20 May 2010

Back to Where It All Started

So, I find myself here in Manila, for the next five weeks. Yep, I am in UTC+8 country. As you can see, I changed the time zone for this blog in order to reflect that. When I get back to UTC-4 country, I'll change it back again.

Anyway, the trip I did took me 28 hours in the air, and basically, I was routed from Buffalo to New York City to Anchorage to Taipei to Manila. It was a four-leg trip. Very long. And very interesting too.

So, here's a rather subjective and at times politically incorrect trip report.

The first leg was simple. I was flying Delta Air Lines from Buffalo to New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Everything seemed to be fine, except that the weather was crappy, and there were a few interesting passengers. The plane was delayed, and there was turbulence. Interesting stuff started in the check-in counter. I usually just check-in myself using the automatic kiosk, but this time, since I was flying international, I had to use a human being. But the thing is, there was this one group of [insert ethnicity here], and it seems that they had no clue that there are other passengers waiting for them to move. I mean, hello, don't just stare there at the ceiling. If you need help with the kiosk, go get an agent, instead of hoping that miraculously the information you need will fall from the ceiling, which is why you are looking at it.

Anyway, I checked my bag in, and I won't see it until I reach Manila. Yep, it was checked in all the way through. Very awesome. While I was at the gate, there were some interesting people. There was this one lady, very old, perhaps around 60, and wearing a full set of gym sweat pants. She seemed to not be wearing any bra as well, because I could see her whole package. Yes, it was voluminous, but her skin was so tragic. I looked like a cross between the surface of the Sahara and Mars. She also had a lot of bling on her, and she was doing her nails while waiting for her flight. Obnoxious, and I hated the smell of toner.

Also, at the gate, I saw two agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement; their badges said ICE. They also were accompanying two men, one was of East Asian descent, and the other looked African-American. The African-American ended up sitting next to me, and he was the last person to board the gate. I saw that there was special treatment given to him, as the flight attendants were whispering several instructions to him during the flight. Then, when it was time to deplane, he spoke to me, saying that I could go ahead and leave before him (I was on the window seat and he got the aisle seat), because he would be the last person to leave the plane. I then got out, and since I had something that was gate-checked, I was waiting for it to appear, when I saw two new ICE officers, who then got inside the plane, and escorted the two men out, including the one that was sitting next to me. So, piecing together the information that I had, it seemed that the person sitting next to me was getting deported.

Okay, enough of that. Next flight. My Delta flight arrived in Terminal 2, but my next flight which is operated by China Airlines departs from Terminal 1. I tried my best to find a way to switch terminals without exiting and re-entering security, but to no avail. I asked the agents and they all said that it was not possible. So okay, I went out to the street, pulled my carry-on luggage with me, and entered the next building. I went to the check-in counter of China Airlines, and immediately I saw signs of Filipino blood. I saw big boxes. Yep, that must be Filipino!

I waited for a little while, and then once I checked in, I got my boarding pass, and then had dinner. I went to the food court of the terminal, ate a quick dinner, and then went through security. I then decided to browse the duty-free section, and somehow the salesperson was doing a good job that she sold me a bottle of cologne. I therefore welcome to my dressing cabinet a bottle of Azzaro Chrome Legend, released in 2007, classified as citrus/fruity, and recommended for mature users. Try to grab a whiff of it by smelling my neck if you can!

The big Boeing 747 arrived, and the passengers exited. Then we boarded, and left shortly after midnight. Still, they gave us a meal. I ordered vegetarian meals for the flight, which meant that I would be served before everyone else. I had a total of three vegetarian meals for the flight: one that was cooked in New York City, one in Anchorage, and another in Taipei. New York City sucked, as the vegetables looked pathetic. Taipei was the best, as it actually was tasty and rather edible.

By this time, there were more and more Filipinos on board. I hear the language, I see the faces, I confirm the stereotypes. And I find it interesting and funny that most people have a hard time guessing me: the Filipinos stare at me and talk about me thinking I do not understand their language, and the Taiwanese flight attendants talk to me in Mandarin by default, and only switch to English when I make it clear that I do not understand them.

We landed in Anchorage in the middle of the night, at 2:30 AM local time. The airport was creepy, and looked more like a log cabin that had aircraft gates attached to them. The duty-free section was pathetic, which made me glad that I already satisfied my duty-free indulgences earlier. After an hour and a half, we took off again, and the mountains were fascinating to look at. It was 4:20 AM, and yet the sunrise was already beginning to appear. It's due to the very northern location of the airport.

When we touched down in Taipei, I had to change terminals to go to my final flight. I went through security, and then found the duty-free, which is essential because I needed to buy some awesome tea. There was this rather cute salesperson who let me try a sip, and I figured that was as good as the next one, so I bought a box. She suggested I buy some whiskey as well, but nah, probably some other time in the future. I figured that was more polite than asking her if she thought of me as the hard drinker type.

Then I went to the gate, and yes, there were so many Filipinos. Filipinos from the flight from New York City, and Filipinos from other flights. Some just are surreally bizarre. There was one lady, very short, and she was wearing a tube top, and she was very flamboyant, and she was telling her other passengers that their money's worth is only two hours. Oh, she must be a domestic helper in Taiwan. There's plenty of things that you can tell about a person just by looking at them. That's why I sometimes dress a little higher than the median whenever I travel, because I do not want people of authority to treat me badly because of their stereotypes. Heck, if I have stereotypes, I am pretty sure that immigration officer also have them.

Finally, I arrived in Manila airport, and the building was air-conditioned. I saw a sign saying "LINGVIST-IN-WAITING" (well duh, it said my name, my real name, but with the same spelling mistake) and so I approached this man. Apparently, I was on the VIP list, and this man was there to provide me assistance (in cutting the lines, basically). I was never informed of this arrangement, so my red flags went up in my head. I asked so many questions to the person, like who is your boss? Who sent you to pick me up? But he got everything right, so I figured he was legit. It turned out that it was the works of my father. Perhaps, if there wasn't a spelling mistake, then I would have given the guy an easier time. But that's one good thing about a rare name, it's not like "John" where there is a default spelling.

So yeah, after 28 hours in the air, 4 take-offs and landings, 3 airline meals, 3 security checks, and 9093 miles later, I am back where everything started.

And boy it's so humid, but that's for a later post.

(Facade of Justice, from my Bogotá, Colombia Series)


  1. Glad you made it back home (if this is home!) safely!

    How sad for the guy who was being deported... happens in France too and in a few instance, some passengers disrupted the flight to postpone the deportation (you know these unruly French!).

  2. Zhu,

    Thanks! I did make it here safely! Ah, I don't think the American passengers would disrupt the flight even if they knew there was a deportation going on: I have this idea that most Americans are anti-illegal immigration anyway. Which I suppose is fine: I myself prefer the legal method. But still, I think most of the passengers didn't even know what was going on as they weren't observant enough to know what was happening.

  3. I do notice that airline food almost always taste better when prepared at the airline's hub, in your case it's Taipei (for China Airlines). While I also tried choosing meals pre-flight before, I now find myself wanting the standard menu - I just make sure I'm seated close to the front so I don't ran out of choices.

  4. TNP,

    Hehe. That's why there are sites like seatguru.com which allows passengers to see how the airlines have their planes laid out. Good stuff!