Our last night in South Korea was perfect. We spent it in Seoul with our very good friends Adam and Angie, who just happened to be coming back from their holiday in Malaysia. We had dinner at the delicious Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro. All the hard good-byes we’ve had the last couple of weeks was a reminder of all the amazing friendships we have formed. And we can’t wait to see all of our teaching friends again.
The next day we left our hotel around 7am to go to Incheon International Airport. Making it there with plenty of time, BreeAnn and I easily made it through security and waited for our plane to Dalian, China. Originally we were going from Dalian to Beijing and Beijing to Istanbul and were to arrive there shortly before midnight on the 1st. But that’s when everything when horribly awry. As we were getting close to Dalian, a mere hour away from Seoul, it started getting quite windy. Right before our plane was about to land, no more than 10 meters from the ground and feeling strong turbulance, the plane launched again toward the sky. We thought that the pilot might decide to turn around and have another go at it, but instead we looked out the window only to see the city of Dalian getting smaller and smaller. That’s when BreeAnn and I looked at each other and knew things were not going to go as planned.
We landed in a city called Quing Dao about an hour away from Dalian. There, we were asked to leave the plane, given some strange pink tickets and asked to go through customs. At the passport control we had to be given 24 hour visas since we were techichally leaving the terminal (Chinese visas are very expensive for American tourists, and we were not planning on spending any money on those). We were ushered to the check-in, given new tickets to Dalian and went through security again only to find that we had the same seats on the same exact plane. Why we could just have waited at the gate was beyond me. But instead we did a lengthy seven hour loop back to the plane before taking off.
Landing in Dalian again we went straight to the customer service desk to try to get a new flight to Istanbul, only to find out that there wasn’t one for four more days. Since visas in China cost a couple hundred dollars a piece, we would have been stuck in the Dalian airport for four days! There was much negotiating but finally they booked a flight for us to Beijing where we would spend the night and then hopefully find out the next day that they bumped us to another flight with a different airline. Honestly I didn’t know what to think of it. So much had gone wrong all ready.
We arrived in Beijing around 1am where we sat in another holding pen while what looked to be teenagers working the desk were deciding our fate. I told them our story and one young man looked at me and said, “No.” No what? No, my story wasn’t true? No, you aren’t going to help me? It was like pulling teeth just to get a hotel room for the night that was quickly becoming morning. (Ps- Take this as your warning to never fly China Southern).
Only sleeping for a few hours, BreeAnn and I decided to make the most of the day in Beijing and visit the Great Wall of China. We hopped in a cab and drove about an hour to the entrance of the Mutianyu portion. After hiking about 45 minutes up a mountain we had arrived at the Great Wall. The Great Wall isn’t exactly beautiful, but it was truly breath-taking. The enormity of it and just how many man hours must have gone into making it is unfathomable. But here it is, and it there it goes as far as I can see in both directions. In total, the Great Wall stretches over 13,000 miles. We really enjoyed our time hiking on the Great Wall but as evening drew closer we grew anxious about our flight.
We followed China Southerns instructions to the “t”. We got to the airport at 8pm and went directly to terminal 2. The first China Southern window told us to go to go straight a ways to the next China Southern window. There what seemed like another teenager working yelled at us and told us to go to another China Southern window a bit farther away still. Trying to stay calm we made it to the customer service desk where it seemed that the employees had not gotten the memo from Dalian about re-routing our flight. Our chances of leaving were getting smaller and smaller. After about 25 minutes of waiting were again directed to go to another counter. We sat and waited in a crowd of people. Perhaps waiting another 30 minutes we were gestured over to the window. A woman had a piece of paper transfering us to the Turkish Air flight. We didn’t undstand everything the woman said, but we heard something about stand-by. Would we have to take a bus to terminal 3 and wait in line only to be sent back? And sent back to what? Would we get an extension on our visa? Would we have to wait 3 more days in the airport? It felt like we could slip through the cracks very easily. I can’t remember a time I had felt more helpless. BreeAnn and I just did a lot of praying.
We stepped up to the check-in counter at Turkish airlines and handed the man our papers. He looked at it, looked at our passports, looked at the paper, looked at the passports and left his post to go to talk to someone. Our hearts were racing. This was it. He returned a few minutes later and asked us if we had any bags to check. I asked him, “So we’re on the plane for sure?” He seemed to rolls his eyes at us. “Yes. Now do you have any bags to check?” I cannot convey the sense of relief that we felt. We both felt like colapsing after this emotional rollarcoaster we had been on. I think we were the happiest people on the plane.
So now, as I write this, we are in Istanbul, Turkey getting ready for the day. I can’t wait to explore this city and see all it has to offer. We’ve got a full month in Europe on the horizon and we are so happy that European adventure has finally started!