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!