Tag Archives: airplane

Letter A #AtoZChallenge

As I explain here, my theme for this A to Z Challenge is memoir, with an encyclopedia-esque twist, a la AKR.

Aggies

The Aggies, Texas A&M University’s mascot, my alma mater, hold so much meaning to me. Growing up in Bryan/College Station, I was always an Aggie. You couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement of the games and the bonfires and the yells. “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” This quote perfectly sums up the Aggie spirit. It’s something you feel from the moment you step onto the campus, particularly on a game day, as you walk through a sea of maroon and white, the energy palpable. “We are the Aggies. The Aggies are we.”

Airports and Airplanes

I spend a lot of time in airports and airplanes. As an expat and frequent traveler, it comes with the territory. I have my favorite airports- HKG, CDG, ORD and my least favorites- PVG, FCO, DMK. I know how late I can push it until I really have to arrive at the airport. I know how to sweet talk the clerks at check-in so they’ll overlook my slightly overweight bags. I love the buzz of airports, the busyness of people bustling around and the excitement and anticipation of new places yet to be seen. I know how to pack a perfect carry-on bag that has everything I could need within my reach.

I’m a window seat person. I have to have the window because I hate having to get up fifteen times when someone has to pee. And I’m a plane sleeper, so the window means I can lean up against it with my pillow, put in my earbuds, pull on my eye mask, and get cozy under my blanket for a long uninterrupted snooze. Not getting the window makes me sooooo grumpy. It’s almost ruined flights before. The only thing better than the window is an empty row of seats on a non-full flight. Ahhhh…stretching out and sleeping is gold!

I hate airplane food. Unless I’m in business or first class, which almost never happens. I always bring snacks and meals for long-haul flights.

Apartments

I’ve lived in 8 apartments over the course of my adult life. My first apartment, a dark, small one-bedroom chosen because it offered no deposit and first month’s rent free, which worked well with my no money situation, was a bit seedy. I lived next-door to a stripper who moonlighted as a prostitute, which I realized one night when I was awoken at 3AM by a naked man banging on my neighbor’s bedroom window, screaming at her to “Let me in! Give me back my clothes!” That apartment was also broken into, the last straw which prompted me to move.

My next apartment cost considerably more, but was in a much better part of town and in a gated complex. I loved the natural light that streamed into the living room from the floor to ceiling windows. I made it my home, and lived there two years, after which time I bought my first, and only, home.

I moved into my third apartment after moving to Shanghai in 2010. That first apartment was not my favorite. It was too small for one, and part of the bathroom was in the kitchen. Nothing says Come over and hang out at my place than your guests seeing all your bathroom stuff out in the open. That was also the apartment where I locked myself out twice- once when the stove was on (yikes!) and another time after I hadn’t yet learned about the strange Chinese lock system.

My second year in Shangers, I moved into a swanky apartment in the French Concession, a bachelorette pad clad in modern furnishings and on the 18th floor of a high rise. I loved that apartment, despite the fact that it was way over my housing allowance. But I didn’t care. It suited me well, and I lived there for two years, until the landlords sold it and I had to move.

Still in Shanghai, I moved yet again, but this time back to my roots, choosing to live on Hong Mei Lu, near the Laowi Jie. This apartment was by far the biggest, a 2-bedroom, with a huge kitchen and living room. I loved the wallpaper (I can’t believe I’m actually saying that), the bay window in my room where I could sit and read, and the huge bathroom with the luxurious tub, where I’d spend many nights reading and soaking the day away. Shady landlord shit made me move out of that place.

My last year in Shanghai, I found a place in Xujiahui, near Lines 1 and 11 and Grand Gateway mall, where my go-to restaurants, Pizza Express and Din Tai Fung, lived. Another 2-bedroom, this one was  smaller, but definitely gave off a cozy, home-y vibe. I made it my own, and I loved it. I still miss that apartment.

When I moved to Albania, I rented a sprawling, 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre. It was great for hosting parties, and I have so many memories of fun times with friends wrapped up in that place. It was also my first and only apartment abroad to have a dryer, a luxury those in America take for granted.

