Erfurt!

Nov. 21st, 2005 09:45 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Super quick update.

Am in Erfurt. Was nauseous in the morning, so was rather moody, but got better.

Got to see the Wartburg castle - so pretty! Majorly long walk though, argh. I`m surprised I sisn`t sprain my foot again.

mmm tomato soup and hot chocolate.

Am staying with Dee Ann - woo hoo! this should be fun.

Going to another concentration camp tomorrow. Yipes.

And...I´m out.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Just very quickly -

I'm in San Diego right now, rooming with Miho from Japan. (Yay!)

We got a gay couple this week - Tim, one of the Local Organizing Committee members, and his partner Randy. (w00t!)

I'm not sure our new bus driver knows what he's doing; he can be a bit condescending at times. (Boo!)

Nina apparently has a crush on Viggo Mortesen. (adoi...)

My stomach is not adjusting well to this change of food. (Ow...)

I have emails from my two WorldSmart buddies from last seemster - Keaunis of the US and Manuela from Germany. (Huzzah!)

That's all.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
3rd chunk:

Now That I'm Here

The one thing I did not expect to happen while on arrival would be to walk into a film set. And yet that is exactly what had happened.

I, somewhat lost and looking for my uncle, went to the arrivals hall - what greeted me were giant lights and cameras and people with signs going "Welcome Home Leila! Happy Birthday!" and balloons and roses. I was wondering which reality show were they filming now and whether this "Leila" person was on our flight. Hey, might explain the Daniel Bedingfield lookalike.

It took a while before I found my uncle. And it was then that I figured out what was up with the film crew - a movie named Shanghai Kid is being recorded at the airport. There were huge signs next to the door (they weren't put up yet) saying that there's a movie being filmed, do know you're on camera. I don't think they've started filming when I came up, but if you watch the movie and see a somewhat lost girl with a pile of bags...you know who...

The arrivals process itself was OK, if somewhat unfriendly. I was at the wrong immigration counter (I was at the one meant for citizens) and got sent off to one for visitors. The officer there was all right, but rather formal - he asked me what I was doing here, what course was I doing, where was I studying. Gave me entry for six months. He then took scans of my index fingers and my retina. I was warned about them beforehand, but the retina scan was so quick that I barely even noticed anything being scanned.

There were two luggage carousels for our flight; it was kind of confusing trying to keep an eye on two carousels at once. I thought my bags had arrived, but before they reached my side of the carousel, they were gone.

It was at the second carousel (after the first one stopped spitting bags) that I found my bags, as well as the Bangladeshi couple. I heard them talk to each other in Bengali, and then noticed their Bangladeshi address on their baggage, so I talked to them for a while. (Something inherited from my mother.)

They weren't the only Bangladeshis I bumped into that day.

I was waiting at the customs counter when I suddenly hear the customs officer ask me "Are you Bengali?" in Bengali. He saw the "Bangladesh" entry next to my nationality, and he conducted the whole thing in Bengali. He let me go (he just wanted to know what the heck I was doing here and in Malaysia) but it was still kinda jarring. I've travelled across continents and I hear language used in my family. Odd.

The second customs officer was very straight-to-the-point - "OK, go that way". Not friendly at all. Oi.

My uncle took me back home via the SuperShuttle - shuttle buses that take you from your home to the airport and vice-versa. Fare per person was on the high side...US$20+...that's about RM80! Might as well fly to your house if it's going to cost that much...

We were accompanied in the Shuttle by a few other passengers, including one from Venezuela who was doing a recording of the whole thing for his brother. The trip itself was pretty interesting - a raised round purple restaurant (serves alien food, I'd imagine), biker dudes with LOUD speakers blaring R&B music, a tarot shop right in front of a Catholic church, Little Koreas and Spains popping up here and there...

My uncle's apartment turned out to be in the Little Korea area. Kind of - they were surrounded by Korean buildings and establishments. Most of the neighbours were either Korean or Spanish. (It was unfortunate that I heard a major racial slur yelled by one of the neighbours against the Koreans this morning.) It was a simple one bedroom apartment (the living room became a second bedroom) - modest, but livable. And worth getting used to, since this will pretty much repeat itself over the course of the 19 or 20 weeks ahead.

