Friday, February 11, 2011

{Smells Like Adventure} Aka, OUT OF THE COUNTRY, AAHHHHHHH

Okay! Proper email/blog post, since it’s a good point to write one. It’s now 3:25 AM in Hong Kong and sleep is being evasive, boo. );

But it gives me several hours to document the saga up to this point! Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start~♫

{No. 1} Columbus to Salt Lake (and the horrors of packing)

Okay, so long story short, I don’t like UPS. They’ve made my life a total pain for the past week or so because they were insisting on delivering everything to my grandparents’ house in McArthur – and then, when I absolutely needed something, they didn’t deliver at all; the excuse was ‘bad weather’ and there was barely ANY SNOW AT ALL. Way to fail, UPS, way to fail.

The box that they didn’t deliver was my Melaleuca order which had everything from meds to vitamins to bathroom stuff that I kind of needed. So it’s Tuesday night, I’m supposed to be at the airport by 5:30 the next morning, and I don’t have any of this stuff at all. Cue rising panic (that I had mostly been ignoring up until that point.)

Luckily Mom was able to pull enough things to get me by and everything looks like it’s going to be fine, but still. Ew.

So Mom ends up driving me to Suki’s house and we get there at 3 AM. Obviously nobody is awake, but hey, we have a key, no big deal. We crash for about an hour and a half before Mom takes me to the airport. She helps me get checked in and walks me up over to the security gates and then it’s FLY, LITTLE BIRD, FLY… Sort of. *laugh* It was kind of scary, you know? Like, I’ve flown without adults before, but I always had Kimmi and Josh with me too, so to be totally alone was a very weird thing. Luckily there was wifi and I got to talk to Dad and some of my friends before boarding the plane.

Okay, now I’m just going to say this once, but because of how late I was booked on all flights, I was always sitting with strangers. The most friggin’ uncomfortable thing ever, especially if you’re sitting in the middle seat. Which I was until I got to Salt Lake.

The flight wasn’t too bad, overall. Long-ish, but we also got emergency clearance because two of the passengers were having some sort of medical problem, so we were rushing to get them to the paramedics. I’m not exactly sure what was wrong, but there was a couple doctors on the flight and it didn’t seem overly serious, just serious enough to get us there fifteen minutes early.

My first layover was in Phoenix, AZ. I actually remember it from when I flew out to San Francisco with Dad a couple years ago. It’s an okay airport, I guess.

But oh, great! My gate is on the entire other side of the airport. Cue lots of walking! And on top of that, the flat escalator walking things…. Most of them were broken. Guys, my carry-ons weigh a ton. +___+ It was not a pleasant experience.

But I do get to the gate okay and I had about an hour to kill. Ended up going to Burger King which wasn’t actually that expensive for airport food and the burger didn’t suck as much as the last one I had.

Boarding the flight was fine. It was only about a three hour flight to Salt Lake, if I recall correctly. I did attempt to sleep on some of these flights, but that didn’t work out so well. But the nice thing was that even though I had two strangers on either side of me, this couple with their two young sons were sitting right behind me. Cutest thing ever. The boys talked about everything from wanting to snowboard and ski to their favorite dragons. I suppose I’m a creeper for listening in, but it was hard not to and they were just so adorable!

But yeah, flight to Salt Lake went just fine.

Uncle Brent lives in the area, so he was able to pick me up and hang out for a few hours. We went to In ‘n Out, which all of my friends on the west coast have been telling me to get since they found out I didn’t do it while in San Francisco. It’s an okay burger. Definitely better than MickyD’s, but nothing like Five Guys. But the pricing makes it totally worth it. Two bucks for a decent cheeseburger isn’t something to sniff out. So yeah… not fantastic, but nice.

Then we headed over to his office. Now this is where you can totally tell that Uncle Brent and Dad are related… the first ten minutes in Uncle Brent’s cubicle is spent explaining where all the food is. There are no papers being filed in the filing cabinets, that’s where all the food is. So I ripped off some snacks, stole some wifi, and ended up leaving with a gigantic thing of beef jerky, which really helped on the flights. ^-^V I actually just finished it. But yeah, it was actually mostly me in the cubicle because Uncle Brent had to do three interviews and stuff. It wasn’t bad though! And it was really fun to hang out with him and get caught up on his life and catching him up on my life (especially the nieces. Val, he thinks it’s very strange that you’re already pregnant with your third.)

