Speaking of planes, I should mention some highlights of my flight(s) home here. The first leg of the trip from Seoul to Shanghai was pretty good, mainly thanks to my plane neighbours Brady and Jihye, also teachers, who were on their way to Singapore and then Malaysia. I was still exhausted from a busy weekend and the anticipation of coming home, but we got chatting over a beer.. and then another.. and then another.. I actually think the stewardess was getting a bit annoyed as Jihye asked for more beer for all of us, as she kept telling us to wait for the drinks cart, but she eventually gave up and gave in. So it was a pretty entertaining flight. Until we got to Shanghai. Our flight had been delayed by about half an hour, which was fine for me with my 7 hour stopover, but it meant that Brady and Jihye now only had about an hour and fifteen minutes to make their connecting flight. 75 minutes? Fine, no worries... in a normal airport. So we said goodbye and off they rushed while I proceeded at a more sedate pace. And then China confirmed my worst misgivings about going through there. Luckily, I didn't contract anything nasty (as far as I know) like I did last time, despite being surrounded by hordes of people with the usual and very charming Chinese habit of hacking, snorting, clearing your throat, coughing and sneezing with no attempt to cover up and all sorts, but that was probably due to my own paranoia rather than luck.
So first of all, the gate we'd come in was a ridiculously long way away from the rest of the terminal - fair enough, it's a big airport. After a nice 15 or 20 minute walk, I reached the "transfer lounge"... which was either non-existent or synonymous with "immigration" because we had to fill in an arrivals card and be processed and photographed before we could go through. I spotted Jihye and Brady in the line ahead of me, and wondered if they'd be rushed through as they would now have less than an hour to get to their next plane once they got through. When it was my turn and I asked where I should go, I was told "third floor" with a hand vaguely waved in a random direction, so I hopefully set off that way and then roamed around looking for a way up, finally spying a "transfers" sign over an escalator. Coming out onto the third floor, it had actually come out into arrivals, which I wandered around until I found someone to tell me where to go. Luckily I didn't have to check in again, but I DID have to fill out a departure card and go through immigration and security AGAIN. And guess who else I ran into with less than 15 minutes to make their flight? I wished them luck (again!) and set off in search of my gate, determined never to fly through China again unless I had absolutely no chance and no money to do otherwise. Waiting wasn't too eventful, although the 7 hours did give me a chance to become intimately acquainted with the swine flu information video being shown on a 15 minute loop. It was very cute and very funny - have a gander! (Unfortunately, I missed the first bit which said "Pay attention! Swine flu comes from America. It's other name is H1N1. What a shame!")
After boarding my plane and finding myself sitting across from a slack-lipped germ factory who kept sneezing and spraying gross yuk everywhere but into a tissue and coughing loudly, and thanks to the lovely H1N1 video making me even more of a hypochondriac than normal, I immediately covered my face with my scarf as a make-shift face-mask, which I wore for most of the 11 hour journey. The woman sitting next to me seemed perfectly healthy though, and as a bonus, was also fairly lightly built (this sounds prejudiced, but experienced flyers will know the discomfort of having someone three times your weight trying to squeeze past you and most likely over you to get to the toilet multiple times and be as relieved as I was that I didn't have to experience it again). We exchanged smiles and then settled down to wait for dinner. Unfortunately, the people in the row in front of us (the first row) weren't content to simply sit for the announced 15 minutes it would take to serve it. So, being hungry, they decided to have a picnic. The menu? A whole marinated roast goose, vacuum packed in foil. The four of them ripped into it with much gusto while I and the other three women sitting next to me in my row had a fit of giggles at their antics. Luckily the rest of the journey was pretty uneventful as most people crashed out right after dinner, and I didn't have the misfortune to be stuck across from someone with horrific and constant gas issues like I was coming back from America, so it was all good, and a huge relief to finally be home and step off the plane into that familiar mix of Australian summer before the terminal's air-conditioning hits you. It was pretty funny coming through customs and seeing the inevitable crowds of disappointed tourists thronged around the quarantine bins and hurriedly scarfing whatever they could because despite the many signs and warnings on the plane, they only just realised that the (probably very expensive) foodstuffs they brought with them to see them through the wilderness that is non-whatever their own country's cuisine is won't be allowed through Customs. (NB to people who've never been here before - Australia has really strict Customs and Quarantine laws because, duh, we are an island. A big one yes, but an island nonetheless, so you aren't allowed to bring seeds, dirt, shoes that have dirt in them, most animals, fresh food, food not sealed to commercial standards, wood, wood products, plants, tea, grains ... a lot of stuff. If you forget this, you may end up wasting a lot of money on food presents). Immigration was chaos - someone obviously decided that to make their own hellish day slightly less godawful, they were going to pass the bollocks around by making EVERYONE confused and pissy, so none of the signs made any sense, and the officers arbitrarily changed their minds about who could go where and which nationalities and types of passports were allowed in which lanes. But at last I got through and was home! Absolute bliss ^_^
Also, I've already managed to eat my way through a goodly number of things on my wishlist! Baked ham dinner, roast lamb with gravy and perfectly roasted potatoes, trifle (and a chocolate one at that!), nectarines (sadly, or perhaps luckily, due to the rain they are scarce, so I haven't eaten myself silly on them yet), chocolate gelato in Circular Quay with my sister, home-made muesli, smoked salmon bagels, my sister's mince pies - MANY things! And tomorrow I'm making home-made banana ice-cream for my grandad, and then next week my mum's making a pavlova for Australia Day so the gorging is good to continue. Fran thinks she's put on 2 kgs already in the three days that I've been home, and the dogs are overjoyed to have yet another person to scab from.
Ooh and also more importantly!! ...
... Okay, male readers (if any), you should probably skip this part, because I'm about to launch into a shopping story. Yes, it's about underwear, but not in any kind of alluring way - I stress, it's about underwear, NOT lingerie. So sorry in advance, but this stuff is important to women, so proceed at your own risk!
So, ALSO! Something that makes me incredibly happy - UNDERWEAR! I went shopping in Sydney yesterday with my sissy poo, and there was still plenty of stuff on sale from the Christmas/New Year's sales, so I had a field day! For those of you unaware of this fact, comfortable, well-fitting underwear is extremely hard to find in Korea, especially as most knickers are a kind of 'one size fits no-one' (for the most part, Koreans have no butts) and the only place you can reliably buy anything bigger than a B-cup is at American chain stores in Seoul, and even then they don't usually fit that well. Seriously, C-cups are usually advertised as "large sizes!", and everything has the hell padded out of it anyway, so if you are planning to go to Korea and wear underwear ladies, it is a given that you should stock up on it before you go, unless you want to spend the year with some very unflattering bulges and your bosom twice the size you want and perched right up under your chin. So anyway, Christmas money in hand from many people in a very generous family, and having gotten home to realise that contrary to my expectations, I'd actually taken ALL of my non-lingerie underwear with me to Korea and so had not one pair of practical (and comfortable) knickers left at home, I hit up Myers underwear department like there was no tomorrow. $150 later, I was much happier. And then of course, we couldn't go past the clothes floor... ^_^ I was very happy to discover that there were still lots of bargains to be had in the Princess Highway section, one of my favourite brands.
It's good to be home ^_^