I think my uncle here is a cousin of my mother's. He and his wife are doing science-related post doctorates; they met in university in Japan. They have two sons; Picasso, two years younger than me but an absolute genius and a half, and Priyo, a seven-year-old that cracks me up hardcore. He wants to be a scientist but he's got more of a future as a comedian.

I slept at around 1 am last night...woke up at 5 this morning, partly because the giant fan had been turned off. (My sleep gets affected if the electricity goes off anytime in the midst of my sleeping.) I couldn't get back to sleep again, even though I was really tired. I saw the sun rise; early, but quite quick.

Everyone got up at around 6 or 7, and we had breakfast together. All sorts of things - hash browns (yum), wheat cereal (urgh), some other things I can't remember. And then I was left alone.

Los Angeles can be quite boring if you're home alone with no one to talk to.

I spent most of the day online, watching television...those old episodes of Newlyweds and Love Connection are disturbing. Very obvious cases of date abuse and spousal abuse and disrespect, and they're laughing over it. There was also a zanier quality to the older gameshowes though...everyone was natural, not prissied up and trained for TV.

My aunt came back later and took me to the Children's Hospital, where she works. While she was at her meeting, I walked around...it was nicely-decorated, with giant alphabet blocks and trees and book tables and all sorts of fun kid stuff. The gift shop had some faery greeting cards, some of which I've seen before online...but nice! Faeries are always good.

I felt really out of place though, whether at the hospital or on the buses that brought us there...fish out of water; me out of my own element. Very strange.

We encountered the "unfriendly LA person" again while at the 99 Cent store. I was looking for a body towel (I couldn't find mine) and a prepaid calling card. When trying to figure out options for cards, the cashier was very surly and uncooperative. "They're all the same, why should you bother?" Not exact words, but exact attitude.

What's the matter with people? Is politeness a lost virtue now?

I'm back home now. I'm probably missing a lot of details here, but I really should get back to sleep. Tomorrow is my last day (for now) in LA; on Saturday I'm flying off to Denver.

And then everything starts.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I've had some sleep (ok, 4 hours) and it's about 8:25 in the morning here. Everyone's gone off for their own work so I'm home alone.

Here's the second chunk:

On The Flight

I was seated in the first Economy Class row - originally 26C, right opposite where the flight attendants sit. However, there was another guy that came in and had my seat too. (He shall henceforth be known as Double-Seated Guy, or DS Guy for short.) The flight attendents checked out passes, and it turns out my seat got swapped - so now I was at 26A, right behind the exit.

Quite an interesting spot, that.

The first leg of the flight was to Taipei - 4 hours flight, pretty much like flying to Dhaka. (Incidentally, I encountered a couple from Bangladesh on the flight - will elaborate on this later.) In our row:

Me, checking out the view while contemplating using the exit shelf as a temporary table. Well, not really. But I took out the inseat table as soon as I can and started writing in my journal - I needed something to do.

Middle Guy 1, who spent the whole flight watching movies (Beauty Shop, and something else with Jimmy Fallon). Incidentally, Malaysian Airlines are airing Sepet this month, but only to routes in Australia, UK, and Africa. Sigh.

DS Guy, who is quite the cutie spent quite some time looking out the exit window, admiring the view. We chatted for a while. He also spent a lot of time studying the GMAT - turns out he's starting on a Masters degree soon. Whoa. He's also travelled around the world - Peru, Brazil, Thailand, all sorts of places.

The leading flight attendant for this leg was a lady named Precious - heavy blue eyeshadow, seemingly British until she launches into her very Malaysian-Indian accent. Like Asha when she's making a point. She could have been either very hilarious or very patronizing...but we didn't interact long enough to find out.

We had a "light snack" (more like something that makes up for lunch) - chicken, fish, or curry. I took the fish; eh, it was OK. It tasted like it was swimming in oyster sauce - not bad doe me, as I eat oyster sauce on occasion. mmm umami.

Then we had the best after-meals snack ever - ICE CREAM! Crunch - vanilla icecream with a crunchy chocolate centre and cover. I turn into a little kid when given icecream...come on, who doesn't?

