Traveling on the Patriot Express

View from the plane flying into Korea
View from the plane flying into Korea

We booked a hotel near the Seattle airport for Monday night. We were supposed to check in between 2:30 and 5:30am for the AMC (Air Mobility Command) flight, also known as the Patriot Express, so we decided to go at a slightly later time and deal with however long lines we had to. We got up at 3 and took the hotel shuttle to the airport at 4. By the time Domingos tracked down a cart, we basically walked through the very short line and were checked in immediately! I was definitely glad we had decided to go on the later side. We breezed through security (though I really missed TSA Precheck!), had some breakfast, and lounged around on quite comfortable chairs until the flight left.

We took off right at 8:30, a little ahead of schedule (I had heard to always expect delays, so that was a nice surprise!), and I immediately reset my devices to Korea time, 12:30am September 30. We dozed a bit on the plane, but it was challenging with the many children crying. Nonstop. For the entire 10 hour flight. Let’s just say noise-cancelling headphones can only do so much!

The plane was old, and showed major signs of wear all over. I’m not a fearful flyer by any means, but that plane did not feel or sound right when taking off and landing! It was a huge relief to finally get off it at the end of the day.

We arrived at Yokota Air Base right around 10:30, where we deplaned for almost 2-½ hours. The waiting area was freezing cold, and the free wifi didn’t work at all, so the layover felt interminable. But we got on our way again, back on the same plane, and arrived in Osan at 3:30.

Up until that point, I had been doing pretty well. Yes, we were exhausted, but everything had been going smoother than I possibly imagined. Once we arrived at Osan, we were in a briefing for about 2-½ hours before we were able to board the bus for Yongsan. And I hit the wall pretty hard. I felt both freezing and hot and knew I’d picked up the beginnings of a cold during the travel days. My throat was scratchy, my sinuses were a misery, and to top it all off, my left Achilles tendon was very swollen and sore from an earlier incident where I tried to push our 55-pound duffle bag across the hotel room with one foot (yes, stupid and I deserved to injure myself!). So walking pretty much sucked. In the briefing, Domingos had to fill out a lot of paperwork while I sat there not doing much. After the briefing, we collected our checked luggage, breezed through customs (they laughed at my sharp little sewing scissors that we declared just to be safe), then loaded our bags onto the bus for the trip to Yongsan. I think we waited around for another 30 minutes before leaving, but that part of yesterday is all kind of blurry to me now.

The bus ride probably only took about an hour, but it felt like it lasted 3 or 4 hours. When we arrived at Yongsan, they told us to leave our stuff on the bus and go right in to a briefing (I didn’t actually need to go in, apparently, but I did anyway and it was quite short). Domingos found out he had to be there at 05:15 this morning for weigh-in and PT. Welcome to Korea! Then we got our bags and, because there were no luggage carts available, hauled our 3 huge suitcases, 1 smaller suitcase, viola, and 2 backpacks across the parking lot to go check in to the Dragon Hill Lodge. After checking in, it was already 8:00. We grabbed dinner in one of the hotel restaurants, unpacked the bare minimum (toiletries, D’s PT clothes, D’s ACUs, and our pajamas) and fell into bed by 9:15.

Later, I’ll write more about my first day (it’s only noon and I’ve already been all over the place) and about the Dragon Hill Lodge. For now, I’m feeling pretty good except for the cold I have and the fact that my viola has at least one open seam from the flights. If you’re reading this and know a good violin shop in Seoul, please leave a comment for me!

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