Archive for the ‘Flights’ Category

Getting There is None of the fun. In fact it’s Quite an Ordeal

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A person who clearly never flew 14 hours non stop across the Pacific Ocean once said,  “Getting there is half the fun”

Well after the marathon of flight that has compromised the past two days of my existence I sincerely hope that getting there was in no way any portion of the fun of this trip.

Friday 9 am EST

After only having slept for 3 hours due to a marathon of packing and panicking I was awoken by my mother and my next door neighbor coming into my room. I tried to go back to sleep after this disruption but it was not to be. I ventured downstairs and crawled into bed with mom.

Fri 11:30 am EST

Binh came over. Bless him, for it took the two of us another hour to go through my luggage and pair it down to the bare essentials since I was only allowed to have 2 checked bags 50lbs each and one carry on.  And since I am so utterly female in my packing abilities this included far more shoes than I will wear, and easily a pound worth of dangly earrings. So like I said, essentials only. Bihn left all too soon and then(mom wanted to leave for the airport at noon so I guess this is a matter of opinion) it was time for the airport.

Fri 2:30 pm EST

The Lapointe family loads into the minivan and drives to Dulles. Dad makes crude comments and wild arm motions at every driver we pass. Mom scolds and attempts to drive from the passenger seat. Julie laughs hysterically and I snidely comment. So you know, the usual. We arrive at the airport, check in, and then my father, wanting a beer, steers us to the only restaurant in the airport and we all proceed to order way overpriced airport food.

Fri 5:15pm EST

Mom and Julie and I take one last bathroom break before I leave for the shuttle. Once all three of us are in the womens restroom we realize that we have left my father unattended (he must remain under close supervision at all times, ESPECIALLY in public places) . We then hurry out to find him playing hide and seek in the waiting lounge. He wasn’t very good at it though, we found him. I hug my family goodbye and turn to mom to ask her if she is going to cry now. As the tears well up in her eyes she tells me to shut up and pulls me in tight for a hug. Clearly I am my mothers daughter for as she pulls away tears began welling up in my eyes too. After all these years I have of making fun of my mom for crying at the drop of a hat I’ll be damned if she didn’t genetically gift me weak tear ducts.

Fri 5:20-6:20 pm EST

Got through security without incident, lines were very short. Move on to the terminal. I had a few minutes to kill but then it was time to board. I’m seated in the very back of the plane on the aisle.

Fri 6:30 pm EST

Flight leaves Dulles. In flight movie is a depressing but ultimately unmoving and uninspiring documentary about how awful the education system is in the United States. I watch it anyway. This is followed by some re-runs of 30 Rock, which of course makes everything better. Tina Fey is good at that.

Sat 12:30 am EST (9:30 pm Pacific time)

After a good amount of turbulence and a nice chat with the man sitting next to me the flight lands at LAX. LA, unlike VA is cold and rainy. By the time I get off the plane my layover has become more of a run over. I find the terminal I need and then wait for the shuttle alongside many other students that are Australia bound.

Sat 10:15 pm Pacific time (          1:15 am EST)

Shuttle arrives and everyone who gets on it is speaking in an Australian accent. This thrills me. We taxi across the vast expanse of runway blacktop that is LAX and every so often I see a sign that says “Stop for Aircraft” I don’t know why these signs are necessary. I don’t know what ballsy tram driver with an urgent death wish decided to get involved in a game of chicken with a commercial sized passenger jet thus giving the airport a reason to install the signs. This though concerns and perplexes me all the way to the terminal.

Sat 10:30 PT

We arrive at the terminal and are told to board IMMEDIATELY. I refuse to pass up my last opportunity for the next 15 hours to use a real bathroom so I do and then board the plane. The plane is almost completely full by the time I get on it. I have a middle seat this time. GREAT. To my left is a young quiet Australian man who has a lovely accent and says “cheers” instead of thank you. To my right is a very sleepy blonde female German college student. She has just gotten off a nonstop flight from Munich Germany to LAX. Suddenly my life isn’t looking so bad by comparison.  I’m not even on the plane 15 minutes and we are taking off.

Hours 1-3.5 of the flight

I watch The Social Network and Going the Distance.  At somepoint duing The Social Network dinner is served, which seems odd since it isn’t dinner time in the pacific time zone, eastern time zone, or in Australia. When I booked my ticket I asked for a vegetarian option but somehow that request was not properly relayed. I end up eating basically salad and bread followed by some hot tea.

Hours 3.5-6

I spend some time bopping around through random movies. I watched Megamind, which was underwhelming. I started to drift off during it and I think I may have actually fallen asleep for about 20 minutes but I cant be entirely sure. If I did sleep that was the only sleep I got I watched some of 127 hours, well, more like I skimmed through it. It was 20 minutes of plot and character development and then an hour of him sitting with his arm stuck behind a rock and then (spoiler alert!) him cutting off his arm which I knew was going to happen going in.. All the while I was trying VERY hard not to look at the virtual flight tracker that shows you how much time is left in the journey. Six hours feels like a long time until you realize you have 8 more to go, I didn’t need to know that.

