Woke up at the very wrong time of 3:30, and couldn’t get back to sleep. American late night TV is just as bad as ours, only there’s significantly more of it. Bummed around in bed until it felt like an acceptable time to get up and shower, and am now going in search of breakfast.
Location: Mount Kisco, New York USA
(Well, it lasted about three tracks before it started making annoying beepy noises.)
Flying in over the great lakes region (I think), looked down through the patches of cloud and thought I saw enormous tracts of sand. Soon realised that it was snow in the dawn light and felt rather chilly, and rightly so — the north east of the US is in the grip of a cold snap, as I would soon discover.
Arrived at JFK with a slightly shaky landing, stumbled off the plane and through immigration, getting the famous fingerprint and photo routine done on the way. Was directed by about 5 people in turn (after only asking one) onto a bus to Grand Central Station. Our bus was driven by a psycho woman who (we couldn’t help but learn) was named Betty.
Betty was quite keen on the horn, the accelerator, and when required, which was often, the brake. She was also quite keen on chatting to all the uniformed people she picked up and dropped off along the route, and bitching about her schedule and her bus being changed on her.
Peering out through the dirty, snowy, windows (or trying to), it occurred to me that this was entirely different to Japan. There the buses were spotless, were driven smoothly and sedately by white-gloved Japanese men, and ran perfectly to time. Here there was traffic, graffiti all over the place, and we couldn’t see out the side windows. Here also cost $13, whereas there was free. Hmm.
After eventually arriving in one piece, I took a run-down yet clean and fast train to Mount Kisco, for $8.50. Got a cheap cab to the hotel and checked in. Was relieved to find earthed power points, but not so relieved to find another crazy whirlpool toilet. This one also makes pooping sounds while it flushes, at least that’s how it sounds to me.
Walked to the local car rental place, which was ten minutes away, and realised why everyone drives everywhere: it’s just too damn cold. Rented a butt-ugly Toyota Echo sedan for a week until I can buy something. Concentrated extremely hard on driving on the wrong side of the road. Turning right when the light is red scares me.
Did some minor shopping, saw a Subway, and went in search of something familiar to eat for dinner. It wasn’t quite as familiar as I would have liked… first there was no chicken fillet on the menu. Then, after going through the usual interview process up to the cheese and then sauce, they completely skipped the salads and gave me a roll with nothing but meat on it. Too tired to care about it then, so sometime soon I’ll have to work out what you do to actually get some veggies.
Ate dinner in my hotel room while using the provided network connection, and deleting large amounts of mail. Am just about to collapse into sleep as I write this at 8:20pm. Good night.
Location: somewhere over Anchorage, Alaska USA
Note: the time was actually much earlier, probably about 1am (I just wrote “very early morning”), but since LiveJournal deals in local time I’ve done this so that it gets sorted correctly. So much for global clocks!
The flight attendants just violated the silly American regulation about people gathering in groups by informing everyone (who was awake) of, and allowing them to queue by the windows to see, a pretty spectacular Aurora.
Managed to get an emergency exit seat (ie. lots of leg room) next to the window, so I can’t complain, much.
Otherwise the flight has been entirely uneventful, and I’m waiting for the battery in the laptop to expire.
Tried to use an internet kiosk thing in the airport, but got nothing but 404s. By the way, internet kiosk in Japan means brand new laptop with some metal bits holding it to the desk. It was spotless, and undamaged. The spotless part became obvious a little later when a woman came by and sprayed disinfectant over it. She didn’t seem to do anything about the fact that it wasn’t working, however.
Still 5:30 worth of flight to go. It’s warming up outside now, up to -47C from -65C as the pixelated plane slowly crawls in an arc across North America. For some unknown reason they turned the lights on now, having had them on for the past 3 hours while it was afternoon in Japanese time, so strangely enough noone was sleepy. I figured maybe they were trying to accustomise us to New York time, but now that it’s getting into night time at both origin and destination, the only explanation is that they’re trying to confuse us.
Since there isn’t anything terribly interesting to say about a 12 hour plane trip, I’m going to listen to some muzak until the battery dies. It’s doing remarkably well so far for a single charge!
Woke up at 6:0something AM and unset the wake up call. Bleh.
Breakfast was pretty good… two things I forgot to mention last night: checked out the TV guide and discovered that it was all for porn (pay TV of course :). Also, the toilet is a little odd. It starts off half full with water already, which rises as you, er, use it. So you’d better not have a too large bladder. Then when you flush, it dribbles water in around the side to create a little whirlpool, sucks the whole lot out the bottom, and then regurgitates half to refill the bowl. This means (as I discovered) that if there is something, er, bouyant, in there, it can get sucked out the bottom but come back out when the bowl is refilled. Oops.
Went for a short walk around the car park. It’s fscking cold, but watching CNN last night, New York had -7. Hmm.
Waiting for the bus to the airport, which no doubt will be followed by endless shenanigans getting onto the plane, so that I can spend another 12 hours getting bored and tired before further shenanigans. Isn’t travel fun? Although, I must say I’m a big fan of the overnight stopover for shower, shit, shave, and sleep. Makes it much more bearable.
Location: Narita, Japan
Got up insanely early (6am), drove to airport, waited in several delightful queues, got on a 747, and eventually took off. The highlight of this process was the bitching from the customs officer about “those bloody stupid yanks”, having noticed the stupid big envelope they stapled to my passport along with the visa.
Spent a further delightful ten hours feeling cramped, watching a little pixelated plane getting towards Narita (Tokyo). The food and service on the plane were actually surprisingly good, and it had one of those semi-new-fangled in-flight entertainment systems in every seat, which helped relieve the boredom.
Wandered through the airport (still faster than the travelators though), and was assailed by overly corteuos Japanese efficiency at every turn. The closest I came to getting the slightest bit confused was when the hotel turned out to have an extra word (Nikko) in its name. Even the shuttle bus was exceptionally quiet, clean, and smooth. Chatted to a Canadian guy while waiting (only 5 minutes) for it… he was wearing shorts and t-shirt, and looked decidedly uncomfortable in the 5 degree weather.
Discovered that hotel suites are basically the same the world over. Also discovered, to my exceptional dismay, that not one electrical appliance in the entire room was earthed, including the fridge and lamps with metal bases. This was particularly relevant because it meant that
the travel adaptor I had carefully purchased in Sydney to allow me to recharge the laptop in Japan was useless, leaving me with 30 minutes of battery life to write this entry, and get to the USA. Doh.
Boggled at the fact that the airport starts on the other side of the road from the hotel, yet it took the bus 15 minutes to get here. Surmised that the airport is enormous (duh).
Tired of eating shapes and salsa, and went to check out the restaurant. Paid 1800 Yen (nearly $30 AUD) for a crappy curry chicken that Dong Dong’s would knock out any day of the week for $6.80. Would have liked to try some Japanese food, but the only such thing on the menu (which consisted mostly of things like hamburgers and an “American Club Sandwich with fries”) cost a fortune. Still good to eat something hot, though.
Set the automated wake up call, hoped I got it right, and am now heading off for bed.