My dad’s travel journal part 1
To our friends:
I am sending a lengthy journal to you through a series of emails. You may or may not wish to read it. Some find it interesting…others are bored by this type of thing. I sometimes am put off by the length of other people’s journal entries. So….I leave it to you….if you have time, you may get some chuckles from my obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes me to tell you every little detail of my day. Our trip to Mongolia was mainly for recreation, but we also wanted to learn about God’s dealings with this culture which has been so long in darkness. Needless to say, seeing our kids was also a main part of our trip. There is no way that a person can put into words what we saw there, but hopefully my notes can give you a glimpse of that immense country.
Feel free to delete these emails without reading them…I don’t plan to ever ask you if you read them. But…if you’ve got the time, you may enjoy them.
Our 2010 Trip to Mongolia
(Richard & Carol Sumpter)
God calls each of us to a purpose. Our oldest son believes that his purpose is to take the message of salvation to those in other parts of the world who have never heard it. As his parents, Carol & I, feel that we should support that mission. Of course, that involves visits to those faraway places, financial support, prayers, etc. We are grateful for that opportunity. Our outlook on life is different because of those experiences. Hopefully, you will be impacted …and entertained…as you read about this trip.
Chris, Tiffany, Elijah, and Joel Sumpter went to Mongolia in December of 2008. Since that time, we have been saving dollars and planning for a visit. After about 1 ½ years, we took that step. We purchased tickets via a local travel guy, Rich Huston…a Weslyan man that Chris recommended. Airfare was high…about $2,300 per person, but we were taking one of the better airlines, Korean Air. That proved to be true. They were incredibly nice …and professional! We accumulated many things at our house that we would be taking with us. Tiffany wanted spices…we had a large bag of them. The boys would both be having birthdays…both sets of grandparents sent gifts. There were other supply items that would be helpful to the missionaries. By August 16th, we had itemized, stuffed, tagged, and weighed 4 very full suitcases…as well as 3 pieces of carry-on luggage. Fortunately, we had worked very hard for a week or two… our last day at home was a full one. I had to work at my job at Herald & Banner Press for 9 hours…shipping hundreds of pieces of Sunday School literature. Carol had a full day of baby-sitting, making final phone calls and purchases. Around 6 PM, we loaded our ’06 Saturn and headed north. We would be staying at the Comfort Inn, 4 miles north of the airport, on Monday night. For $97.30 we could have the “park & fly” package…actually less than the cost of some of the airport parking lots. Our car would stay for free for 14 days in the hotel parking lot. After a stop at the airport to get some luggage tags, we arrived. Our evening was relaxing. We spent time in the swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna…and no one bothered us. We had it completely to ourselves. Around 9:30 PM, we went to a nearby Subway restaurant for a late supper. We had come to a startling realization at the hotel. We had booked our flights on June 3rd…nearly 2 ½ months before. Though we had reservations and assigned seats, we did not know any of our flight numbers. A quick trip to the hotel lobby and their business computers…and we solved that problem. Back in our room, Carol began preparing for bed. I began this journal. With many hours of flight ahead of us, we didn’t care too much about an early bedtime…we would undoubtedly sleep on the plane. Around 10:50 PM, I finished this particular account, read the Sunday paper, and turned out the lights.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010:
We did not want to oversleep on this very important morning, so we had devised three methods for awakening: cellphone alarm, alarm clock, and hotel wake-up service. Our day started at 6 AM. We dressed and then went to the lobby for our complimentary breakfast of waffles, biscuits & gravy, yogurt, etc. After packing everything and moving our car to the parking area, we grabbed a luggage cart and headed for the airport shuttle. Our driver was very talkative…told us that he’d delivered many people, traveling to many countries. He told us that our motel was owned by Roger Brady, a local pastor of the River of Life church (we noticed several religious things while at the hotel). He dropped us off at American Airlines a few minutes later and we soon had checked in for our flight. All of our fears and anxiety were soon put to rest as they checked our 4 large pieces of luggage with no problem (we had expected to pay large over-size charges). We had a wait of maybe an hour in the KCI terminal before boarding a long, skinny, silver jet…bound for Texas. While waiting, I came to the startling realization that I had probably left behind the battery charger for my new digital camera. I read the instruction book and took hope in the fact that I could possibly have 11 hours of recording time before its power ran out. On the plane, we settled in and soon had some beverages provided. On this and every leg of our trip, we had seats adjacent to an aisle…what a blessing!
We soon were arriving at the Dallas/Forth Worth airport. There appeared to be only one Korean Airline plane waiting, but it was a huge 747. We took a “train” to our terminal (D), and then found our boarding gate. It appeared that about 98% of the passengers who would be traveling with us to Seoul, Korea…were of Korean descent.
This was a short wait…we only had about one hour total in the airport…just long enough to smell a bunch of good food, but not enough time for purchasing it, or for looking around at any of the stores. We boarded around 11:40 AM.