My current apartment in Bangkok is by far the tiniest place I’ve ever lived, but for some reason, I love it, too. It’s a studio apartment in the Pak Soi, a short 8 minute ride to school. I love its simplicity and cuteness. It’s all I need for this short season in my life.

Aunts

Aunts are special people. They’re like your mom, but the cooler, you-can-talk-to-them-about-anything version. Aunts are cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, advice givers, secret keepers, and date goers. One of my favorite things about aunts is that they don’t have to be blood-related to earn the title. Honorary aunts are just as significant in our lives. I have a special relationship with my aunts, and I treasure them all in their own way.

Aunt Kathy, my dad’s younger sister, and I are very close. She just gets me. I can be authentically me around her, and she loves me unconditionally. I like that about her. We don’t talk all the time, but I know if I’m in trouble or need anything, I can count on her. Every time I go back home, I make a special trip to Austin to see her. We have a standing date night at The Melting Pot, where we always have the same thing– Yin and Yang chocolate martinis, cheese fondue, salad, and chocolate fondue. Each time, we consider ordering something different, but we never do. Aunt Kathy squeals when she sees me for the first time after I’ve been gone too long, and she gives the best hugs. She’s also a thoughtful gift giver, giving me what I never knew I always wanted.

Aunt Alva, my dad’s brother’s wife, is the sweetest, most gentle person ever. Everything she does is done effortlessly, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how she does it. How is her house always perfect? How is she always so put together? How is she always happy? I don’t know, but I love her for it. I love that Aunt Alva listens to my stories. Like really listens. She is so interested in my life and my stories and makes time to hear them. Not everyone is like that, and I love her all the more for it. I love Aunt Alva’s cooking, especially her pancakes, panny-cakes as she calls them. They are my favorite breakfast– fluffy, buttery, Texas-sized pancakes that take up the entire plate. The best part is she doesn’t wait til they’re all done for us to sit down to eat together. She calls us over, one by one, to get our pancake fresh off the griddle, so we can enjoy it nice and hot. My stomach is growling as I write this, and I know that three months is too long to wait to taste her pancakes.

My other Aunt Kathy, Uncle Mike’s wife, is my honorary aunt. Uncle Mike is my dad’s best friend from high school, a man I’ve known all my life. I’m pretty sure he changed my diapers. Anyway, he married Aunt Kathy when I was in high school, and I got to dance at their wedding. She’s his perfect match, and one of my close friends. As a teacher, too, we have a lot in common, and can gab all day about school stuff. When I chose to do my student teaching in Houston, away from home, she offered up their spare room and I lived with them for a semester. I’ll always remember that time, as it was my first time living away from home. She’ll always remember that time, too, as I never could keep my room cleaned. Aunt Kathy has the best laugh, one that starts deep in her belly, and is contagious to all who hear it.

Nearly five years ago, I joined the club and became an aunt. My niece, Randi Ann, an adorable, spunky, clever, silly, sweet soon-to-be-five-year-old, rocked my world and introduced me to a love I hadn’t yet known. All I wanted to do when I was around her, was cuddle her and make her laugh. As she’s grown up, she has developed a personality all her own, and I love it! When she turned three, I began a new tradition. Every time I go home, she and I spend a day together, doing whatever she wants to do. On our dates, the attention is all on her, and we laugh, tell stories, and wonder. Our usual day includes a trip to Shipley’s donuts, a mani/pedi, catching the latest movie (I took her to her first movie in the theater!), playing at the park, lunch, and a trip to the bookstore to pick out a new favorite book. I love that she looks like me, too. When I show her an old picture of me and my younger brother, her daddy, she thinks it’s her and her brother, Logan.

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Speaking of Logan, he’s the little bundle of energy that made me an aunt twice over, and I simply adore him! He is equal parts rough and tumble, loud, tazmanian devil and sweet, gentle, loving, caring, climb-up-in-your-lap-and-give-you-a-hug boy. The juxtaposition of him is why I love him. We can wrestle on the floor, me tickling him and sending him into fits of laughter (and he has the best laugh!) or we can crawl up in bed and read a book, snuggling up close together. Logan Cole is also hilarious, his crazy antics making it nearly impossible to scold him because, while he shouldn’t have done what he did, damned if it wasn’t the funniest thing ever.

