With my contract finished and my tourist visa/extension quickly running out, it was time to move back to the US. I prepared for the move for months, but I still felt like I was running around putting out fires at the end. I shipped box after box (and had a few panic attacks/ breakdowns when I thought I wouldn’t be able to get it all shipped or pay for the shipping), but eventually all my preparations led to this: waking up in my empty apartment on August 9th. The only things left in there were my suitcases and my futon.
The plan was originally for Chris to take the futon and give it to my successor, Tahirah, but when he showed up to say goodbye to me that morning he said there was no space in his car. So I said goodbye and tried not to panic as I waited for my supervisor to come get me. At this point, I had no phone, no internet, and no time to walk to the nearest convenience store for their wifi. When my supervisor showed up, I asked her to put the futon in her car, but she said there would not be room with my suitcases. It just so happened at that very moment the teacher who lives across the street from me was pulling out of his driveway. We flagged him down and asked him to take the futon. Thankfully, he was happy to and we were on our way.
At the airport we met up with a friend of mine named Panda. Panda and I spent the time before I could check in for my flight teaching my supervisor American card games. Eventually it was time to go. I said goodbye to my supervisor and thanked her again for taking the day to see me off. Then Panda and I walked through security. I held it together until I saw the line to go through passport control.
Thankfully, I had Panda there for a much needed last hug to get me through. With that, I waited in line behind the bunch of Korean and Chinese tourists on their way home. It just so happened that the passport control agent for my line was the same man who helped me at the immigration office in downtown Miyazaki when I was changing my visa a few weeks beforehand.
Seeing him there was a nice final goodbye to my second hometown. I waited in the tiny gate for a few minutes before it was time to board the plane and head to Seoul.
In Seoul, I had about 6 hours to kill. At first, I thought I would get a room at the transit hotel in the airport, or at least take a shower, but I decided it wasn’t really worth it. Instead, I bought an adapter for my computer and found a place to hunker down and waste time.
The flight was hands-down one of the worst international flights I’ve been on. I was seated next to a guy who could not keep his elbows inside the designated area, the seats were so close together that even I felt cramped, and the entertainment system didn’t even have a USB for my to charge my iPad. The upside was a) the entertainment system wasn’t a touchscreen (which meant no one was jabbing me in the back) and b) I remembered to bring a small pillow so I could sleep leaning forward. It was probably one of the best sleeps I’ve had on a flight. I ended up sleeping more than watching movies, which is definitely a first.
Once I touched down in Chicago, I waited about 20 minutes for my luggage, but eventually got it. From there I made my way to the taxis and got a ride to my hotel. Even though I was only in the room for about 8 hours, getting the room was so worth it. I showered, slept on a comfy bed, and managed to rearrange my suitcases enough to make my backpack a bit more comfortable.
Back at the Chicago airport, I had to deal with three different desk workers trying to convince me to rearrange my suitcases to avoid an overweight luggage charge. I explained that I knew it was going to be expensive, but it was literally all I had. There was no amount of rearranging I could do. Finally, they gave in.
The flight to Denver was not bad. I swapped seats with a family to make it easier on them and ended up getting kicked in the back by a toddler the whole flight as a result. Thankfully, the flight was not very long. I made it to Denver and to my parents. That evening I had a nice dinner with my parents, great-aunt, and grandma (who happened to be visiting).