The trip home with Glenda and John's cats, Petey and Bonnie, was an adventure, but really very smooth. We left our apartment at 2 a.m. on Friday morning and picked up the cats in their super-deluxe air travel carriers at Joy's apartment. We made it off of Geoje Island in record time due to the complete lack of traffic lights (they were all blinking) and other cars on the road. If only it were always so simple. The traffic remained light until just past Daejeon, about halfway through the trip. After that, truck traffic really picked up. Still, it was a pretty quick and easy drive to Seoul. Bonnie, who has a bad reputation for crying (or "singing" as Joy put it) in the car, was not half as bad as she could have been. I think she was mostly confused about where her beloved brother Petey was and just wanted reassurance that he was nearby. Of course, Petey didn't get that at all and didn't make any response to her cries. He rested majestically on his tiger-stripe cushion like a sultan for the whole ride. We got to Incheon Airport around 7:20, right on time. Keegan parked the car while I got everyone situated on luggage carts, and we headed in to see what we could do about getting everyone checked in and on the plane.
Inside the airport, we wandered around for a while with our heavily laden carts looking for animal quarantine, where we needed another necessary document for Petey and Bonnie. This was where we hit our first snafu - despite the recommendation that everyone begin the check-in process three hours before their flight, the quarantine office didn't open until 9 a.m.! Unfortunately, our flight was at 10:40, so we knew we would be pressed for time. We decided to check everything else through and then go back for a second round with the cats. After a lot of waiting in line and a nail-biting wait for our quarantine document, we were finally able to get the cats checked in. The quarantine official didn't even open the cats' cages; he just shuffled a lot of papers and gave us one more. We raced to the ticketing counter to pay our excess baggage charge and sped through security to the gate. We arrived just as everyone was beginning to board, so realistically, we had about 20 minutes to spare, but it was still a little tense for a while. It was a good thing that a sympathetic check-in agent had noticed our plight with the cats and let us through our second check-in ahead of a few other people or we might not have made it. Overall, the experience at the airport was good, except for the late opening of the quarantine office.
The flight was long but reasonably comfortable. The stewardesses were efficient, competent, and considerate. We each had our own monitor on the seat in front of us, so we were able to play some computer games and watch tons of movies. I had a Jennifer Aniston fest and watched "He's Just Not That Into You...." (not amazing, but very enjoyable), "Marley and Me" (a must for anyone who has ever owned a dog) and an episode of "Friends." I also played a lot of Minesweeper and Tetris. Keegan played computer blackjack until his eyes glazed over. Our seatmate was a really friendly Korean woman returning to her family in Maryland after her first trip to Korea in five years. She said she was astounded at how much things have changed since the last time she was there. She thought that everything was very clean and nice, had a wonderful time visiting the northeastern part of the country with friends and family, and was impressed with how many women were wearing nice golfing clothes. We hit turbulence several times on the flight, but it wasn't too jarring.
In Washington we had a very easy time of it. When we finally emerged from passport control, all of our bags and cats were waiting for us, and we went straight to customs. Getting the cats through was so easy! We showed our customs form to the agent, and she asked us a few questions about the food we had brought for the cats. She told us that we needed a labelled bag of food next time showing that the food was vegetable (who makes vegetable cat food?) or fish, but that she would let us take the small amount of food we had with us through because the cats were going to have another flight to endure. No one opened the cats' carriers or looked at the cats at all, which I'm sure was just as well for the poor traumatized beasties. Poor Petey was hiding underneath his tiger-striped cushion, causing one bystander to exclaim "It's a wildcat in there!" Everyone was very curious about the cats since we were the only ones on the flight who had checked animals. After we cleared customs, we handed the cats, their food, and some paperwork off to a very competent-looking woman in blue scrubs, who Glenda had hired to get the cats on their flight to Wisconsin. We hope that the last leg of their journey was ok and that they are now resting and enjoying their reunion with their mom and dad. Poor guys - I can't imagine what that flight must have been like in the cargo hold.
Steve and Sue met us at the airport and drove us down to Charlottesville, with a brief stop for lunch in Gainesville at a little Afghani restaurant in a strip mall. I had an interesting dish of leek-stuffed ravioli in a yogurt-herb sauce. So our first meal back in the States was Afghani! I don't know how much longer Keegan can hold out for a Philly cheesesteak, though. Once we got home, I immediately took a nap, but I didn't really sleep for very long. The shower was much more refreshing than the nap. I guess our bodies will be screwed up for the next few days, but what do we care? We're on vacation!