|The snowstorm continued thru the day on Sunday. At about 2:00, I decided to get a hotel. Found a place on Booking.com and ran out into the cold a snow to catch a taxi. What I found was a long line waiting for the drizzle of taxis arriving and departing the airport. I wrapped my scarf around my face and stood as close to the other travelers as I thought I could without being labeled a freak. The wind was bitter cold and unrelenting. I decided to guess how many taxis would come before I got one. Fifteen, I decided. Counting as the cabs pulled up and left gave me something to do other than shiver. The couple directly in front of me climbed into number 15. Dang! One cab off.
I was hungry when I got to the hotel, but there was nothing in the hotel to eat. I just couldn't imagine getting back in the snow for food or anything else. I decided I could use to skip a meal and stayed in the room. Warm.
I got breakfast at the hotel on Monday as I waited for a taxi to arrive. Boiled eggs and French fries. Wasn't ready for kimchi yet. The airport was still closed and, if possible, there were more people camping in the corridors. I got in a long standby line and got a number---777. I found a worker who could speak English and asked lots of questions. She thought flights would go later that day, but didn't promise me a seat. She confirmed me on a flight for Friday. Friday?
Return to Seoul
I started looking for options to get off the island once again. I found a flight on Tuesday for $250 that would take me to Busan and the onto Seoul by Tuesday night. It was not good--not only would I miss the opportunity to speak at the conference at sang's church, but I also would miss my flight home. I held my nose and booked the flight. I got a strange message that it could take up to 4 hours to confirm my ticket, but they accepted payment. I asked Sang to call about changing my JAL flight and gave him my credit card number.
That change created several more problems I set about dealing with. A place to stay Monday night. A way to get home from San Francisco. (I booked the international flight out of SFO, then just bought a flight to SFO from lax. It saved some money, but wasn't seeming to be such a smart idea.)
Sang managed to get my flight changed to Thursday for $250. Then, they called to tell him there was another $50 fee. In the meantime I got a message on the flight for the following day's flight. The ticket could not be booked. They had refunded my money. I told Sang to wait on the additional fee.
I was supposed to go to the transit desk at 4:00 to check on my status...if they could get me on a flight. There was an angry mob with pitchforks and torches trying to storm the gates. I jumped into the fray. Sang had asked me to get one of the workers to call him...thought he might convince them to do something more for me. Korean culture has this interesting dependence on smoozing, so I wouldn't doubt he could get something done. I pushed up to a guy in a blue uniform and showed him my standby ticket. "Go to the ticket counter quickly; they will give you a boarding card." I felt sure I was missing something, but I pushed and shoved my way across the sea of angry travelers to get in line at the ticket counter. I showed my standby ticket to another agent and she shuttled me to the front of the line. The agent at the desk asked for my passport. I was beginning to wonder if the actually had a seat for me. Take this and go through security quickly. I looked at what she handed me--a boarding card with the seat 4F. It was already time for boarding. Once again, a was bumping and pushing to get across the room. The last time I remember being in a crowd that dense, I was on a metro in Manila at rush hour.
Through security, I messaged Sang--on a flight, there in 2 hours, see if you can cancel the ticket change. Just before I got on the plane, I got a message from Sang saying, change is canceled, original flight restored. It was not until that moment that I remembered a silent conversation with God that morning. This will probably sound strange, but I was confident God had told me he would get me back to Seoul that night. The airport had been closed, no promise of a flight, crowds trying to get off the island, number 777 on the standby list. Like Peter, I was watching the waves instead of the Savior.
From Gimpo airport I took the metro across town. Sang and Diane were waiting for me at the metro station. "We can't believe you're here. It's like a miracle." It did seem that way. "Sang, I am so sorry I missed you're conference." He told me that everyone understood. They had promised I would video the talk and they would put it on their website with subtitles. We ate some grilled meat then they dropped me at a hotel.
This morning Sang met me at 6:00 to get me on a bus to Incheon Airport. Before I got on the bus, I took off the St. Christopher medallion I wear and gave it to Sang. Christopher is known for his help of travelers, and in so doing cared for the Christ. Sang reminds me of him.
I'm sitting on a flight to Narita Tokyo waiting for the plane to be de-iced. If all goes well, I'll be back in California and in my new house tonight...though a very long day it will be.