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November 29, 2005

Jet lag sucks

So I got to my final destination here about 12 hours ago, after ~30 hrs of travel. It's now 12:30AM local time, and I just woke up a little while ago from a 2 hour nap that turned into 7 hours of sleep instead. Oops. Now I'm even more screwed up on time than I was before! The time difference here is +10.5 hrs from EST btw, aka UTC+5.5 (that extra 0.5 is just to make it extra confusing.)

Now to complain about air travel even more, the Delhi airport SUCKS. I've never been in such a horrid airport. It's unfriendly, run down, confusing, hot, and humid. Northwest actually checked my bags all the way through from Detroit to Coimbatore (including the 2 segments on Jet Airways in India,) but I still had to collect my bags for customs. So I waited and waited at the belt until all the bags were through, and I was still missing a bag. I wandered around a bit and talked to a baggage person, when I noticed my bag sitting next to the belt on the far side of the baggage claim! Apparently whoever took my bag off the belt and realized it wasn't theirs was too rude and/or stupid to put it back ON the belt. And the exact same thing happened the last time I visited India!

Anyways, having to collect bags for customs is fine, except after that I had to transport the bags and myself to the domestic terminal. Which it turns out is like 10 miles away. And hard to get to. There's supposedly shuttle service, but I couldn't find it and nobody seemed to know about it. I was constantly being approached by people trying to get me to come spend my money and stay at their hotel or eat at their restaurant. It's amazing I got out in one piece! I finally took a prepaid cab over to the domestic terminal, which at the equivalent of $5 for a 15 minute trip was apparently the best thing to do. Even after I got in the cab some guy was poking his head in the window trying to get me to come book a hotel room to rest for a few hours. Oh yeah, and the domestic terminal is even worse. And the boarding passes for the Jet Airways flights that Northwest had printed were apparently useless, so I got to check in again at the counter. So much for interline agreements and airlines cooperating.

Anyways, after I had my bags re-scanned and re-checked in, I was actually in for a pleasant surprise. My 2.5 hr flight from Delhi to Chennai, in economy class, offered me a choice of North Indian vegetarian, South Indian vegetarian, or South Indian non-vegetarian. I chose the last option of course. I was quite surprised to get a meal consisting of a very tasty omelet, a roll, potatoes, some sort of sausages (chicken, turkey, or lamb I'm assuming), and some fresh fruit. The food was as good as or better than the meals I had on Northwest DTW-AMS and KLM AMS-DEL! They brought by hot towels beforehand, and the service was excellent in general. So, once you do find your way onto a plane in India, the service is amazing, if you're on the right carrier. There are a whole bunch of upstart LCCs (low cost carriers; think JetBlue or Song) so the market to be the best is fiercly competitive.

Anyways, the first relatives I'm staying with have DSL and wireless (amazing because last time I was here they couldn't even get dialup), so no Internet withdrawal yet. I'll be off to even more remote parts soon though!

November 28, 2005

Hello from AMS!

Amsterdam-Schiphol is a very cool airport indeed, as I've heard. My flight to India was delayed by 3 hours (which isn't too bad since I had a 7 hour layover in Delhi anyways, and I'd rather spend that in Amsterdam) so I've been wandering around AMS. The one bad thing is that everything is ridiculously expensive; I thought about buying a book, but $6.99-labeled paperbacks are marked up to 13.95 euros! With the exchange rate and the credit card foreign currency fees I'd pay on that, it's almost $20 for a paperback. There's a cool little temporary windmill-art exhibition on display in the airport museum which was nice. Anyways, back to wandering around a bit before I head over for my next 8 hour flight!

November 27, 2005

Off to afar!

I'm sitting on my plane at DTW waiting for the flight to Amsterdam, connecting on to India! I'll be out of the country for over 3 months; I've never even been away from Boston for 6 weeks before this trip. I'll be checking email and such even if I'm not online much, so feel free to say hi, and drop me your postal address if you want a postcard!

November 22, 2005

I need sleep

So I'm sitting on a plane at the gate at Dallas. Bound for Toledo, via Memphis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Detroit (I need the miles.) Last night I was supposed to get back from Boston to Dallas around 11PM. Except the weather in Atlanta sucked. So my BOS-ATL flight got delayed. Then it got cancelled. Then my new flight arrived in Atlanta 10 minutes after my (also delayed) original connecting flight to Dallas left. So I had to wait for the "10:45PM" ATL-DFW flight. The one that ended up leaving at 1:30AM instead (at least I got an upgrade.) I finally made it back to my parents' house in Plano at 3:15AM CST. And I had to leave at 4:45AM. And I hadn't packed my big bags. Fun time. I've slept a total of 2 hours since Sunday. On a plane. My brain is fried. Whine, whine, whine.