Then it was back to the airport, pick up the luggage, and off to the Delta terminal! We were one of the first people there, but Jill, one of the ILP reps, was there too, so Uncle Brent and I said goodbye and it was now ILP time.

Luckily being one of the first ones there meant that I was one of the first ones checking in. Poor Delta flight worker, she was so impatient to get us all checked and then her eyes just kinda went wide when she realized how many of us there were. There were… sixty? We met up with a handful more in LA, but most of us started out in Salt Lake and there’s about seventy of us total. Mostly girls, too. Kim, my head teacher, says that ILP just naturally attracts more girls. Which is good, boys are distracting and dumb (:P) and there are no boys in my group.

So more hauling of the carry-ons! It was so insane how much walking we had to do. The flight to LA was short and uninteresting, for the most part. The flight attendants were sweet though, and asked that the other passengers wait a little bit to let our whole group off because we needed to get to our Korean Air gate.
… Okay, so LAX experience was a monster. We had to get to the international terminal and that is in a different building on the other side of the airport. On the second floor. Our shoulders were –dying- by the time we got to the place and through security and everything. (This is, if you hadn’t noticed, a running theme.)

{No. 2} On the way to Hong Kong!

But it’s exciting! You know, we’re LEAVING THE COUNTRY. And besides the Head Teachers, not many people had left before, so we’re all tired and jittery and excited.

I’ll apologize in advance for not taking many pictures. I think there’s only one picture before getting to Hong Kong and that’s of the plane we flew on.

Guys, the international planes are HUGE. OH MY GOSH. Double decker planes and I really liked the Korean Air ones because every seat had its own personalized entertainment system with movies and games and everything. The movies were impressive, actually. They had things like Secretariat and Megamind on it. Oh! And music~! I got to listen to V6, TOKIO, Kanjani8, and KAT-TUN. Kind of awesome, I don’t know. I’m only dreaming, dreaming~♫

The first flight on Korean Air was to Seoul and it was the longest. Eleven hours, I think? Extremely long. I slept through about six hours of it, I think! I missed the first meal, which was supposedly very good, but I wasn’t all that hungry when I woke up and the flight attendants were happy to serve me drinks and a snack because of it.

Let me tell you guys… the Korean flight attendants are ADORABLE. Their uniforms, their mannerisms, they were so, so, SO cute.

We landed in Seoul and had to walk all the way over to the transfer terminal and then to the gate we needed to board at… which was the farthest one away. We’re tired, sweaty, and my feet were swollen. .___. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. BUT! We were in Seoul, how amazing was that. (Sort of, I guess. Aren’t airports considered neutral territories?)

We had about an hour and a half to wait before boarding our next flight and then it was on to Hong Kong! The next flight was only about three hours long, but we got a meal. ^_^V Bibimbap (I think) with seaweed soup and some sort of kimchi like thing only it was made with like… zucchini or something. And red bean rice cakes. Yummmm~. Bibimbab is basically some meat and veggies and mushrooms with rice and red pepper paste.

{No. 3} The final arrival~

And then we’re in Hong Kong!

Surprisingly, customs was painless. Just hanging a form over and then exiting!

I have more pictures of this part of the trip, but I’m lazy and therefore am not uploading them.

We met our tour guide for the next two days. His name is George and he’s that typical funny, middle-aged Chinese guy. He knows all the right jokes to make the girls laugh (there are about thirty of us at this point, mostly girls, plus two guys). And the drive into the actual city was awesome. The scenery was amazing! And I do have pictures of that, so no worries. Lots of fog though, I guess they had a sudden warm spell, but it’s supposed to be colder today.

We get to our hotel, which is a nice place… they had a bar called the Sip Sip Bar! 8DDD Ahahaha, I laughed so hard seeing the name. They also have a cake shop that is decently priced, so guess who’s getting a peach custard bun when the world actually wakes up.

Okay, so before we go on to the adventures of exploring Hong Kong, I’m just going to intro my fellow teachers in the same school. Besides our head teacher, Kim, we’re all short and we’re all nineteen. Except, perhaps, for Bryndi. Bryndi is the fifth teacher on our trip, but one of her flights was delayed, so she wasn’t with us. Kim went to go pick her up with the tour guide last night, but since they’re in the room next to us, I have no idea what’s happened so far with her.

But there’s Kim, my head teacher. Ashley, Desirea (I think that’s how you spell her name) and Nicole. And me, of course. So far, so good, we all get along very well, even though we all have different interests and personalities. But hey, some of them like anime too. (8 So we’re doing good.