We stopped over in Taipei around 8 pm for about an hour. Already I was being bombarded with text messages from Maxis and FarEasTone (Taipei's telco provider) - apparently I can get free weather reports, and now's the time to activate GPRS on my phone. There was an Internet section, but you needed your own computer, and it wasn't clear on how exactly you were expected to pay for it. The only store worth visiting - the bookstore, of course - was closed; however, they did have a rather intriguing store that was connected to their Museum of History.

We all hung around the departure lounge for a while. Security checks were normal - I did set off the metal detector, and the guard thought I still had my cellphone with me, but I showed him the phone on the Xray carousel and he let me through.

There is a Daniel Bedingfield lookalike on our flight.

The next leg - Taipei to LA, 11 hours or so. It seemed faster than before; last time, it took about 24 hours. Or at least it felt that way. Still, 11 hours straight on an airplane can get boring.

We had a new Middle Guy (2), who brought along a book titled "50 Facts That Should Change The World". He too spent the flight watching movies. He was also sniffly; and now, thanks to him, I have a blocked nose too. Bah.

I spent most of the flight reading my downloaded materials on my PDA. I couldn't spend long hours on it though; my eyes started to hurt. I did spend some time playing trivia games (since when was a question on Little Women considered "Science"?!) - DS Guy wanted to play multiplayer with me, but it wasn't working.

Another leading stewadress, Lee Ling, complimented me on my rainbow toe socks. YAY SOXES.

We had fish again for dinner! Not our choices this time; they ran out of choices. The fish was mediocre, not even umami. I'll be darned if we have to take fish again for brunch.

The immigration papers were a bit confusing, mainly because there wasn't enough space for all my pertinent information. And I wasn't sure how to value the host family gifts I brought over (you have to provide the value of anything you're bringing over to the US that's staying there - gifts included). I eventuallyw wrote that they were all worth about US$40, but even that seemed a bit much.

Sleeping was an experience in and of itself. I didn't have a lot of legroom, and there was that exit shelf in the way. After trying to twist into various positions, I eventually tried putting my feet up on the shelf. Whee, slippery - and whee, I'm too short. But what to do? I had to fall asleep somehow.

The skies made very interesting patterns. There was bluer-than-blue sky below, then light blue and white slies on top, split in the middle by a brilliant orange sunset. (DS Guy alerted me to it) It was like nature's idea of a straight line...perhaps not completely straight mathematically, but perfect. LAter on, as the sky got darker and we went towards night, there was this lone star...small little jewel on a velvet blue sky.

Taiwan at night looks like an electric lung. The island is shaped like one...there were dust-red capillaries of its lifeblood, traffic and people...its cells, the skyscrapers and buildings, lighted up with activity.

The clouds look like swans.

We were reaching Los Angeles, and there was something curious about the cloud system there. Apparently, due to the water being cold but the land being hot (LA is a desert city), clouds don't cover the land. This creates an interesting effect when viewed from an airplane - it looks like there are lands that come up to sky level. Like another world.

LA by plane is an experience in itself. There are sprawling deserts and mountains...one wonders how they travel back and forth amongst all that dust and sand. There were also squares and rectangles of grass, desert, concrete...and nothing else. Just squares and rectangles of space. SO MUCH SPACE.

There were also interesting seeing the patterns of the buildings - huge sprawling mansions and multi-level buildings, constrasted by blocks and rows and small little houses. One of them belonging to my uncle; another, to my future host family.

There was quite a buildup at the washrooms just before we landed. We almost formed a Bathroom Brigade right there and then. One of the stewards was in charge of cleaning out the sinks; it must be a sight, walking out of the washroom door only to be confronted by a guy in a suit and plastic gloves.

Brunch was spinach omelettes with tomatoes, chicken, and hash browns. Much better.

The descent looked like we were going to land on the highway. Illusions are interesting in the air.

The flight felt very freeing...I was alone, I had to fend for myself, but it was alright. I didn't need anyone, I wasn't homesick, I wasn't worried. I didn't have to depend on anyone to get by.

Everything was fine.

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