February 6, 2010

Back in the U.S. of A.

It's amazing this thing called air travel. I arrived in San Fransisco an hour before I left Ulaanbaatar some 15 hours ago. They should call it time travel. It never ceases to amaze me that in one day I can travel halfway around the world. Safely. [smile]

Except it didn't look good last night. All winter, I can't remember one night that wasn't filled with the crisp silence that only -40F can bring. Well, all except for the all-night revelers at the neighborhood kareoke bar. But last night the winds were howling and rattling the windows and it didn't really let up much early this morning.

But Oyunbataar had called the airport at 5am and there didn't seem to be any changes due to the weather. Which was surprising because now it was snowing too. My airline, Miat, Mongolian's national airline, has been known to be super cautious and rumored to cancel flights at the slightest hint of bad weather.

Norov came and took me to the airport. We both wanted to talk but he doesn't speak any English and I don't speak any Mongolian. Our director had asked him to make sure my flight took off before leaving the airport in case I needed a ride back to town. But it was a madhouse, apparently there were two flights leaving at almost the same time in this one-gate airport, one to Seoul and the other to Moscow.

For the hundreds lined up, there was only one security guard checking tickets for entry. Not sure why, but he waved me on through when he told other westerners to move away. It seemed strange to see that most of the non-Asian passangers looked more like missionaries than businessmen, but then again that's a stereotype. I wonder if anyone looked at me and wondered at my story.

The Moscow flight loaded up and we followed a few minutes later. Even with the crowds, the plane loaded and we left only a few minutes late. I have to say, the take off and the landing in Seoul were some of the smoothest I'd ever had. And we got to Korea almost on the dot. Which was a good thing because I had less than two hours to switch flights.

Karma must have been with me as my connecting gate was practically next door to the Miat flight. The attendant was so nice, upgrading me to Economy Plus which had a lot more leg room because there were no more ailse seats. Turns out, not only did I get a better seat, but I think the only empty seat was next to me so I could spread out a bit too.

Thank goodness the United flight was ahead of schedule. After ten hours, there just isn't any more place on my butt that isn't sore. And United should talk to the person who selects movies as it was a whole assortment of bad - I mean what are the odds of showing 6 movies and they all were bad.

Mostly I tried to sleep, not successfully, and listen to music or mantras. I think the guy sitting next to me didn't say more than 10 words during the whole flight even though I gave him several opportunities.

Sitting here in an American airport seems surreal. I haven't really seen an American newspaper or magazine in a year and a half, and there was also the food like Burger King and Subway. Definitely strange to be home.

I have quite a long layover in SFX and should be in Kansas City sometime around 10pm. Hopefully my brother will be there to pick me up since I don't have Wifi to send him an email (what's up with that, in foreign airports Wifi is free, but not in the USA).