MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 124
DEPART PERTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (PER) 4.25 PM SATURDAY JUNE 27
ARRIVE KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KUL) 10.05 PM SATURDAY JUNE 27

MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 9072
DEPART KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KUL) 11.45 PM SATURDAY JUNE 27
ARRIVE INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (ICN) 7.25 AM SUNDAY JUNE 28

My visa has cleared, my passport is in the post on its way back from Canberra, and I booked my tickets this morning. I’m flying to South Korea on Saturday. 72 hours from now I’ll be hunting for a universal electrical outlet adaptor (which I cannot find ANYWHERE in Perth) at the airport in KL. 82 hours from now I’ll be meeting my employers and fellow teachers in Eupyeong-gu. 107 hours from now I’ll be facing down a classroom full of Korean tykes as part of my vaguely defined “training… day.” No, not plural – day.

It’s not quite as exciting/daunting as it might be, partly because it’s still so incomprehensible, and partly because I’m pre-occupied with a sudden medical situation that reared its monstrous head a few days ago. I’m not going to go into details, but suffice to say that I spent a very stressful 24 hours googling symptoms and self-diagnosing, and convinced myself of what I had – a condition that would dramatically affect my ability to live a normal life. I had a pretty sleepless Monday night and woke up at 8.00 am (my equivalent of 4.00 am), spent five hours pacing around the house before my doctor’s appointment, and another hour sitting in a waiting room plastered with swine flu alerts, marinating in my own awful anxiety.

But it turns out it’s probably not what I thought it was! What it is is still pretty unpleasant, and definitely not something I want to be suffering from while starting a new job in a foreign country, but it’s not permanent and compared to what I thought I’d contracted it’s like receiving the Miles Franklin Award. Well, my doctor is 99% sure it’s not what I thought it was. He’s put me on antibiotics and my blood test results come back on Friday. Fun fun fun! This couldn’t have happened at a more convenient and opportune time!

Anyway, enough about my hypochondria. I had a family dinner tonight to say goodbye to some of my relatives. There’s a popular conception amongst backpackers that they are hip, cool adventurers following in the footsteps of Magellan and da Gama, laughing off the naive, panicky considerations of the typical American slobs back home who think the whole world is one big warzone. That always struck me as arrogant. I didn’t think anyone actually believed that it was dangerous to travel to Thailand or that you’d get kidnapped if you went to South Africa; these people were just fabricated in backpackers’ minds so they could believe they really were doing something dangerous and exotic and pretend they were James Bond.

But my elderly aunts and grandparents proved me wrong! Here are some of the more amusing quotes:

“Be careful what you write in emails and stuff – you don’t want to get thrown in jail.”

“Don’t go out too much… they can tell you’re not one of them.”

“I don’t think you should be going, what with all this North Korea stuff.”

And the prize quote, a hilarious example of bald-faced, unwittingly offensive xenophobia:

“Do you feel comfortable around Asians?”

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