Our Korean Adventure Begins!

At 10 weeks, Stella finally started feeling better.  We changed her acid reflux medicine to first-omeprazole/Prilosec, which is a bit stronger and ended up working a lot better.  She seemed to finally calm down and I felt good enough about it to make the plunge (i.e. agree to take an infant on a 14 hour plane ride across the Pacific to go see dad).  I heard a lot of “wow, you’re brave” and “that’s crazy” and “that’s a really long flight,” all of which I can understand.  However, as a military family, you have to be willing to do some things that aren’t incredibly easy.  I’m not going to lie….  I gave myself a lot of pep-talks and told myself that if the flight went absolutely terrible, it was only one day of my life.  I was pretty terrified that I was going to be on a flight with a screaming baby for who knows how long and everyone was going to hate me.  However, I put on my big girl pants and I got all my paperwork in order to take the military “rotator” or “Patriot Express” (great name, right?) from Seattle to South Korea.

Luckily, the rotator leaves from SeaTac, Seattle’s commercial airport, which is just about 15 minutes away from our house in West Seattle.  It’s a bit of a complicated process to actually get on the rotator because it’s a standby, or space-available, flight.  This means that even though I signed up for the flight, Stella and I had to be at the airport by 5:30am for roll-call with bags in hand, and only then would be find out if there was space for us.  They rack and stack you based on categories of priority (we were/are very low, a 4 out of 5 priority).  Luckily, we hit the jackpot and there were over 100 seats available on our particular flight (from SeaTac to Misawa AFB in Japan and then Misawa to Suwon AFB, Korea) and everyone got on that wanted to.  We looked like a circus (2 suitcases, a pack n play, a rock n play, a stroller and car seat), but my parents graciously drove down with me, waited to help me push all my baggage around and saw us off.

When you are traveling with a child on the rotator, they seat you with the other families.  This is awesome because if your child is screaming, there are no glacial stares/eye darts being thrown your way.  Stella actually did phenomenal and only cried a little bit a handful of times, but a little 6 month old baby behind us had a little rougher time.  It never failed that as soon as Stella would drift off to sleep, the baby behind us would start wailing, waking Stella up again.  It all turned out okay though and I met 3 really nice Army wives that were traveling by themselves to different bases in Korea.

We landed at Misawa AFB, deplaned and were held in quarantine, which meant we weren’t allowed to leave one small room, which only had one bathroom.  Our layover was 2.5 hours and we picked up more passengers at Misawa, replacing the ones who got off.  When all was said and done and we landed at our final destination in Suwon, got bused to Osan AFB (Osan is generally the destination but they are doing runway construction, so we had to go to Suwon), got our luggage (minus our stroller that they lost), went through customs and immigration, it was 25 hours after we had woken up and we still had 3 hours of driving to arrive at Kunsan AFB, where Bobby is stationed.  At least Bobby came to Osan to pick us up and we were both really happy to see his face.  I don’t think I could have taken another trip with Stella and all our baggage by myself.  I was absolutely exhausted!

Although Stella was stellar on the flight, the following week was an absolute disaster.  The 8 hour time difference from the west coast proved to be very difficult for her and I was up every night for 6 straight nights from about 1:30am-5am.  Her nights and days were all messed up.  It was made worse by the fact that we didn’t have a stroller because I couldn’t take her out in the sunlight, the number one way to get her on the right time zone.  Bobby was also working really long hours (12-18 hours) and I had a couple days where I broke down, wondering what I was doing with an infant who didn’t sleep…. in a dorm room…. by myself.  Needless to say, multiple people told me it would get better and it certainly has.  She is back on her regular sleep schedule and I’ve met a few girls, which makes the days a little less lonely while Bobby is at work.

Our first weekend was filled with extra naps and a visit to Eunpa Lake Park, which is only about 6 miles away from Kunsan AFB near the city of Gunsan (I know, why is one a “G” and the other “K”?).  It’s a really nice lake with a walking/jogging/biking path and a few really pretty bridges.  Eunpa means “silvery moonlit waves” and was named because of its particular beauty at night.  (We have yet to visit at night.)  I’m not sure the exact distance around the lake, but I think it’s somewhere between 5 and 7 miles, so it provides a pretty good walk.

Eunpa Lake with the main bridge in the background

Eunpa Lake with the main bridge in the background

Another bridge at Eunpa Lake Park

Another bridge at Eunpa Lake Park

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

They had different water lily species on display as well as some native grasses.  I never knew there were so many types of water lilies!

Pink water lillies

Pink water lilies

White water lilly

White water lily

Yellow water lilies

Yellow water lilies

Fuchsia water lily

Fuchsia water lily

We also spent a few days walking the perimeter of the base, which is also about a 6 mile walk.  I think it’s so strange here because you can walk across the flight line/runway, along the opposite side of the base and circle back on the south side of the base, again crossing an active runway.  At every other base I’ve been at, the runway has either been secluded from the rest of the base or had a fence around it.  The fact that the running path crosses it twice is just odd to me, but it sure offers some good eye candy when the guys are flying.  We walked it on the weekends, so I didn’t get any plane photos, but we did see a heck of a sunset!

Stella bean on our flight line walk

Stella bean on our flight line walk

Sunset on the flight line

Sunset on the flight line

The Koreans' simulator building

The Koreans’ simulator building

Stay tuned for our first actual days of travel, where we visited the Baekje Cultural Land near Buyeo and the Naesosa Temple in the Byeonsanbando National Park.  :)

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  1. […] also made the big trek to Korea, traveling for almost 28 hours with all the waiting, layovers and plane time.  I couldn’t […]