I noted a number of things about the Korean Air flight in my journal notes. Here are some of them:
-No overhead air vent blowing your face …cabin air came from under the seats.
-We were given a packet containing house slippers, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
-The cabin attendants brought us headphones…the remote control for our private
TV screens came out of the armrest. The reverse side of the remote was a phone.
-The TV screen was on the seat-back in front of us…it had touch-screen or remote
control. We had movies, documentaries, news, music, etc.
-Each seat had a pillow, blanket, and bottle of water.
-During our first hour we had honey-roast nuts and a beverage. During the second
hour of flight, we got a meal of roast, potatoes, broccoli, rolls, salad, Crème
Brulee’, and juice or tea. They were even providing free wine with the meals.
-The cabin attendants (stewardesses) were dressed very neatly, had stiffly starched
bows in their hair, they bowed to us at the doorways, and they were incredibly
efficient and professional throughout the flights.
When I jotted down these notes, (6:45 PM…CST) we were flying at between 500-600 mph and above 33,000 feet. We were flying into a headwind of over 80 mph. We traveled in an arc, up across Wyoming and Canada…and then lengthwise across the entire lower portion of Alaska. Finally, we went over Japan, over the edge of China, and finally down to Seoul, Korea. As I write this, we have been in the air 6 hours and 45 minutes. It is already 10:45 AM tomorrow (Wed) in Seoul. This is very weird and confusing to me. You may not want to know this, but after 7 hours of flying, I realize that I’ve only made one trip to the bathroom. There are nice touches in there too…lotions, towelettes, etc. With each meal, we’ve been given warm washcloths, glass bowls, and stainless tableware. We are in row 45 of this plane, but not really crowded. There are 3 seats on each side and 4 in the center section. We have traveled on much larger planes and had to crawl over people to get to the aisle. We had a wonderful selection of entertainment options on our little tv screens. Carol got to watch the new Nanny McPhee movie…about a strange babysitter. I watched an incredible documentary about “Marine One”, the president’s transportation system. There are 700 people in the department that transports and protects him…and numerous planes, limos, helicopters, gunboats, etc. I watched a couple of “B” movies, played blackjack and went bankrupt twice. At this point in my notes, I lose track…I don’t know when it happened, but it is now:
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 (at our destination…Seoul). I have no idea what time it really is at the spot on the globe that we are currently going over, but it is now tomorrow in Korea. Actually, at this point in my notes, we are going over Bethel, Alaska…wherever that is. Seems like maybe we are only about halfway through our flight….it is a grueling distance to fly. I tried some on-screen mini-golf, but I’m too old to understand the controller for the game, so had several 10-stroke holes. We have been provided with little stickers that we can put on our head-rests: “wake me for beverages”, “wake me for meal service”, or “don’t disturb me”. We will have two opportunities to shop from the duty-free Sky Mall catalog. We look through it, but probably won’t partake. After a few hours of flight, almost everyone closed their window shades, the lights were dimmed inside the aircraft cabin, and people slept their afternoon away. Since they are mostly from Korea, I wonder quietly if they are trying to get back onto Korean time. It did seem strange though, when one person opened their windowshade and I saw sunlight streaming in. My wristwatch still has Dallas time, so…according to that, at around 6 PM, we were served juice and hot meat pies.
…I may have slept for awhile…don’t know. At about 10:00 PM, I resumed my note-taking. We are now at 38,000 feet altitude and have just crossed the Russian peninsula. We have maybe 2,086 miles left to go….4 more hours. It’s actually noon tomorrow (Wednesday) in Seoul, but my watch says it’s still 10 PM on Tuesday. Around 9:00 PM, the cabin lights came back on and they served us juice. Then they served supper. I had pasta with tomato sauce, shrimp on a salad, roll, and cake with apple/cinnamon glaze. Carol had rice & beef, and the same side-dishes. Usually we had two types of entrees to choose from. The cabin attendants have been serving us for 10 hours so far. They are amazing! A Korean man was seated on the other side of Carol. I think he finally went to the bathroom for the first time after 8 ½ hours. He is a real man! As I write this, Carol is doing a Sodoku game and I need to finish up my (maybe) 3rd movie. Around midnight (CST), we finally began trying to sleep…sitting up…reclining 2 inches. It is a miserable way to sleep, but slightly successful. Around 1:30 AM, they served juice and water and told us to prepare for landing. People began opening their windowshades. Instead of being dark (like my wristwatch says it should be), it is sunny outside, with puffy clouds going by…and actually nearly 4 PM. We landed at around 4:10 PM after circling over some water. It is 86 degrees in this part of Korea (though we’ll never leave the airport to feel it). Yay! We are so glad to have this, our longest flight segment..finished!
