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Monday, September 30, 2013

Full Circle

What goes around, comes around, they say.  I don't generally like those kind of pop Taoish karmic statements, like "It is what it is" and "Go with the flow" and "Be like water."  But there is some truth in them.

Just a little over a month ago, many months, years even, of planning culminated and I boarded my usual Korean Air flight to Seoul, to connect on to Beijing, and then to wherever.  I got to Honolulu International a little early, out of eagerness, thinking I would just relax in the lounge before embarking.  Who knew that hordes of Korean tourists would be returning home on an ordinary Thursday morning.  The lines were long, ticketing and security was slow, and only because someone in the line translated a Korean announcement for me, was I able to jump the queue because my plane was just about ready to go. Made the gate in decent time though, had a moment to send an email on my iPad before flying, settling into a very cramped window seat in a bank of three.  Nine hours in the air was made bearable by individual movie selections: I watched four Chinese films to get ready for my Wudang adventure.

Usually I'm one of those that waits until everyone else is off the plane before I exit, but by the time we landed in Seoul I was in Beijing-subway-mood: push, shove, there's a line, there's order?  Transited through another security and passport check at Incheon to make another tight connection to Beijing.  Maybe time for another airport-wifi-supported email on the iPad.

I reached in my bag and wasn't there!  In my haste to get off the first plane, I completely forgot that I had even gotten it out of my bag.  I told the ticket clerk what happened.  She would try to connect with the plane, on the other side of the terminal. But come boarding time, no luck.  My iPad, loaded with Tao e-books, Chinese dictionaries, photos to share, music, and at least one Korean Drama (the first 18 episodes of Jumong) was not to be found.

For several days my carelessness nagged me, but soon became a lesson in attachment, and finally I stopped lamenting, and even considered buying a new one in Beijing. 
Forbidden Fruit store near the Forbidden City
There is a huge Apple store in Wangfujing, the big shopping area next to the Forbidden City. It's a popular brand in China, as evidenced by this child's haircut, seen on the train, where practically everyone under 60 had an iPhone, or something even better.
The Apple of his mother's eye.
But getting a new iPad felt like buying a new puppy right after the old dog dies. I still had my iPhone, and updated the service so I could make calls and check email on it.  I was even able to post to Facebook from China, altogether a costly proposition, but still, it worked.  I consoled myself by recalling my last trip to China which was a delight, despite (or because of) breaking my camera on the third day of the trip.  It had been liberating, like losing my car radio.  Lessons in silence and the direct pleasures of the moment.

Still, once I returned home, I thought I would check Korean's Lost and Found website one more time.  They have a photo database of all items found on planes: an unbelievable number of cell phones, earphones, children's toys, pillows, books and other weird forgotten stuff.  They maintain the items for 90 days. Still a little attached to my electronic pet, I was pleasantly surprised: lo and behold, there it was.  After a few emails and a phone call to Korean, I got it back in Honolulu, all nicely bubble wrapped and packaged in a Korean Duty Free bag.

It was like a Korean Drama, really, with a happy ending. I had suggested that the iPad could be identified as mine (as if any other had been left on the same flight) by a red sticker on the case, a cat named Chairman Meow, representing a website,

What the South Koreans thought of a parody Mao cat is beyond imagining, but I did get the following emails:

**"REF.NO 9459 iPad KE072/30AUG goods are goods that are learned from. It also reaffirmed record and offered hope with photo please check the board."
**"I’m writing this e-mail to you on behalf of Korean Air Lost & Found Center at Incheon Airport. We see that there is a sticker of red cat "Obey the Kitty". 
**"We will send the item(ICN9459) to the Korean Air office in HNL airport through KE051/28SEP flight."

I was thoroughly impressed with the honesty and service of Korean Air, which I have been flying for years into Asia, watching as this once lowly carrier has become one of the best in the skies.

And now, iPad back in hand, I have a different feeling about my trip, which had been a little tainted by my careless stupidity.  Even now, the scams, cheats and pickpocketing I endured in Beijing seem trivial.  All is well. Everything is back where it started, and now I can review my trip.

And as Korean says: goods are goods that are learned from.  And I might add, "Obey the Kitty!"

Korean jet getting ready to leave Beijing for Seoul.

Day 1 in Beijing: it was remarkably clear, you could see the Western Hills all the way from Beijing West Rail Station.


Kittie Howard said...

Happy all worked out. We've flown Korean many times. I think it'll one day surpass Singapore Airlines.

It was very nice to see a clear photo of Beijing. It's past time they cleaned up their act.

baroness radon said...

Hi Kittie, hope your summer has been good too. There was at least one bad air day in Beijing when I was there, and a couple years ago I was utterly shocked in Hong Kong.

In the meantime..Obey the Kittie!