Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So it turns out I didn't miss America that much.

After 11 hours of sleepless trans-Pacific travel yesterday, I arrived at LAX only to be greeted by a barrage of American unfriendless and impatience. 

It was 6am, but my brain thought it was 1am tomorrow, so I was in a fog.  When I got to Passport Control, all of the lines I saw said "Visitors."  Note: In every other country I've been to in the past two years, there have been two lines at Passport Control.  EU and Non-EU, Australia/New Zealand and everywhere else; you get the idea.  To my mind, asking whether it was the right line was not an absurd action.

When I approached the woman in charge of directing people and asked her whether these were the lines for citizens, she yelled in my face, "Do you see all these lines!  Get in a line!  Look at all the lines!  Just get in any line where there's no other people!"  Literally, screamed at me.

I was so taken aback that I said (calmly), "Yes, I see the empty lines, but they say 'Visitors.'  You didn't answer my question.  Are they also for citizens?"

To this she screamed, "Do you see them?!  Do you see all the lines?  Look, there's no one at half of them!"  So, again, she didn't answer my question. 

I responded (still calmly -- I was impressed with myself), "You still have not answered my question.  I don't understand why you're so upset."  I walked away while she ripped into me again.

After the ease of check-in and security on my New Zealand domestic flights (you only have to get to the airport 30 minutes in advance -- it hearkened back to the days when non-passengers were allowed to accompany loved ones through security or meet family members at the gate), I was a bit floored by the intensity of security at LAX.

First of all, I had already gone through security TWICE before boarding my flight to the U.S.  That's right, I had to go through (not-laid-back international) New Zealand security, which included a routine pat-down with a wand and taking a sample from my bag.  THEN, I had to go through extra security at my gate due to U.S. policy.  This was extra annoying because Dr. BF had come to the airport early with me so we could have a nice (well, airport nice) meal together before parting ways, but 30 minutes before my boarding call the departure screen listed my flight as in its 'Final Call.'

As a result, I rushed to the gate in a panic, had to say goodbye to my bf in a real hurry, went through stupid second security, and then sat at the gate for another 20 minutes while they delayed boarding.  Effing 'Final Call' bullshit.

So then I get to LA, and I have to do it all over again.  After the mean lady and Passport Control yelled at me and I picked up my bag and dropped it off again, I stood in line for at least 30 minutes to get through security.  Several people cut in front of me because they had flights leaving soon.  I didn't mind this, I wasn't in a hurry.  I let one man in front of me and gave him some space to take off his shoes (I had already unpacked my stuff into the buckets).  I thought this was reasonable.  The man behind me didn't.  "Ma'am," he said, "Ma'am, go.  You can go."  The words weren't forceful, but the tone and attitude were.

I guess I hadn't noticed how stressed out people are here until I left and came back.  I have to admit, that's ofter how I feel at airports, like my flight is the most important and why should I have to wait in line?  But I've kind of gotten over it.  And I certainly don't voice it. 

There are a lot of things to whine about in other countries, but I have to say, people generally aren't in such a hurry.  And I'll miss that.

Oh no oh no oh no

Is this for real?

does not a storyline constitute.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday!  Well, it is in New Zealand, where I am.  It's still yesterday where most of  you are.

I'm 25 today.  I don't usually talk about my age because I always seem to be running with a crowd much older or younger than myself, but 25 seems significant.  A quarter of a century!   And I'm in Wellington,  which is pretty exciting.  No Conchord sightings yet.

The trip to Aussieland and NZ has been whizzing by, and I can't believe I'll be in New York on Monday.  We were in Melbourne for almost a week, but it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that I was in Australia as we were kind of constantly on the move. 

We were there for Dr. bf's brother's wedding, which was in Mornington, just south of Melbourne.  The wedding and reception were good, and I busted some awesome moves on the dance floor, earning me the John Travolta Saturday Night Fever Award.  Yes, this was a real thing, and I did win it.  And it wasn't fixed!  A friend of the bride's (no acquaintance of mine) judged the competition, and we didn't even know it was happnening at the time.

We've been in New Zealand for the last week and a half.  The GD and I stayed with his lovely mum in Christchurch for several days before heading off on a brief roadtrip around the South Island.  We went to Dunedin (where he went to university), Te Anau (beutiful lake and trails for hiking), and Milford Sound, which is part of Fiordland (not a typo, just a silly spelling choice) National Park, where we kayaked with a guided group on the sound. 

We also spent a good deal of time with the GD's sister and hubby and their three adorable boys.  Needless to say, his family is awesome and we had a great time.

We got into Wellington two nights ago, and it looks like it's shaping up to be a slightly sunnier day than yesterday, so some exploration into town is in order.  We stayed with friends of Mark just outside the city last night and were treated to delicious (birthday) French toast for breakfast. 

We've done so much in the past two and a half weeks, and I can't possibly cover even a fracture of it in this short post, but I wanted to check in.  One more night here, then it's up to Auckland for two nights, then off to NYC!  I can't believe how quickly it's all gone, but that's the way with vacation.  More detailed accounts of adventures to follow.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Expensive Mistakes

Adventure!  We (the GD and self) and in the Hong Kong airport on a short layover.  In a few minutes we'll be boarding our second (super long) flight to Melbourne.

So, did you know you needed a visa to go to Australia?  I didn't!  The good news is they're free and you can apply online.  The bad news is if you are ignorant of this policy and your boyfriend is from New Zealand (the only country exempt from the policy) and no one tells you until you are checking in at the Qantas counter, you will have to pay £25!  And that is like a million US Dollars!

Expensive lesson learned.  Btw, Qantas is an awesome airline that serves many kinds of food (including Twix ice cream bars!) and has movies on demand.  So far I've watched It's Complicated (adorable -- Meryl Streep stoned is the best) and Avatar -- slightly less impressive on a 6-inch screen). 

It is sometime in the morning now, but my brain doesn't know that, so I'll probably be sleeping as soon as we get on board.  And then eating some more delicious food.  And watching more movies.

Also, Hong Kong airport is probably one of the best-organized airports places I've ever been.  Friendly people with perfect English and informative signs press color-coded stickers to your lapel (on, you know, shirt) as you get off the plane and direct you to your connection.  It feels a little like kindergarten, but this is comforting in an unfamiliar place and without a real sense of what time it is. 

They're starting to board now!  Got to go!