. He insisted on taking me to Bay W. I knew where I needed to go, but he insisted. When I got out, I almost lost control and gave him a pasting. Instead, I unleashed a barrage of my choicest Korean swear words, paid my bill, told him in Korean I thought he'd be dead within the hour on his way back, and hauled my luggage half way back across the airport. I had my health check, checked in, and went to find a much needed beer. Nothing was open.
Frazzled. Exhausted. Stressed. Nervous about travelling amid a pandemic to one of the most dangerous countries on the planet with the most unhinged of leaders? No shit. Boarded my flight and took off on time, revelling in a row to myself and looking forward to my vegan meal. It was beef and rice. 'Sorry sir,' they said, and shrugged.
10 hours and zero sleep or food later, I get to immigration. Always a nervous moment in the US. 'Excuse me sir, would you follow me please?' Gulp. Led to a room. Left alone. Phone confiscated. Finally, 'Sir, we can't seem to verify your return ticket.' Me: 'I don't have one. I'm going onto Mexico.' Confused looks. 'Why? Why are you here? Why is your wife in the US? You're a writer? Why do you live in Mexico? You're after a fucking Green Card aren't you?' Okay, they didn't say that, but I know they thought it. They always do. No, actually, I thought, I don't want a fucking Green Card to stay in this shit hole of a 4th world country, thanks. If I want to live in a country being ruined by politics and useless leaders, I'd have just gone home to the UK, mate, okay? All sorts of other bullshit questions that mean nothing to anyone later, and I'm left alone again. After another 20 minutes, I'm finally let go, suspicion palpable in the air as they handed me back my phone and passport.
Get my luggage. Exit the arrivals hall. And there she is, my Leslie, grinning and beautiful, and then everything was alright again 🥰
I've been here 2 nights. I've totalled 4 hours sleep since I arrived. I can't keep my eyes open, and FOX news is playing loudly on the TV 🤬
You know, travelling is a luxury I've been blessed to have done plenty of. I used to revel in it, long for it. Now I just long to get home to Mexico, snudge my cats, and lock the doors behind Leslie and I for 6 months. Until our visas expire and we get kicked out and have to do it all again. I've said it before, but being an international couple isn't easy. There is literally nowhere on the planet we can legally live together without question. Nowhere. We're nomadic almost because we have to be. But at least now we're together again, and that's just fine by me ☺️