Excited and slightly tired, I got off the plane into a very busy terminal. Everyone seemed to be in a rush. I had to figure out where I was headed next, so I paused for a moment and pulled out my boarding pass from my backpack. I realized that the ‘boarding pass’ didn’t have a gate number or the terminal number on it. So I headed out to find the Korean airlines service center to figure out my Terminal. I actually didn’t even know what terminal I was in, because it wasn’t on my boarding pass either. It took me a while but eventually I ended up in front of a desk that said Korean air. The representative behind the counter was really helpful and she helped me get a new boarding pass with everything in it including my gate number. She also told me what direction I was supposed to go. So I headed there, got through the security and ended up in the Terminal I was supposed to be in. That’s the part I remembered very well because I had been in that terminal a couple of times before. I don’t know what time it was in Korea at the time, but the terminal itself looked almost empty and things were starting to close. I was really tired and I wanted to check out the sleeping/quiet area before I went for the food. To be honest, I was really hungry as well. Though I had already been to that airport 2 times, I had no idea that the airport had a really cool sleeping area. And, though it’s small it’s definitely one of the best quiet zones/sleeping areas in all the airports I have been to.
When I reached there, all the ‘beds’ were taken. So, I turned around and went to look for food. Only to realize that everything had closed. The terminal was even quieter than before. As I dragged my carryon across the floor I could hear the wheels squeaking. I had seen a Starbucks on the way that was open, but I was looking for an actual meal. Korean food would’ve been nice. In the end, I ended up going to a 7 Eleven. It was one of the prettiest 7 Eleven I have ever been to. The arrangement of items looked beautiful, it was almost like an art. It was so bright there, it added an effect to the cleanliness of the room. Since that was one of the few places that was open, there were a bunch of people in the line waiting to pay. I stood in the line with a bottle of orange juice and a sandwich. About 15 people later, it was my turn. As soon as I got there, the person behind the counter said “No US dollars”.
And I did not have any Korean Won. I had thought about converting the dollar into Won before I left the sleeping zone but sadly none of the money exchanges were open. So after staying in the line for about 12-15 minutes, I had to put all the food down and leave 7 Eleven because I didn’t have Won. I did have my debit card with me but I didn’t want it to get flagged because I was out of zone and I forgot to let my bank know that I would be traveling.
The only choice I had was starbucks. I headed to starbucks and got a sandwichy thing and a hot chocolate. Good thing about Starbucks is that it’s less than a minute walk from the sleeping zone. So after the food, I went back to the sleeping zone to see if anything opened up.Luckily it did!
I can’t sleep on cars or planes. Which meant I had been awake for more than a day. And I had another 21 hours to spend at the airport. On a sadder note, while trying to sleep on the plane as I rested my head against the windows, I broke my glass and one of the rest of my glass was broken. So I was walking around this airport with a glass that supported only one side.
Finally I got to sleep for a bit. Well, I ended up sleeping for around 7 hours. When I woke up, the whole area was still silent. I called home, checked twitter for updates and went back to sleep again.
I woke up about 2-3 hours later and I think I was done sleeping by then. So I headed out, went to Starbucks and got a coffee. By that time, the sun was up and I could see outside. I had a very crucial next few hours, I ebirded before leaving the US but I needed a checklist in Korea to keep my streak going. I was on a 292 day checklist streak. It would have been sad to lose the streak. But it was pretty challenging to find a bird out of the terminal, though I had a pretty good view of the outside. So, right next to the Starbucks, I sat down on the airport chairs and stared outside for a long time. I had checked the ebird to see if people have reported birds in that area and for sure there were checklists and birds seen. The area I was in had crows and magpies reported. So, even if it was a slim hope, I did have some hope. Morning turned to day and nothing! I had a few books with me that I was hoping to read, but I was so fixated on finding that one bird. I didn’t even take the book out. Went to starbucks a few more times. Actually, before that, I think I only had Starbucks 3 times. But, in Incheon Airport, I had Starbucks at least 5 times. I had lost all hopes and I was thinking about starting a new checklist from Nepal and getting to 365 days again. At that time, behind this huge boeing, I saw something move. A black/bluish bird with a long tail!! The magpie! Oriental Magpie! Lifer number 452!
Checklist Number 293! Checklist streak continued!
I swear that was a good moment. If I had lost the checklist streak, I’d have started it again and it’d have been fine. But the whole idea of finding a bird out of a terminal was insane and fun. I don’t think I have the courage to take the risk out of the terminal again, now that I am on 640 days of checklist and probably will be nearing 1000 days of streak by the time I get to go home. So my plan is to, whatever route I take, get out on the transit and bird that area, add some lifer and a different country bird!
The terminal stay in Incheon was fun after that. Even though I lost the lens from my glasses a few hours later and was basically walking around with poor eyesight. That magpie was worth all the trouble. One of my favorite lifers for sure!
P.S. I did put maple syrup on my hand thinking it was Sanitizer (at the starbucks)
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