FROM: MY JOURNAL AND MEMORY, SUCH AS THEY ARE, VIETNAM 1994
Bits, pieces, wacky verb tenses, but don't let that stop you!
Cincinnati to Los Angeles
Five hours to Los Angeles (LAX) from Cincinnati, Keith and I barely made the connection on Korean Airlines (KAL) to Seoul. Tom left a note with a fax number at the Plaza in Bangkok where we were all headed. Said we’d have to overnight in Seoul if we missed our flight. Wow! Not part of the itinerary.
The flight from Cincinnati was fairly overcast, but we had glimpses of the Grand Canyon and expanses of desert - shades of dun, brownish tan and crumbling soft red. The sight of the mountains coming into LAX gave me a thrill - long, unbroken line to the right of the plane as we flew over the urban desert of LA. Streets dotted with houses, turquoise squares and ovals - high grade turquoise, too, no veins - of swimming pools. Palm trees. All the luxuries siphoning off LA’s future out of watersheds miles away.
We zipped through Tom Bradley Int’l Airport. At the KAL desk, they hand us Tom’s note, tell us to hurry, and, by the way, our bags weren’t going to be coming with us just yet. Sent on the next flight. Glad I put two changes of clothes, and assorted essentials in my carry on. Notwithstanding the close call, we, met the rest of our party at the gate. Tom looked enormously relieved (as relieved as I felt at not having to figure out where to sleep in Seoul.)
At last, our group is bound for the ex-military dude ranch, as Keith calls Vietnam.
What can I say about 12 dry, grinding hours stuck in a 747? Excellent service, though. The KAL stews were unfailing courteous and prompt. They prowled the aisles looking for chances to serve us. Lots of kids on board. They only occasionally veered off into spastic insanity. I quite understood why. I felt like wailing, too.
We had requested the non-smoking section. Alas, we were in the last row before the smoking section began. Behind us, 99 % of the passengers were Vietnamese men who chugged on rolled peat laced with asphalt, all the way to Seoul. Can you say choking haze? I believe that Vietnamese men are, hands down, the world champions of chain-smoking.
Landed in Seoul. Lazy gray sky, a line of pine trees incongruous against the concrete barriers and defensive perimeter. Lots of officious bustle in the airport. We pass through metal detectors after we leave the plane and our baggage is x-rayed before we can enter the airport. I suppose having North Korea a hop, skip, and jump away has spawned this excessive bureaucracy.
I took advantage of a bathroom I could actually turn around in. Glad I brought my bottle of peppermint soap. A wonderful tonic after playing sardine in the plane. The bathrooms are marginally clean - unlike the oft checked, wiped, and perfumed lavatories aft in the KAL flight.
Then we join the rest of the resigned looking travelers looking blankly into the Korean twilight.
Off to Saigon via Bangkok
Constance Lee Menefee