If I don't pass out as we taxi out, something is seriously wrong. Of course, I stuck myself in an exit row, so I can't go to sleep until I get the nice "SIR, YOU ARE IN AN EMERGENCY EXIT ROW! ARE YOU AWARE OF THE GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES PLACED UPON YOU!?" speech. Argh.

3:20PM CST: ..okay, +1hr DFW-MEM, +2.5hrs MEM-MSP of zzz. Not sure how the last one happened since it was supposed to be a 2 hr flight. We pushed back 10 minutes late, and next thing I know we're arriving at MSP an hour late. Guess I slept through whatever the delay was! I don't feel like I'm dying anymore as badly. Yay.

November 21, 2005

I'm in Boston!

Yup, I took a one day roundtrip to Boston and back from Dallas. And it wasn't for a mileage run! So, Blue Cross sucks and won't cover any vaccinations outside of Massachusetts for me. To get them in Dallas from the public health system there (which is probably "cheap" compared to private doctors) would have run me $350 or so, since I needed Japanese encephalitis, rabies, hepatitis B, and typhoid. To get those in Boston ran me $0 since it was a followup to my first set of vaccinations in Boston. So I had $450 in credit on Delta, and the roundtrip ticket was only $300. Used my credit, flew here for 4 hours, and got my vaccinations.

I even had time to stop in Kendall Square afterwards and have coffee with Matti, Payne, and Pup. They were rather surprised by my sudden unexpected appearance in Boston. :)

Of course, the weather in Atlanta decided to be uncooperative, so my flight got delayed, then canceled. So it looks like I'm going to get back to Dallas at 2AM rather than 11PM (and I have to pack my two large bags still.) Lost my first class upgrades too since the new flights are pretty packed. Oh well.

I'm having dinner with my sister though! There aren't any restaurants outside security unfortunately (other than an Au Bon Pain stand.) So I bought her a refundable ticket to Fort Lauderdale (latest flight I could easily find from Boston.) That gets her through security, and I have a feeling we're going to end up canceling the ticket and getting it refunded. :) I asked the airline folks in the Delta club if that'd work, and the lady was like "well yeah...but I didn't tell you that!" TSA be damned, if I want to have dinner with my sister inside security, I shall have dinner with my sister inside security!

Anyways, time to eat!

Yes, I'm lazy. You knew that.

Well, I didn't die and disappear in Ohio. I've just applied my picture-uploading procrastination skills to blog-writing! So here's a massive update to appease those who wanted all the boring details of my trip.

Detroit and Toledo were fun, as always. Spent a couple days in Detroit since we had a NiN concert to see up there. There wasn't any moshing going on, so we formed a mosh pit ourselves! Then I had the brilliant idea of going crowdsurfing. Apparently the crowd wasn't so familiar with the concept of crowdsurfing, so I made it about 8' out before being dropped onto the nice soft concrete floor. I was limping for a couple days, and I could still feel it over a week later. I think I badly bruised the back of my pelvis. It was still fun though!

I spent a week and a half in Toledo staying with Jason and Heather. I took the opportunity while they were at work to borrow a bike and bike (sorry, CYCLE as some people might insist on saying) around Toledo. They have decent bike trails there so it was pretty fun. Of course we made the obligatory Cedar Point trip. We picked a great day since it was a bit chilly and a Friday, so the park was practically deserted. I don't think we waited more than 5 - 10 minutes in line for any ride, so we managed to ride all the major rollercoasters in just a few hours.

After that it was off to LA. NANOG was going on while I was there, so I hung around the NANOG hotel for a couple days since I hadn't been to one in a while so there were plenty of old friends to say hi to. Oh yeah, and we made a nice trip to Sushi Sasabune (two in fact, since we went again after my sister came out to the LA area for a few days.) It most certainly lived up to its reputation. Best sushi I've ever had (well, I haven't been to Japan yet, so I'll see how the sushi over there stacks up when I make it there!) Past that I mostly just hung out with friends for my two weeks there. We went to the LA Zoo one weekend (one of my friends had free tickets,) where one of the feature attractions on the tram tour was the orangutang house "where we'd keep orangutangs if we had any," to quote the tour guide. Next time, San Diego Zoo, free tickets or not.

Oh yeah, and I made a weekend trip to Chicago the first weekend in November. Went geocaching with a bunch of people who drove over there from Toledo. Kinda funny, making a side trip from LA to Chicago. When I was flying back to LA I almost felt like I was going home since I'd made LA my home base for a couple weeks. Except I technically don't have a home at the moment, so it was kind of strange.

