every voyage is an adventure – well, sometimes it’s more than that, it’s a thriller, too. Everything at home was prepared, bags packed, the apartment cleaned and most of our belongings already in boxes, ready for the move in June. We’re visiting the family in South Korea before that, May 23rd, KLM flight 1860, from Düsseldorf via Amsterdam to Incheon, departure time 16:25. We arrived at the airport about two hours before departure, everything seemed to go smooth. Almost everything. At the check-in counter, the ground staff gave us back my passport because it was invalid,
I’m terribly sorry, but you can’t fly with this passport. Imagine the shock. Turns out, we’ve left my current, red passport at home and took the green, temporary one that expired in 2004. Next followed a speed race back home with a cab. The driver was sympathetic and used hidden Tunesian driving skills to get me home in a mere 15 minutes. I needed much longer to find the passport though, because, as mentioned above, everything was already packed and prepared for the move. The passport was found at last after a dozen boxes were opened and we were able to check-in 30 minutes prior to departure.
The exitement wasn’t over completely: The bus that took us to the airplane drove a few rounds around the air field, somebody else was a higher priority. As we found out, the police escorted a black prisoner to the airplane. He tried to resist against his extradition, kicked and screamed, fought with the guards. One of the police men had a wound over his right eye and lost his uniform badge on the right shoulder after they succeeded in seating him in the back of the machine. I don’t know what the reason for the extradition was, but he seemed very determined to oppose it in every possible way. He stopped screaming when we entered the airplane – it took us a few minutes to fold the buggy and hand it over to the ground personnel which is why we were last to board the prop airliner. The prisoner was kept in the last seat, closely watched by two male and one female guard. I remembered the deportation of a Sudanese refugee in ’99, who died of suffocation due to the restraints and the position he was forced to keep – the job to keep another person quiet and calm for even just an hour who doesn’t want to in a small airplane is unbelievably hard, the police officers today did a good job without having to resort to a harsh approach. I guess a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought this way, today my primary concern was how to calm down my son if the rioting should restart. It didn’t, and I was thankful for it.
Shiphol Amsterdam for us was running again, from one gate to the other, since our plane was late. We hadn’t time to buy one or two presents we planned to, so we skipped that part. One advantage when you travel with infants: Everybody is nice to you, the ground personnel asked us into the VIP line for boarding, skipping a queue of a couple of dozen passengers. When we boarded the KLM Boeing 747 to Incheon, we finally had a feeling of relief. The 8563 kilometers in 9 1/2h were over rather quickly. One detail mentioning: If you’re on international flights with KLM, beware of the food. Ours was good, but the stuff they try to sell as
children food is far from acceptable. White bread with sugar (the slice of cheese helps a little), a chocolate bar and a sweet beverage – better bring your own breakfast if you don’t want a hyperactive kid jumping on and off your lap for the rest of the flight.
After arriving at Incheon airport the next day we ate at “our” Japanese restaurant and took the bus to Daejeon (??, ??). Beside hitchhiking, there’s no cheaper way to travel the country. Plus, you get your own track on the expressway. It was Buddha’s birthday, but the roads were rather empty. From my first visit I can remember that on that day there’s no coming through. Three hours later, our family fetched us from the long distance bus station and we arrived at home, happily and exhausted. The welcome dinner was fabulous!
Today’s lesson: Double-check passports, tickets, money and key. Triple-check passports. Check once more. And again. Rinse, wash, repeat.