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Departure

I met my family at check-in at JFK. My father, step-mom, mom, step-dad, grandmother, Aunt, and cousins were there; a big Jewish family, converging to see one of their own off on an adventure. The last time this happened to me, I had finished my senior year in high school and was leaving to spend a year studying at a seminary in Israel. This departure felt different. Israel was something familiar. I knew Hebrew, and being raised Jewish, it was a land full of my people. It was the Jewish homeland. I knew the language, and could easily get around the entire country. It was also the only place my family ever traveled to anymore because my sister, brother-in-law, and their two kids lived there. Israel was the fated homeland, the place where all the Jewish people would someday converge on when the Messiah arrived, and here I was, off to a foreign land where they spoke the language that I did not know. Where I would be the foreigner in a land that I had no idea how to navigate. To me it was exhilarating, to my family, it was terrifying.

            While waiting at the gate, saying our goodbyes, a large group of green suited, pretty flight attendants passed by us. They were Korean, very pretty, all smiling and chatting. As they passed, my mom instinctively said, “We’re no
t in Kansas anymore.” They were used to American or Israeli flight attendants and this was something completely new to them. We said our final goodbyes, hugged, and I went through the security check-in, looking back often to wave as I waited to go through.

When I got to the gate, almost everyone was Korean and it finally hit me that I was becoming the foreigner. The announcements at the gate were first in
Korean, then in English, and this protocol continued on the plane as well. I boarded and sat. The young girl next to me was watching a movie on a device I’d never seen before, a Sky Vega, which I’d never heard of and guessed was a Korean electronics manufacturer. To my left, a friendly Korean man who let me
borrow his pen when I needed it for my customs form.

Once we were airborne and at a safe altitude, the flight attendants brought us our first meal, which was bebimbap. Rice and Korean vegetables and a spicy chile paste, along with a fishy soup and fruit. I remarked on the meal, so different from the airline meals I regularly ate. The flight path we took surprised me, as I looked up at the map on the front screen, I noticed that instead of going straight west, we went north up through Canada to the top of the globe, then west, then down though Russia, China, along the West coast of Korea, and then entered from the West into Incheon. It’s my guess that this course was taking so as to follow the tradewinds, but since I don’t have internet on the flight, I can’t be certain. ( I can get access to email, but it’s expensive).

While over China, I looked down on the landscape below us at an unfamiliar land, The hills and valleys unfamiliar, I looked around me on the plane at a people around me that are unfamiliar. Upon our descent, they played a Unisef video encouraging travelers to donate their money to help child poverty in Africa. We touched down easily and then I was in Korea!!

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I remember when you first had this idea years ago. It’s crazy that you’ve already left. I’m happy for you man. I can’t wait to read about what all the things you’ll be doing. I’m also really glad you started a blog. You better believe I’m going to sign up for updates so you better keep it updated!! Safe travels…

  2. Rob
    August 21, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Dude this is awesome. Bookmarking!

    -Rob

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