And off we go

I decided to make (read: procrastinate) packing into an all-night affair. Since this was also my last night in my room and house of the past two years, I had cleaning to do on top of that. The Olympics were no help, either, as NBC forced me to peek into the Michael Phelps love-fest as well as the women’s all-around gymnastics competition. Nastia Liukin provided quite the respite from a stressful day.

Anyway, packing and cleaning for an overseas move, limited to two 50-pound bags and a carry-on, I had to first and foremost prioritize between things I really needed and things that added to the piles of black garbage bags of what essentially became junk. I donated three full bags of clothing, and various things like clothes hangers, a TV stand, my desk and a golf putter ended up in my front yard free for passers-by to collect.

This arduous process of streamlining my life to (almost) the bare necessities took me until 5:15 a.m., which also happened to be the same time I needed to leave to catch the bus. The final rush of cleaning carried me to the bus, on which I stayed awake for about 10 minutes. Next thing I knew, I was working out the cricks in my neck as we pulled into Detroit Metro Airport. This was only the beginning of my prolific sleep habits for this trip.

I had little semblance of coherence. For the past five years, I’ve flown — although domestically — at least twice a year. I should know the check-in process in and out: Scan ID or credit card, grab boarding pass, wait for luggage tags. Today I decided to walk up to the check-in counter and absently stare at the clerk. After an awkward pause, she points to the kiosk and says, “Sir, you can start checking in now.”

Oh, right.

After boarding and falling asleep before take off, I found myself dazed and landing in Chicago 15 minutes later — thanks to the time zone change — but four hours before my next flight. I meandered my way over to the international terminal and prepared myself for the next flight; being the only one at the gate, I set my stuff down in a corner, laid my pillow on the ground, and slept for yet another 2+ hours.

The countdown of days left in the U.S. had now become a matter of hours and minutes. I made my final calls to my parents and my brother in the minutes before boarding, letting them know I’ll e-mail them as soon as I land on the other side of the world. I hang up my American phone for the final time and get in line to Korea — but not before I enjoyed my last truly American lunch.

A Big Mac is an appropriate final meal in the U.S.

A Big Mac is an appropriate final meal in the U.S.

But as I tried to get on the plane holding my fresh Big Mac, the Korean Air employees noticed on my boarding pass — the same one with which I went through security when I changed terminals — that I had been “randomly” chosen to be searched, usually annoying but moreso exasperating now that we were only a half hour before departure.

After a quick frisk, inspection of my full 38-liter backpack and watching my Big Mac roll through the X-ray machine, I rushed back to my gate where they were essentially holding the plane for me. I found my seat, inhaled my McDonald’s, and immediately did what I do best: I fluffed my pillow and fell asleep before take off. After a pattern of sleeping, eating, watching Scrubs, sleeping, eating and sleeping, I was overlooking the green mountains of Korea and slowly descending toward Seoul.

I'm guessing that's Chicago in Hangul.

KE 038: I'm guessing that's "Chicago" in Hangul.

I’ve made it. Let’s begin.


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