Past LA took me to Dallas to visit my parents, since they live in Plano now. It's nice visiting my parents and all, but honestly the Dallas area isn't quite my favorite place to be. I tried running one night; my planned 4.5 mile run turned into about 10 miles after I got lost. Plano seems to be comprised of identical-looking neighborhoods full of identical-looking houses, so coupled with my poor sense of direction, I ended up having to call my parents for directions home. Well, at least I got a lot of exercise that night! I tried biking around Plano as well. They do have a decent number of bike trails, but they're connected by "bike routes" on the roads, which basically means nothing because the cars just speed by at 60mph on said "bike routes" and act as if bicycles shouldn't be on the road. Oh, and the bike trails conveniently cross those 4-lane and 6-lane roads that they like to build in Plano. Except they forgot to do something intelligent like put up lights at the road crossings, making it impossible to cross if there's any significant volume of traffic. Apparently the only acceptable mode of transportation on roads in Texas is by SUV. I also got my Indian visa in person while I was there; that was a 6.5 hour ordeal in the morning waiting to submit my application, and 2 hours in the evening waiting to get my passport back. Note to self: do not apply for an Indian visa in person ever again. Well, at least I got to visit my parents! Plano really isn't nearly as horrible as I described (well, it IS full of Wal-Marts, so maybe it is that horrible), but I just felt like venting after getting annoyed over and over by the city infrastructure (or lack thereof.) I also had some sort of recessive cooking gene magically activate, since I got bored and started cooking stuff for dinner for myself and my parents. My masterpiece for the week was a portobello mushroom sandwich on a layer of stuffing on ciabatta bread with an olive tapanade spread (which I made from scratch), fresh mozzarella, and tomato, along with a side of garlic sun-dried tomato polenta, and some grilled vegetables for good measure. The cracked peppercorn and mustard seed encrusted blue-cheese stuffed filet mignon medallions I made another night came out quite tasty too! It was probably all a fluke though; I'll probably set the house on fire next time I try to cook anything.

Tuesday the 22nd I leave Dallas for Toledo. I've had friends from near and far over for Thanksgiving in Boston for the past 4 years, so since I've left Boston we decided to move our traditional Thanksgiving to Toledo. Except it seems nobody other than me out of our usual bunch of people can make it, sadly. So we're just going to have Thanksgiving dinner at Heather's parents' house since we won't have the regular cadre of people to do our traditional cooking-impaired Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, we'll still have the traditional Friday after-Thanksgiving party at Jason and Heather's! The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I'm off for India. Now that should make for some actual interesting blogging.

Oh yeah, and I'm writing this from the Atlanta airport. For very strange reasons. On Monday, obviously. What am I doing spending all day traveling away from and back to Dallas on Monday when I have a 6:30AM flight to Toledo on Tuesday, you might ask? Nope, it's not a mileage run. But I'll leave that unanswered for the moment...

I also seem to have entered a 48-hour schedule. I stayed up all night Friday since I couldn't sleep and had a 9AM business meeting on Saturday. So then I just stayed up, and slept about 15 hours Saturday night. And I just stayed up all night Sunday, despite my best effort to fall asleep on the DFW-ATL flight (and I even got my upgrade to first class, so I had plenty of space to be comfortably asleep.) So theoretically I should sleep 15 or 16 hours again tonight and stay on my 48 hour schedule! Except for that pesky 6:30AM flight Tuesday. Oops. I'm going to be rather tired when I get to Toledo since I'll probably stay up all of tonight since I'll only be back at my parents' house for about 5 hours before I need to leave for Toledo, and I need to repack my suitcases. Oh, and on top of that I turned the Dallas-Toledo flight into a mileage run, since I need to hit 50k miles by year-end on Delta to get Gold elite status. So rather than fly the logical DFW-DTW (Detroit)-TOL route, I'm flying DFW-MEM (Memphis)-MSP (Minneapolis)-MKE (Milwaukee)-DTW-TOL. Only cost about $3 more than the 1 stop flight, netting me 2700 miles rather than 1482 miles. My calculations put me at 50028 miles after my flight to India.

Pictures, pictures, pictures. They'll be up eventually. No more promises of uploading them soon, but I'll try my best. I'll probably end up with a decent amount of free time the first couple weeks in India, so HOPEFULLY I'll finish up then. Sorry, I'm just horribly lazy; I could've easily finished them while I was in Dallas.

Wish me restful flights for the rest of today and for tomorrow... zzzzzzz. I commend anyone who got this far without falling asleep themselves. I'm just too tired to write anything scintillating. :(