Khaos

Airport Waiting

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

It’s just turned 5am and I’m sitting by myself in the Asiana Business Lounge at Incheon Airport.  I’ve lost all sense of time so I find myself glancing at the clock every 5 minutes, which will be a dull way to pass the 5 hours between flights.

The flight from New York took nearly 15 hours.  It was mostly uneventful.  A couple of hours before landing there was announcement asking if there was a doctor on-board.  The passenger two seats away from me had taken ill.  I had noticed her during the night but merely to wonder why she had been given a quilt as well as a blanket.

We had two medical professionals on the plane who fussed around and asked questions in English and Korean.  I was impressed by the level of care given by the air stewards.  The lady was too ill to get to a bathroom and the air stewards not only held the sick bags but rubbed her back whilst she was sick.  They also pressed cold towels against her head and held her hand.  They were kind and I’m not convinced that this level of kindness would be displayed by every airline I travel with.

I worry sometimes about travelling through unknown airports but transferring through this airport is quite easy.  They claim to have the best transfer system in the world and an airport that has rest areas, play areas, museums, restaurants, shops, and massage rooms.  The transfer wasn’t difficult just a bit annoying.  The people in front of me were carrying four pieces of hand-luggage each and it got a bit chaotic when they tried to get all this x-rayed.  But it only required patience on my part.

Now I just need to find a way to stay awake.

Pittsburgh Snowpocalypse

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

I’ve just looked out the window and there are two people using cross-country skies to make their way up the street.  Apparently there is 2 and a half feet of snow outside.  I say “apparently” as there is no way I’m going out there to find out.

The worry though is that I do need to go out tomorrow morning.  I have a flight to catch to New York and I’m hoping that the weather improves so that the airport can open again.  I really don’t want to miss my flight home on Monday as it will be such hassle finding another flight.

When I first arranged this trip I had planned to go to the Perl conference that is on at the minute in Minneapolis.  A few weeks ago I changed my  mind because I was worried that the weather would be too bad…

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy New York

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yesterday morning I went for a walk through the snow in Manhattan.  It really was postcard perfect, especially along the river front.

Hudson River Bank

Hudson River Bank

Shopping in Manhattan

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This afternoon I decided to brave the Century 21 department store.  I had a pleasant morning and an enjoyable lunch with Marty and Nozaki-san, so today was a good day to try it.  I would love shopping to be a pleasant experience, but with a slogan of “fashion worth fighting for”, Century 21 is not the place to go if you are looking for calm.

The horror started as soon as I entered the store. I tried to find some new socks for Marty but got fed up really quickly of getting pushed out of the way by the men shopping there.  Maybe they didn’t see me, but it seems that good manners are left outside the shop.

I moved to the handbag section and tried to find a new bag.  There were some lovely things and they were certainly inexpensive but I didn’t see anything I liked enough to fight my way through the crowds.  I did overhear an argument between a member of staff and a customer.  The customer was asking the sales assistant to please not kick the baskets at her. The sales assistant was standing with her hands on her hips saying “I didn’t kick anything”, sounding horrifying like a defiant child.  I moved quickly away from that fight and went to look at ladies clothes.

It was chaotic and disorganised and I was disgusted by how much damage had been done to some of the dresses.  Beautiful dresses made from high quality fabric with plucks and tears.  I did manage to find some clothes and went to try them on.  Well, wasn’t that an experience.  Someone took the clothes from me to make sure that I wasn’t hiding items.  They don’t trust the customers to be truthful about the number of items they have.  They also take everything from you when you leave so they can count the clothes again, and then hand back the items you wish to purchase.  But the strangest thing for me was hearing the sales assistants talk about the customers stealing things, and the big signs up about shop lifters.  There are ways of checking clothes that don’t make your customers feel like suspected criminals.

My final stop was at the shoe department.  I haven’t quite worked out how you are supposed to try on shoes that are joined together with cable tags and I yelped the first time I didn’t notice the security tag at the back of one shoe I tried on.  I only managed to put shoes on my right foot, but even if I had managed to put on both it’s not like there was room to walk around.

When I went to buy the shoes the sales assistant didn’t actually speak to me or even look at me.  She continued a conversation with two other assistants about one of the customers in the store.  The words old and fat were used.  Truly delightful.

And why did I put up with this?  I’m now the proud owner of a beautiful Calvin Klein suit that cost me about 25% of the original price and a pair of Stuart Weitzman evening shoes that cost $21 instead of the retail price of $340.

Turkish Twilight

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I have been spending more time in the sun than I like.   A week in Lisbon, Portugal, a week in Yalikavak, Turkey, and now a week in Aalsmeer, Holland.  I always joke that I was born for the winter months.  I like the dark, shade, and shadows.  I like the winter sun,  the bright blue skies and the biting cold.  The summer sun and my skin are in constant battle.  Long clothes and sunblock may protect it but leave me feeling hot and uncomfortable.

