Met in the Lift

I’m supposed to write about 23rd August but then I cannot wait to write about 31 August so allow me to  jump to 31st August first before I go back to the 23rd.

Had breakfast at the hotel as usual.

Lunch…had Jet’s Pizza at the office.

It was just a normal working day for me in the US even though it was a public holiday back in Malaysia. It was a normal day until I came back from work and stepped into the hotel lift. There were only 2 of us in the lift and because he was Asian looking, I looked at him. He looked and asked if I am from Malaysia. I was already smiling then, feeling very excited because I knew he was most probably also from Malaysia.

“Yes. Are you from Malaysia too?”

I don’t remember if it was nod or a yes. The next question that came was…

“你会讲华语吗?“ (Do you know how to speak Chinese?)

“会!”. I smiled.

The lift ride was a short one because I stayed on the 2nd floor. We stood outside of the lift on the 2nd floor and started talking. I have no idea that I’ll be meeting another fellow Malaysian here. It is very comforting to meet someone from your own homeland in a foreign place.

The conversation ended in him asking me if I wanted to join him and his colleague for dinner. I agreed without even thinking. He also asked if I wanted to go jogging, he was about to go out. I didn’t bring any shorts nor pants suitable for jogging and I was hungry already so I declined.

As soon as I went into my room, I jumped. Still can’t believe what just happened.

I called my colleague to ask if he wanted to join me and my new friend for dinner.

“Is it a guy or a girl?”

“Why? If it’s a girl, you’re going and if it’s a guy, you’re not?” I asked.

“No, if it’s a guy then I’m going!”

I can’t help but laughed after I hang up. What he actually mean is if it’s a girl, I’m in safe hands. If it’s a guy, he thinks he better accompany me.

4 of us went out for dinner. He brought his colleague, I brought mine. We had Chinese food. After 10 days, I finally get to eat STEAMED WHITE RICE. It was a nice dinner because the place was operated by Chinese from China.

We went grocery shopping at Walmart after that before heading back to the hotel. My only thought then was that I wished we had met earlier because I only have like 3 nights left. The rest of the 2 nights were spent shopping after work since I’ll be flying off on the coming weekend and then one night I had to have dinner with my colleagues.

I didn’t get to say goodbye either. Called the night before I flew but there was no answer. Called the morning I’ll be flying but there was no answer. I didn’t have any of his contact or whatsoever and I know I won’t be able to contact him once I fly back to KL. Feeling a bit sad and but I’m glad that he started the conversation in the lift. Though it was short, it was memorable.

I will see you if I ever see you again.

How Are You?

I didn’t think I slept and so I woke up and called the office but was told to take a day off.

Went down to have my breakfast and then came up to the room, still feeling blur and tired. Then I realised I forgot my moisturiser. Tried to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep. Instead of staying in the room doing nothing, I decided to go to the mall…that is after much contemplating. You know…the idea of being alone, new country…on my first day.

Each time I entered a store, someone will ask “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”. I’m just so not used to this. After entering a few stores, it made me asked the same question back to the store attendants too.

My answers were always standard, so as the others.

“I’m doing good.”

“I’m good.”

Even though…I really wanted to say, “I’m very sleepy.”

Went to Fossil, got a watch for my sister. Very nice. Got bracelets for a colleague. I was so tempted to get a watch but didn’t get one for myself.

Got myself a moisturiser from Body Shop because I couldn’t find any other place that sells moisturiser. Within the 2-3 hours I was there, I felt like I spent a lot because I kept converting the amount to Ringgit which is triple of the amount I pay.

There were other clothings that I wanted to buy but I wasn’t sure if the price was cheap or pricey so I decided to just hang on and come back some other time.

Went back to the hotel and napped for 2 hours.

Went out to dinner with other colleagues who flew there earlier than I did. They are from other departments so I wasn’t very close with all of them. But of course we got to know each other better after that and I’m really glad I had people to accompany me for meals.

Went groceries shopping after dinner at Meijers which is opened 24 hours. Bought Haagen Daz (4 ice cream for USD5). Cheap like shit! That’s like USD 1.25 per small cup. Cheap even after converted to Ringgit. I was like a happy child when I saw the price.

Slept from 11:30pm – 1:30am. 2 hours only and I know it was going to be another tiring day tomorrow when I start work/training.

Finally There!

Finally landed at Chicago. Since it was the first port of entry in the US, I had to take my luggage out for custom clearance. But first, I had to go through the immigration counter. There was a long queue at the non-resident section and somehow queuing halfway, one of the officers allowed some of us to queue at the US resident section and I was amongst them. It wasn’t a long wait for me.