Hours 6-8

I have not moved from my seat since we boarded. The german girl has been in and out of sleep and the good looking Australian guy has been fast asleep for the past four hours. I am very jealous of their sleepy time. I am unable to sleep without being fairly horizontal, and since it was a coach class ticket this was not an option. I lament on this for a while, foolishly attempt to sleep in a few different positions and then pull out my laptop and start drafting this blog entry. I watch “Eat, Pray, Love” but having little patience for it ended up fast-forwarding through most of it. I attempted to watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” but it was subtitled and since I am trying to read the book right now I decided against watching the whole 2 hour movie.

Hour 9

I finally break down and check the flight tracker, knowing full well it is only going to disappoint me. Sure enough, we have 5 hours and 28 minutes left in the flight. Why did I do that to myself?

Hour 10-12

Watched the documentary “Freakanomics” which was really interesting. I think I will have to pick that book up for my summer reading. Despite my wired tiredness it managed to keep my attention.

Hour 13

Breakfast is served. This feels odd to me since in Eastern Time its midday Saturday but in Australia its very early Sunday morning and “brekkie” time.

Hour 14-15.5

At this point I can’t help myself and I am checking the flight tracker at 20 minute intervals. I also mess around with the tail camera view, which allows you to see the scenery from a camera mounted on the rear of the plane. I start to watch “Morning Glory” but before I could finish it the captain announces that we are about to begin our dissent. Even though I could have kept watching I was so excited to get off the damn plane that I could NOT focus on the movie. I gather up my stuff, turn off and put away my laptop and put my seat belt on LONG before it is asked of us. I am so pumped to not be on a plane anymore. German girl loans me a pen to fill out my declaration form and we talk for the last 30 minutes or so. The Australian guy next to me opens the window for the last 15 minutes and I am mesmerized by the harbor views as we fly in over Botany Bay. It is stunning. So lush and green. I do not feel tired (even though I have now gone 48 hours on 3 hours of sleep) I am just excited to A) get off the plane, B) see a piece of ground for the first time in 15.5 hours, and C) be that much closer to a shower and clean clothes.

We land.

First order of business- find a real bathroom. I wash my face, brush my teeth and feel leagues better. The german girl waits for me to finish and we leave together. We walk together to the baggage claim. She finds her bags….but I don’t. I am really starting to panic until I notice a number of other students standing around looking longingly and hopefully at the empty baggage conveyer belt. Me and four other girls are in the same boat. One girl is from Maryland, two from NY and one from Pittsburg. Instantly we are bonded over frustration and a lack of clean clothes. We are all directed to a woman who sends us to baggage claim services. The woman there explains that our bags did not make it on our flight but made it on the next flight out of LA and would arrive in an hour and a half. We register our bags with her and provide contact information and are told that they will be dropped off at our hotel. Getting through customs is quick and easy. Once out, we are met with the directors for the Study Australia group holding signs saying “The Education Abroad Network.” We are of course the last ones to arrive since it took so long to deal with baggage services.

We are directed to join a huge group of students already waiting outside in the 90+ degree weather (YES) we are given a brief rundown of what is going to happen and then board a charter bus to go into the city and check into our hotels.

So to recap: I AM FINALLY HERE. And I am so excited to be. The energy here is so vibrant and yet incredibly laid back The weather is beautiful and the scenery is more so. Sorry for a lack of images and an intense amount of text. Promise to be more reader-friendly next post. If you made it this far in the post, congratulations, you have survived my long winded-ness. I promise I will find a way to reward you someday.

Twas The Night Before Studying Abroad…

Friday, February 18th, 2011

It’s 4:13 am as I begin writing this post, which is to be the first of many to come. I have just finished a three hour second attempt at packing for this trip. I am sure there will be all sorts of re-shuffling and re-allocating tomorrow once I get my luggage on a scale and find out that I packed about 80 pounds too much.

My mother, well intentioned as she is, purchased me a duffel style bag that is properly sized for stashing bodies in for my trip, and in my late night fervor I have filled it completely. On top of another very large piece of luggage. Tragically airlines care not for the size of your checked luggage but rather for the weight. For this journey I am allowed 2 checked items, each weighing 50 lbs and one carry on.

I would put so much money on the fact that I am easily 40 pounds over that limit currently. Damn my female propensity to over pack. Damn it to hell.

It has been an odd thing all week to know this day was coming. Ever since I got out of school in early Dec I have been waiting for this trip. Talking about it, planning, packing, and waiting for it. All the days I spent sitting in my house rising at the crack of 3pm and splitting my time between the internet and the television I longed for the start of my south pacific adventure. When the snow began falling I day dreamed about a southern hemisphere summer filled with flip flops and bathing suits. And now, I find myself on the eve of this dream, which is about to come true and I am feeling a myriad of emotions.

Fear

Optimism

Anxiousness

Excitement!

and

Determination

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions all week, but today has been especially loopy. My flight leaves tomorrow at 6:15 pm from Dulles and I should be flying into LA around 9pm their time. Then its the long haul across the pacific ocean till 8am sunday sydney time. I think getting there, which is theoretically half the fun, might not be any fun this particular time.

Well its now 4:44 am and even though I am still fairly wired I think I am going to attempt sleep. For tomorrow (later today) is sure to be a flurry of packing, re packing, tears (from my mother) goodbyes, and last minute errands. Hopefully the flights go off without a hitch, heres to hoping. By the time I post next I will be the farthest away from home I could possibly ever get without going to Antarctica or the moon. That is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

It’s 8:42 pm in Sydney right now. So the way I look at it, I’m going to bed early.