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Australia

From the age of 7, I have been obsessed with Australia. When I say obsessed, I mean obsessed. I’m pretty sure that obsession was born from a school project where my childhood crush researched and presented a report on Australia. From then on, I can recall telling anyone who would listen that “When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher. And I’m going to live in Australia.” You know what? I have accomplished both those goals. After graduating from A&M with my teaching degree, I packed up and moved to Sydney in early 2004, where I was a nanny for a family of three children. I then solo-traveled along the east coast of Oz, from Cairns back down to Sydney. My return trip in 2011 allowed me to visit my love, Sydney, but a few new places, too. Australia is life, color, vibrancy, deliciousness, culture, accents, nature, city and beach, sun, and joy. I still want to live in Australia someday. Maybe when I’m done gallivanting around the world, I’ll settle into Oz. Maybe.

 A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

Mistaken Identity- SOL #27

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At Michelle’s birthday dinner this past weekend, we started talking about horrible, funny, and weird flight experiences we’d had. It was then that I was reminded of a funny story that happened to me once…

Back in December 2010, I was headed home to surprise my family for Christmas. I had just spent my first few months in Shanghai, and was looking forward to a little family lovin’. At the airport check-in counter with my Chinese friend Julie, who accompanied me to the airport, I was a little taken aback by the customer service rep’s question.

“Can you see very good?” she asked.

“Ummm…well, I can with my glasses on,” I answered her in a curious-sounding voice.

“But you can see?” she queried.

Leaning over, I whispered to Julie, “Why does she need to know this? Is this some weird China thing?” Julie shook her head no.

“I can see OK, but not very well without my glasses. Is this a problem? I’m not driving the plane, so…I’m not sure what the deal is.”

Apparently that answer was sufficient, since she dropped the conversation and continued with normal check-in. Shaking my head as I left the counter, I chocked it up to a random, weird China experience, said goodbye to Julie, and made my way through immigration and security.

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After boarding the aircraft, I was approached by a middle-aged flight attendant. In a VERY loud voice, she shouted, “Ma’am, I brought you a book to read!” while handing me a large white book. Her loud voice was beginning to draw the attention of the other passengers.

“No, thank you, I brought my own,” I said, wondering why she was giving me, and only me, a book.

“Ma’am, it’s a Braille book for you to read!” she shouted.

“Why do I need a Braille book?” I questioned, my face flushing from all this attention I was getting.

“Because you’re blind!” she said matter-of-factly.

“I’m not blind!” I insisted.

“Yes, you are,” she argued.

“No, really, I’m not,” I again insisted, at this point completely flabbergasted as to why this was happening. I was pretty sure I was being punked.

The older Southern gentleman (AKA good ole boy) behind me bellowed, “I see what you’re doing…trying to get something for free by telling them you’re blind, huh?” as he chuckled and shook his head at me. I wanted to crawl under my seat.

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At our stopover in Tokyo, we all had to go through security and then get checked in again so they could issue us a boarding pass for the last leg of our trip. As I was waiting for the people in front of me to get their boarding passes, I leaned over the edge of the counter and happened to see my name written down on a piece of paper. Once it was my turn in line, I asked, “Why is my name written on that paper?”

“Because I have to escort you to the gate,” the attendant said.

“Ummm…why?”

“Because you’re blind.”

“I JUST READ MY NAME ON THAT PIECE OF PAPER! How could I possibly be blind?” I shouted.

“I don’t know, but I will help you to the gate,” he responded.

“No, you won’t. I do not need help.”

“But it says that I have to.”

“I don’t care. I am capable of going by myself.”

After a few more minutes of arguing, he let me go unattended. Seriously, I felt like I was in the twilight zone or something.

Luckily, the rest of the flight was good, and I was no longer accused of being blind, but looking back, that was some crazy trip! I still can’t figure out how I got flagged in the system, but I’m glad it’s never happened again.

You Know You’re a Traveler When… SOL #23

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You Know You’re a Traveler When…

You’re thinking about your next trip right after getting home from your last one.