There was a guy queuing up in front of me and he spoke not even a word of English. He doesn’t have a US visa anywhere to be seen in his passport. He just stared blankly at the officer who was coordinating the queue and checking our documents before we are sent to one of the counters. I cannot imagine myself in that situation. Being in a foreign country and not speaking their language and being alone on top of all that.

One of the airport staff was kind enough to push me a trolley for my luggages. Went to the toilet and realised trolley doesn’t fit the toilet cubicle. I ended up going into the handicapped toilet which fit the trolley. I had no choice since I was alone and I can’t leave my luggages unattended. The lesson here is…..go to the toilet before picking up your luggage.

I then passed the custom clearance form to the officer and one lady was my luggage tag to my final destination. She asked me to take the middle door. The doors were closed and I thought I had to open it before I could let my trolley through. To my delight, it opened as I approached nearer. Sounds jakun, kan? Haha. It wasn’t a door that allows you to see through to the other side that’s why I was worried. I don’t know what’s on the other end and didn’t know the door is automatic.

Once the door opened, I saw some airport staff screening luggages. I observed for a few seconds and then knew what to do. I had to have the lady scan my luggage tag with a device and then have the guys take my luggage to get it on the conveyor belt so that my luggage gets on the next plane! As soon as she scanned my luggage, she read from the device which terminal I should head to.

Terminal 1. Gate C2.

Took a train to Terminal 1. Bought bottled water because already very tired and stressed. USD2.75. My first US dollar spent! 🙂

Had to go through another security check. I’m a pro at doing this already, in full speed. Took off my shoes, my cardigan, removed my laptop from my bag, put all items in the tray provided. Laptop will have to be on a tray by itself.

Waited for about 3 hours before I took my final flight. Yes, the final one to get me where I should be.

I sent text messages to my family to update them of my whereabouts. My mum, especially can get really worried over nothing. It didn’t matter what time of the day it was. It was pretty early in the morning, maybe around 4am when I messaged them but I had to do it because they are expecting it.

This flight flew on a small plane. I like this small plane. It reminds me of the Fokker aircraft I used to fly a few times with Malaysia Airlines back in Sabah. This one was a CRJ700. New to me.

I had a hand luggage but I had to let them stow away somewhere. Before boarding the plane, we were given luggage tags which we have to attach to our luggage. This process is new to me too because hand luggage to me means you can take it on the plane with you. Guess the hand luggage is too big to fit the small overhead compartment of this small plane.

The flight took less than an hour. I was already VERY tired by then. VERY. I just told myself I have to stay awake until I reach the hotel.

Waited for my hand luggage along with the others and then made my way to the baggage area to get my checked baggage. A Taiwanese guy suddenly asked me if I’m Chinese. I told him I am and I’m a Malaysian Chinese. You will notice Asian looking people very easily in a place where we are the minority. The Taiwanese guy is actually staying in America and he was also on a business trip. He asked me if I knew any good Chinese restaurants around.

I told him it was my first visit to the States so I have no clue. I was busy talking, I forgot to check out for a lady that will be holding a sign with my name. I turned around and saw a lady holding a white cardboard. I saw my name. The Taiwanese guy saw it too and asked if that’s for me. We bid farewell.

I walked towards the lady, who is my colleague in the US and also my host during my stay. It was nice to see her for the first time after communicating with her purely on emails throughout the past year or so. I’ve not seen her picture or heard her voice before that so it was really nice to finally put a name to a face. She was pretty and she looked like a nice person.

I finally got my luggage and then I got up on the wrong side of the car. Hehe. Our driver’s side is their passenger side so I keep wanting to get on to their driver’s side of the car. Of course, I was also worried about not knowing what to say when I meet my colleague, if I can hold a conversation long enough so that there will be no awkward silence. And that my brain was already very tired and all I wanted to do is just sleep.

I’m glad it wasn’t a hard thing to do. Maybe because we were meeting for the first time so we had quite a lot to talk about. She offered to take me to dinner but I was already too tired to even think about eating. I bought a sandwich at Chicago airport before my flight for dinner and had it with me when I reached the hotel. I had no appetite at all.

Bathed. Called both my parents. I’m thankful I was given a phone and I was allowed to make international calls with that.

I was so happy I made it safely to my destination and to think that I was then at another side of the world excites me too.

Then, the next problem came. I didn’t sleep a single bit that night.

Hello jet lag!

Longest Flight Continues

My first time flying with United Airlines and the flight from Singapore to Tokyo took about 6 hours and 30 minutes. I couldn’t find my seat because from where I was standing it showed ABC, DEGH (something like that) except F, which was what I was looking for. There was no steward/stewardess available. Spotted one but she was on the intercom. I turned around saw another passenger and just asked him where it is.

“I think you’ve got to cross to the other side”.