Anyways, they room us by teaching group, so it’s me, Desirea, and Nicole and then Kim and Ashley (and hopefully Bryndi) are in the room next to us.

So we’re finally in our hotel rooms. First thing on my agenda? A shower.

Guys, my feet and calves are so SWOLLEN. On top of that, I have bruising damage on my shoulders from all the carry-on hauling. I don’t mean to sound like a baby, but it was intense. Thank you, Pain-a-trate, you are a live saver. ;o; - The rooms are nice. To use the electricity, you have to insert your card in a little slot at the front of your room. Handy for conserving energy! There was also some American snacks like Pringles and a kit-kat and drinks! Which included about three to five small bottles and cans of alcohol. ;D Awesome.

Kidding, we haven’t touched them.

So we decide that the next thing to do is get some money exchanged and go exploring! We’re hungry and everything too, so seeing what’s around and getting some food would be great.

Guys, if you’ve ever, EVER been to Chinatown in San Francisco, I will just have you know… the area of Hong Kong I’m in is basically Chinatown x 239480. I suppose that’s not a surprise or anything, but it makes navigation a breeze. It doesn’t really matter that not many people speak English, they know enough to barter and to get the right food, and it’s just… exactly like Chinatown.

The exchange rate here is about 7 hong kong dollars to a US dollar, just FYI.

So we walk around a ton. Some of the others get souvenirs and things like that… There’s a lot of really pretty, cheap stuff, but eh, nothing I was really looking for. But there was a huge street fair and tons of shops, and it was a lot of fun. I got hit on by an asian dude trying to get me to buy a pair of earrings. I laughed. :P The things they do to sell things, ne?

But after a few hours, we decide to head back. Our feet are still in rather questionable conditions and we’re hungry. So we end up heading back and Nicole and I stop at a pastry place and get a few buns. The buns that Dad brings back and the ones here… no difference. But yummy. :D I had a custard bun and this… nori wrapped meat one. They were both really good and they were like… 7 bucks each (so about a US buck each. Whee.)

We stop at a different vendor because Desi, Ashley, and Kim want food. I end up buying some octopus balls (WHICH WERE AWESOME) for six bucks. Which is about… hm, 85 cents in US money? But it was gooooood.

The other three ended up getting this chicken stuff, but I think… we’ll have to say they were disappointed. X: AHAHAHAH. They weren’t expecting what they got, I think. Ashley nearly cried (half laughing) when she tried her stuff. They all got these ramen chicken type dishes and I… well, wasn’t’ going to stop them, but you could tell that the place we were at wasn’t really the noodle type place. I ended up eating part of Ashley’s stuff and it wasn’t bad, but it was… well, chicken flavored things and definitely not the best. Ah well, they will learn. (They will also learn how to use chopsticks…)

Then it was back to the hotel where we played this really dumb ~Love Truth or Dare~ card game and ended up having long conversations about baby names in an attempt to stay awake late enough that we would sleep at decent hours. Obviously you can tell this didn’t work out so well. We crashed at aboutttt…. 19:00 and I woke up about 3:00. But oh well, we’ll adjust all the way eventually. George is picking us up in a bus today and we’re going to see a few different places and then exploring again in the evening. I’ll take more pictures and all that good stuff. I have some pictures I took just for Dad, Val, Mom, and Reed, so you’ll be getting them eventually.

This is stupidly long, but I figured it’s a good wrap up point too. I’m a bit tl;dr right now, but hey, we’re all caught up on events now. I’ll write more after we get to Linchuan and you can always ask questions for the next email/post. ^-^V (which will probably be done by Suki if blogger is really blocked in China...)

4 paper stars:

Suki said...

Definitely not too long. :-) I LOVE reading about your adventure and I'm more than sure that I'm not the only one.

tlaulusa said...

Not too long. I'm glad you took the time. And I'll refrain from correcting your spelling. :-) BTW, UPS delivered the Melaleuca order TO MY MOM'S the next day.

Valerie said...

Glad you took the time to type all of this up. I'll probably have to explain today to the girls why you're not at Chinese New Year's with us. Post pictures soon because they'll love looking at them!

tlaulusa said...

K, I don't know who I'm logged on as, but I'm Jamie. Coo stuff! Remember, we are all living vicariously through you now, so keep up the long writing. Unless you're too busy with some yummy chinese bit of sumpin sumpin. If you know what I mean. And Kevin requests anything you have to say about the exchange rate and how much things cost--dry economics stuff, or, as we like to call it, freakenomics.