You run out of pages in your passport and have to add more.

A great gift idea for you is travel gear- a new backpack, packing bags, travel-sized accessories- or better yet, an airplane ticket!

You buy a ticket to another country just because you suddenly realize you have a three-day weekend!

You have 3 currencies (or more!) in your wallet at the same time.

You speak in airport codes.

You know that familiar itch, the one that signals it’s time to GO!

You’d rather not buy the latest gadget if it means you can take one more trip this year.

You choose your next destination because the airplane ticket is the cheapest. Skyscanner’s “anywhere” destination search is the tool for that!

The thought of living in the same place your whole life scares you shitless!

 

Chasing the Sun

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? In honor of this, I would like to share a little poem I wrote on my flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu this weekend. I was mesmerized by the images outside of my window, so much so that I was inspired to write a poem. Enjoy! 🙂

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Chasing the Sun

An ocean of gray clouds
form a never-ending horizon
Puffy white clouds in the distance
play the part of mountains
Fiery orange contrasts against the ocean,
fading into tangerine, butter, lemon
A touch of cotton
just before
the field of forget-me-nots
reaches high,
darker and darker,
until it finally settles into night
Flying into the sunset
trying to
catch it
touch it
before it fades away
A race against time
A race we can’t win

My Travel Essentials- SOL #30

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As a seasoned traveler, I have, through trial and error, figured out the essential elements I must bring with me whenever I take a trip, especially a long one (5+ hours). I’m posting from the Hong Kong airport, so I don’t have pictures of my items, but I’ll do my best to describe them for you. Beyond the obvious travel items one may take on a  trip, I like to bring:

  1. A large scarf or pashmina– This versatile piece of clothing serves as a traditional scarf, a blanket when you get cold on the airplane, or a wrap, which is essential in some cultures where women have to have their shoulders covered in public. I usually bring my black one because it goes with everything.
  2. My neck pillow– As someone who has trouble sleeping on airplanes, I used to lug around my full-sized pillow, but the more you travel, the more you realize how annoying and ridiculous that is. I’ve tried several neck pillows, but the one that works for me is my one made of memory foam. It holds its shape no matter what you do to it. Not only is the neck pillow great for sleeping on the airplane (or bus or train or…), I’ve used it to sleep in the airport, stretched out on the benches, as a pillow in hostels that didn’t pass my cleanliness test, and in my lap as a book rest when I’m reading on the airplane. I highly recommend it!
  3. A sleep mask– First of all, don’t laugh…I realize how ridiculous I look wearing this, but it really helps me get a snooze in when the lights are on. My friend Melissa likes to call me a ‘princess’ when I wear it. She can call me whatever she likes, but I’m a happy ‘princess’ when I get my sleep! The one I have is black, not too tight, and made of silky material. I bought it in the LA airport when I left my other one at home, and I have been a happy sleeper ever since!
  4. A comfy travel outfit– I like fashion as much as the next girl, but when I travel, I prefer comfort over fashion! My go-to travel outfit consists of comfy stretchy pants such as leggings or yoga pants, a tank top, t-shirt, and hoodie or track jacket on top (layers are key to account for varying temperatures), my scarf, socks, and slip-on Nike tennis shoes for breezing through security. I don’t wear jewelry when I travel either. More of a hassle than it’s worth, especially at security checkpoints.
  5. My iPad mini, a book, and/or laptop– I like to have plenty of stuff to do when I’m on those long-haul flights. My iPad mini is great for storing books, magazines, videos, and apps that I can play or use to research my next travel destination. I also like to have it in case I need to snap a quick photo or jot down a note I don’t want to forget! I like to have at least one paperback book with me, especially for takeoff and landing when all electronic devices need to be switched off. My laptop comes with me if I will be at my destination for a while (such as home for the holidays), I need to do some work while on vacation, or I would like to blog.
  6. Small toiletry bag– This one is so important. I have a small 3x2x1 inch bag I bought at the fake market. It fits nicely into my carry on and houses lots of important odds and ends that I may need on the flight. I have my pill box with Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Melatonin (essential for helping me sleep), and Tums. While I may not need any of those medicines, it sure is great to have when I do! In it I also keep a travel hairbrush, travel ready-to-use toothbrushes, a few mints, hair ties and barrettes, chapstick, hand sanitizer, face lotion, wet wipes (so important), Kleenex, and hand lotion. All of these items are travel sized and fit nicely into my bag that takes up less room than a paperback book.
  7. Noise-cancelling earbuds– These are great for blocking out the sounds of the screaming baby in aisle 12, the snoring man next to you, and the constant interruptions of the PA system. They also prevent you from having to use the airline-provided headphones, which make me think of germs. Yuck!
  8. Reusable water bottle– If you’ve ever traveled by plane, you know how dehydrating it can be. There’s nothing worse than being thirsty on the plane! I hate when I forget my water bottle because the flight attendants will only give you a small cup of water at a time. Since there’s no lid, you can’t save the water for later or it’ll spill. I bring my own, and ask the flight attendant to fill it up on the first drink run. As a bonus, you can use it when you are traveling so you aren’t constantly having to buy and throw away water bottles.
  9. An empty recycled grocery bag– You never know when you might need more space in your luggage. You don’t want to forgo that really cool souvenir because you don’t have room in your bag. Bringing an extra bag takes up no room or weight, but it gives you the flexibility to bring something back home that you may not have been able to otherwise. Sometimes I use it, other times it comes back empty. It’s just good to have. I’ve also used it as a day bag when  in a pinch.

