KE 631 arrived at 23:40 local time, that would be at 11:40 pm, after around a 4.5-5 hr flight from Seoul, S. Korea, which was after a 14-15hr flight from Atlanta, and a short lay over at Seoul's airport. This airport is state-of-the-art, designed and laid out for the international traveler, and one of the better places that our team transits through. However, 14-15 hrs. on an airplane is a long time to spend in a close, confined space, and everyone is ready to get out and walk around some. The airport is loaded with the usual duty-free shops, and other places where you can find just about anything that might possibly be wanted. My impression is that, even though you can buy some things duty-free, there are few real bargains, and not many things that you couldn't buy cheaper at home from the Internet. So, let the buyer beware. Tom J. and I left the Hilton around 11:15 for the ten minute taxi drive to the airport, to meet our troops, along with Jade, one of the service staff from the hotel. Because of security constraints, we had to get special passes to be able to enter the terminal to meet everyone. As anyone traveling internationally knows, when you enter a foreign country, you have to pass through Immigration and Customs, where your passport is validated, and any taxable material goods declared so that the appropriate taxes can be paid. At times in the past, we have had some trouble with this, particularly in Belize, where even though the materials being brought by us into the country were for humanitarian purposes, and were going to be distributed free to the local folks without charge, we had to negotiate with customs officials what the taxes would be. Sometimes, this turned out to be a portion of the very goods we were transporting. I just chalk this up as the cost of doing business in that part of the world, but I wouldn't be surprised if our stuff didn't wind up on the black market in the local economy, where some local customs official profited from the "duty" that we paid. It's a shame that some governments don't think any more of their less fortunate citizens, that in essence, they don't see the irony of stealing the very things that would so greatly improve the quality of life of their most needy individuals, but rather, make a profit off them................................but, I digress.
Our guys arrived in good shape, seemingly no worse for the wear, made an uneventful check through, and loaded on a chartered bus for the trip to the hotel. The level of excitement was palpable. Tom J. and I both really look forward to this time. These are very special people and we love these guys to death. The Hilton had prepared a nice light meal for everyone ( it was now about 1:30 AM saturday morning). Some of us spent some time catching up on things, Melvin Washington and I talked until around 2:45. Then it was off to bed. Today was to be spent in R&R activities and resting up for tomorrow, and the rest of the week. Tom J. and I are both early risers, both of us usually up by 6 at the latest, but this morning, I didn't wake up until around 8:15, go figure....................Got up, showered, went to the executive lounge for coffee and a late breakfast. I have got to say a little bit about breakfast--this morning, I again had the "Eggs Benedict". Breakfasts here at this Hilton are the best that I have ever experienced in a hotel, anywhere, and as most readers know, I do get around. Anyway the eggs are beaten to a fluffy consistency that is light, fully 3/4 inch thick, lighter than air, and topped with a hollandais sauce that is then flame seared and lightly browned. The english muffin base is so fresh and chewy--melts in the mouth. The chef that prepares this is an ARTISTE!!!We also have the spectrum of fresh fruits and pastries. This island is noted for the quality of its mangoes. They truly are to die for, and we never have any that come close to this quality at home. But,...............I digress. Checked my e-mail(only had 99 notes to deal with, most of which was garbage, but there was some important stuff as well). Then was able to Skype BC and spend some quality time with her. Toward the end of this session, my daughter Carrie, in Austin, Texas logged on, and I was able to visit with her and her family for a few minutes. I have to say, Skype is one of the great inventions of our time. I am able to sit at my little netbook,using a free wifi link, and have a face-to-face video conversation with my loved ones back home, from anywhere in the world, for as long as we want to talk--free! It just doesn't get much better than that. In the early ISLP days, we would sometimes be isolated for weeks with no outside communication ability, but now, I can have instant communications back home, and it is truly wonderful.
Most of our guys have spent the day just resting and lounging around. Some took advantage of the lagoon off the beach to do some snorkeling or swimming, some took advantage of the wonderful beach refreshment service, superb drinks, and iced towels to cool down with after sun bathing, others napped, and so forth. It is about 5:30 pm as I write, and will soon be heading down to the beach, where the hotel has prepared a special treat for us later tonight.
Now, lest the reader get the idea that all we do is have fun on these trips, this is all the calm before the storm. Tomorrow, we will relocate to the Ford's Inn, which, although quite comfortable, is several notches below the Hilton, and much closer to our work sites. Tomorrow afternoon, I and my students, will be going up into the mountains to Paril, where we will set up our field dental clinic, organize our equipment, instruments and supplies, and get ready to start seeing our patients monday morning. It will be a busy, exhausting day, and tomorrow night we will all sleep, really well. So, until later.....................................................
Submitted by Thomas J. Clark, DMD