People in Europe make fun of me because I’m pale – vampire, ghost, Morticia.  Strangers normally don’t make comments but the Turkish can be quite vocal.  Walking through the market I was described as a snowflake.  When I went swimming in the sea a Turkish woman stroked my arm and exclaimed at the colour as I was so white.  What I wasn’t expecting was to be surprised by the colour myself.

I was wearing a black and white bikini and my little sister was asking me if my skin ever got as pale as the white material.  I lifted my arm to show her that it’s a completely different shade and noticed that I was sparkling in the sun.  Like the vampires in Twilight who can’t go into the sun because their skin sparkles I realised that my skin was glittering gold and silver.  I always wear sunblock but not usually so much of it.  It’s good to know that my Japanese sunblock is going to help me look like a modern, friendlier type of vampire.

Airport Stress

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I’m surrounded by agitated people.  I don’t mean to overhear the conversations but something about the volume of the voices and the fact that I can understand the language makes it hard for me not to hear them.

The people look miserable.  It doesn’t seem to matter if they are passengers or airport staff.  Everyone looks like they wish they were somewhere else.  I’ve just glanced up from my computer and the guy working in WHSmith is scowling  at me.  It’s probably just the look he constantly has on his face working here.  I’ve no idea what sort of look I have on my face and thankfully there are no mirrors about to show me.

Dirty Airport

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I’m in Manchester airport this morning and it’s really horrible.

When I arrived I couldn’t work out what terminal I needed to go to.  It didn’t tell me on my flight details and there were no obvious signs inside the airport.  I tried looking at the departure board but this was terminal specific and I appeared to be in the wrong terminal.  I ended up walking around for 20 minutes until I found a board that told me which terminal I was meant to be in.

To get to Terminal 3 I needed to walk between buildings.  This wasn’t a long walk but it nearly ended up being a dangerous one.  There are holes in the pavement on the pedestrian walkway!  The wheels of my suitcase got stuck in a hole and I nearly fell over.

Now that I’m in the right place I can’t check in for hours.  There are very few seats but I have been lucky enough to find one in a coffee shop.  I know that part of my horror is culture shock.  The floor is filthy and I’m expected to set my laptop bag and handbag on it.  I’m used to everything being so clean in Tokyo and even when it’s clean there are places to set your  handbag.

I’m also not in great form because I am going to have to put my handbag in my suitcase as I’m not allowed to carry on a handbag and a laptop bag.   This will put my over the allowed check-in baggage weight costing me 10 GBP per kilo (I hope my books aren’t as heavy as they feel.)

School Bus Demolition Derby

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

As part of my education on American things my friends took me to the Big Butler Fair.  I’ve been to fairs before but we weren’t there to see the ferris wheel or the the dodgems.  We went to see a school bus demolition derby.  I had heard the phrase “demolition derby” but I wasn’t sure what it meant.  I knew it would involve destroying something but it never occurred to me that this would be the destruction of vehicles that people were driving.

School Bus Demolition Derby

School Bus Demolition Derby

It was a strange experience.  Someone had mentioned heats so I thought that maybe 2 buses would compete at a time.   I was wrong.  There were two heats of 5 buses and then a final.  I still don’t know what the point of the heats was.  Maybe it was to try to eliminate some of the competition but all 10 buses were allowed through to the final.  (One bus broke down right at the start so only 9 buses actually competed.)  To win the competition you had to be the last bus running.  At the start it was quite tame.  The vehicles reversed into each other and slowed down if it looked like they would come close to the front of another bus.  But by the end it was viscious.  The rule about not crashing into the driver disappeared with the thrill of smashing up someone else’s engine.  What better way to stop a bus than hit it until the engine goes on fire?

There was something fascinating about the whole thing but the destruction and the possibility of the driver getting hurt made me feel a bit strange. But it was certainly a memorable way to end the 4th July weekend.

Creaking Rooms

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I always find it hard to sleep in a new place.  Last night I was trying to sleep at an airport hotel.  The bed was comfortable but the room made strange noises.  I could hear the sound of water running through pipes.  I could hear the electrical hum.  I could hear the fans used for cooling.   All of these are sounds I can cope with but the mystery creaking disturbed my sleep.  It’s not regular or rhythmic and I still can’t work out what is causing it.  I can’t even tell what direction it’s coming from (though that does suggest that I’ve been sharing a room with multiple creaky things.)

I turned off the air conditioning at around 3am, in case it was the culprit, but now the room is just hot and creaky.

Fourth of July

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the firework display in Pittsburgh on the 4th but it didn’t disappoint. It was loud, brash, and completely over the top.  Thirty minutes of firework mayhem that lit up the sky over the city.

Fourth of July in Pittsburgh

Watching the Sky Light Up