What items are essential when you travel?

An Unexpected Pitstop- SOL #29

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Today I had planned a totally different slice, one that I was writing in my head while waiting in the airport in Shanghai and on the airplane on my way to Kathmandu, via Hong Kong. But, due to some unexpected changes, I have a new slice idea.

Like I said earlier, I was on my way to Nepal for a week-long vacation. One thing you have to know about Shanghai is that the airports there are notorious for leaving late. Delays are a way of life, and while they still annoy me, I’ve come to accept that it would take an act of God for a plane to leave at its scheduled time, so to allow for the inevitable delays, I gave myself extra layover time in Hong Kong. An hour plus delay prior to boarding and an hour sitting on the runway made today’s delays even longer than my layover time, and consequently, I missed my flight to Nepal. You may know from my previous post that I am an unplanned traveler, meaning that I don’t really know what is going to happen on my trips, and I tend to just roll with the punches and let adventure come my way. This was one of those punches.

Landing at ten to seven, I knew it was too late. My flight to Nepal departed at 7:10pm, and I was in row 38. There was no way I was getting off that plane anytime soon. The only thing that could have saved me was a delayed flight to Nepal, but seeing as this was Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is efficient, the chances were pretty slim. Upon exiting the walkway from the plane to the terminal, I was met with chaos. Dozens of Cathay Pacific personnel were holding up signs and shouting out locations, trying to gather up people who had missed their connecting flights. People headed to Aukland, Melbourne, the US, Mumbai, a few others, and of course, Kathmandu were all in the same boat.

Louise, the agent helping me, presented me with two new boarding passes, telling me that I’d been booked on a flight that departed in an hour. Great, I thought, I’ll get to Nepal after all. When I looked closer, I realized that I had been booked on a flight to Dehli and then a flight to Kathmandu, meaning that my total transit time had been extended another 10 hours. Hmmm…I didn’t like that. I could tell Louise was disappointed, but nonetheless, vowed to help me. After waiting a while, she presented a new plan. This one involved staying overnight in Hong Kong and flying out tomorrow afternoon. I can handle that. I mean, Hong Kong isn’t the worst place to be stranded, and my best friend lives here, so I called her up and made plans for the morning. The airline put me up in a really nice hotel called the Penta Hotel, and I am on the 30th floor. There’s even a cushioned window seat that I plan on testing out in the morning.

As an unplanned traveler, you have to expect the unexpected. Am I happy that I missed my flight and will be spending one less day in Kathmandu? Not exactly, but I’m not mad either. I get to stay in this posh hotel room overlooking Hong Kong, visit with Shaggers and Jeezy tomorrow, and get into Kathmandu earlier in the evening than I would have today. Cheers to an unexpected pitstop and the fun it brings!