02.05.2009 - 03.05.2009
It was early on Saturday morning when we arrived at Melbourne airport to set Hilary off on her world discovery tour. We were all feeling a bit apprehensive, but she appeared to be calm and collected (even if she was not).
The day before I left, as I was packing everything, I couldn't stop myself from crying. It wasn't sadness, it wasn't exactly elation either- I think it was just emotional overload. The idea of leaving my boyfriend behind, my beautiful friends, my pets and everything that's familiar was both exciting and overwhelmingly daunting. Got to bed at 1:30. My alarm went off at 3:30. I had a knot in my stomach that Houdini couldn't have untangled.
Hannah, Rob, Mum and Dad came to the airport to see me off. At the Departure gates, mum started crying - I soon followed. Head spinning, blinded by tears, I walked through that gateway and into a room of strangers. It was like hitting a brick wall, having the realisation that I was actually alone, and would be for a long, long time
The woman sitting on the plane beside me was going to Croatia for a holiday. We chatted for hours, she was very kind, had some interesting tales to tell and settled my nerves. When we arrived in Hong Kong, she left, and again, I was alone. By some miraculous stroke of luck, I managed to get from one flight to the next. I remember sitting on the plane to Incheon, smiling in total astonishment that something hadn't gone stupidly wrong.
Transit in Korea
I arrived in Incheon (South Korea) in darkness, and followed all the Koreans down stairs, onto a train and up stairs to the baggage conveyor belt. We were all given face masks, due to the Swine Flu epidemic obviously, and with no access to English news, I didn't know whether I should be worried or whether this was slight overkill by Security. It was a little unnerving to stand in the train with hundreds of Koreans, all staring at the lone white girl, their faces covered. It was like some nightmare, where the evil doctor is chasing you with wide eyes and a face mask. Only there were hundreds of them! I stayed in a hotel overnight in Korea. I had expected the first night to be the hardest, but I was too tired to be worried.
Korea is a pretty beautiful place. Incheon is surrounded by plains, with a mountain range in the distance. All the gardens are manicured and trained- even the trees are held and twisted by ropes and sticks tied together in complex frames. I had breakfast at the airport- pumpkin-glazed rice with sultanas, pine nuts and some foreign fruit... if it was a fruit?
After crossing ocean, we reached China's agricultural plains- the crops were grown in long lines- from 10km up in the air, they looked like bar codes of brown and green. Greenness gradually faded into dust, until we were flying over desert. I chatted to a man from UB, who was a researcher, doing work related to global peace-keeping. Tiny rivers began to curl across the sandy, bare canvas, before mountains erupted from the plains. While Ulaanbaatar is not in the desert itself, it is very dry nonetheless- a lot of the water for the animals comes from natural springs.