He was right.

It was a small issue but then for some reason, I felt stupid. People who flew United before have been telling me their service is not very good. I’m not sure how bad it can be but I just took note. The first difference that I noticed is that this is the first time, an airline doesn’t direct you to the correct aisle to sit. Usually when you board a big plane, stewardess will let you know which aisle you should go to.

I was seated at the Economy Plus area so I had more leg room. I assumed and thought my next flight will be the same as well but I was wrong. That will be another story. I was seated on the middle 5-seater row. I was the only lady at that row. It was super cold. The guy next to me was also cold because he covered his head with the blanket and slept throughout. Even after I turned off the individual aircon that was blowing towards me, it was still cold.

One thing I don’t like about sitting in the middle is that you got to see if your neighbour is awake or not to go to the toilet. I think I held on for too long and with the coldness, my bladder kind of froze. When I went to the toilet (lavatory), I couldn’t pee a single drop. I came out and stood near the emergency exit area and squeezed my tummy, hoping to defroze my bladder. haha.

Went back in after 10 minutes or so, managed to pee but not fully.

For meals…I had a very salty meehoon and then a tuna sandwich.

Reached Narita Airport and had to immediately rush to another gate for my next connecting flight. The surprising part is I couldn’t find the flight number flying off on the time that was printed on my itinerary. I looked at the screen carefully again and this time saw that the flight was flying 15 minutes earlier.

Flight from Tokyo to Chicago took about 13 hours. I was now seated at Economy punya Economy. I didn’t have the legroom like I had on the previous flight. It is more cramped now and was seated next to the window, meaning I’ve got to crawl next to 2 person to get out to use the washroom. Next to me was an American guy, teaching English in Korea. We talked a bit.

For meals…I had chicken + vege with very hard/dried up white rice…followed by Chinese noodles (but I call it instant noodles) as snack.

There was no individual entertainment screen, only centralised screen. Not nice at all.

Fly. Sleep. Eat. Drink. Stare blankly in front. Sleep. Pee. Sleep. Drink. Eat.

…to be continued

The Longest Flight Ever

Like I said before, I have mixed feelings about my trip. Pappy was very supportive and encouraged me to venture out on my own while I’m in the States. I’m here for the very first time and I will be flying very long hours so he said I should really stay a bit longer and see America. Mummy on the other hand asked if it’s possible that I don’t go. HAHA. She’s always worried.

I was worried too because I knew I was travelling alone and I’ve never flew so far by myself. Flying takes about 20 hours and adding the transit and waiting time, it’s  about 30 hours altogether. That’s like one and a half day of flying without proper rest. After going through that, to me a 2- hour or 4-hour is nothing compared to what I just experienced.

Pappy and Iris sent me off at the airport. We had dinner at Eden, KLIA. It was VERY expensive that I don’t know what to order and where to begin. Anyway, I didn’t had the appetite to eat much because firstly, I was still worried and picturing the scenarios I’ll be facing throughout my flight journey from KL to the States. Secondly, I wasn’t in the mood to do anything. I was lost practically. I just forced food down my throat.

My flight route to the US has got 3 transits. That’s how things are when you fly on a budget and you are not required to pay for it, hence you have no power in choosing a preferred route with lesser transit. Anyway….my route was KL – Singapore – Tokyo – Chicago – Grand Rapids.

I flew around 10:45pm from KL with Malaysia Airlines and arrived Singapore an hour later and I checked in at the Ambasaddor Transit Hotel at Terminal 3, Changi Airport because I had a 7-hour transit before my next flight. Yea….it was a bit overwhelming to know about that but it was good experience. I was ecstatic once I reached the hotel. It’s like my adventure had begun and I’ve survived the first bit and looking forward to the second part. The hotel was clean even though it was without a window…maybe because it’s within the terminal.

The room has got WIFI, toilet, TV, a big clock, water kettle and there were 2 beds. It was 12 midnight when I reached the hotel and I had to get up by 4:30am to get ready to check in to my next flight. The check-in counters only opens at 4:30am so I came down around 5am and got myself checked in. Usually you won’t be asked questions when you check in at the counter but this one had an officer/guard as you enter the check in area and he was checking my passport and asking me questions like did I left my luggage unattended before this, how long will I be in the States, why am I there and so on. Once I passed that, only did I get to go to the check-in counter and was told that my luggage is checked through my final destination but then I will need to collect my luggage at Chicago, which is the first port of entry to US for custom clearance, and then check the luggage in again after that. (I have no idea how this works so I was worrying about it again).

I walked around the airport to kill a bit of time as I was still early. I sat at one of the sitting area with TV. The chair that I sat on had speakers on both inner arms so it was cool.

…to be continued