Some time has elapsed and I have returned to my spiral notebook. It is now 8:30 PM in Seoul. I am in reclining lounge chairs on the second floor and Carol is sleeping beside me. We have found a traveler’s lounge. Believe me…I don’t want to be doing this journaling at this moment, but I’l soon forget what has transpired if I don’t. My eyes are now very heavy. We have decided that one of us needs to sleep while the other person guards our carry-on luggage. We had it all in a locker for a few hours, but the “deposit” for use of the locker was my “boarding pass” for the next flight and the information desk that was holding it was to close at 9 PM, so we now had our bags with us. I’ll backtrack a little bit. When we got off the flight from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Seoul, there were two Korean girls waiting with a little sign that said Ulaanbaatar. Seeing that, we were unsure of their purpose, but figured that they had something to do with our continuing flight. Five passengers, including us, joined them and they led us quite a distance through the airport and to a “transfer desk” that we’d have never found on our own. The lady at that desk gave us boarding passes for our next flight and told us that our 7:10 PM flight would be delayed until after 1 AM. To show that they were sorry, they gave us two food vouchers worth 10,000 kwon each…approx. $20 total. She said that it wouldn’t buy us a whole meal, but would help. She gave us a list of the restaurants that we could redeem them at.
An older gentleman who was in the same situation, and a bit non-plussed by it, joined us as we went in search of our departing gate. We learned that he was going to Mongolia (Gobi Desert) to hunt some very large exotic sheep (like Bighorns). We left him at the departure gate as he probably wouldn’t want to do the same things that Carol and I would want to do…to kill the time while awaiting our flight. She & I explored travel lounges, shopping ares, culture centers, etc. We saw a very colorful parade with Korean people dressed in historical costuming. Since our flight was delayed for several hours, we were anxious to get word to Chris that we wouldn’t be arriving in Mongolia on time. Our cellphones had no signal and we’d been told that it would cost around $5 per minute to use them. In order to purchase an international phone card, we needed Korean money, so we went to a currency exchange bank. We gave the girl $50 and she gave us 56,600 kwon. For 10,000 kwon we were able to purchase a card. We tried every imaginable way to make it work at one of the pay phones there. Used several different card numbers, country codes, etc. Finally gave up. After walking down the hall, we went to another bank of phones and tried again…with similar results. Finally, Carol found that we needed to scratch off some stuff on the back of the card to find the actual card number. That still didn’t work! We eventually quit trying to call Chris’s VOIP (computer) phone and tried their home / cell number. This worked…Incredible relief! Chris said that he’d been monitoring our flight on the internet and was aware of the delay. What he knew and we did not, was that there had been a hailstorm in Ulaanbaatar, but ours was the only delayed flight. We would not be arriving until 4 AM. Once we had been successful at communicating with Chris, we set out to find some food. There was a KFC on the second floor…and it was on our list of approved restaurants. Two combo meals cost a little over 16,000 kwon and the lady said we could not get any change back from our vouchers. So, we added two sides: corn salad and cold slaw. We were in a food court so most of the people (Koreans) had purchased food from other vendors…they were eating lots of rice, meats, vegetables, soups, etc. I thought that I probably should have tried those dishes, but the octopus didn’t look too tasty. Some dishes looked okay. After eating, we checked on a transit hotel inside the airport. We were mainly interested in prices for the time we’d spend in the airport 2 weeks from now. They wanted $130, so we decided that wasn’t for us. We continues walking the halls, looking in shops. Our daughter, Christina, likes Coach brand purses and we saw a couple of those shops, but weren’t ready to spend big bucks on souvenirs at this point. After several bathroom stops and endless walking, we returned to the traveler’s lounge to get some rest. Carol’s feet had swelled during the flight and we were hurting, but mostly just bone-tired. …and now, my story returns to where it was several paragraphs back. I am barely awake, but still writing. It is now 9 PM. I am going to get up and take a picture of her sleeping in the chair. Then I’ll look at a book about Mongolia…and try to stay awake. I may have to walk off the sleepiness. Here’s what happened: I think I maybe did go to the bathroom and walk for a moment or two, but finally decided that I could lay my hands across the luggage and take a chance on sleeping. I observed later that many people just didn’t expect theft…they just slept by their stuff and no one bothered them. Anyhow…we both slept until around 11 PM…then got up and went down to our departure gate …#27. We took turns going to brush our teeth and groom as much as possible (I needed a shave, but wouldn’t get one). We found a booth selling Dr. Pepper (Carol’s favorite) for 2,000 kwon (about $2.00). We found the man who we had visited with earlier. I talked to him a bit and found that he easily would get wound up on the subject of history, politics, the decline of civilization, the importing of trophy sheep, etc. He was a bit of a conspiracy theory guy. I felt a bit sorry for him as he seemed to be a “loner”. At around 11:45 PM, a couple of KAL employees set up a table and offered us tall, skinny (250 ml) cans of pop and a cold roll (yep, just dry bread). We actually found that to be a common snack in this part of the world. We assumed the treat to be a continuing apology by the airline…for the delay. I resumed my journaling around midnight on Wednesday and suddenly realized that I had lost a day somewhere…there was no “Wednesday” in my notes. I corrected that and moved on.
Part 2….coming soon.