Since about November or December last year, I have been in secret communication with my brother-in-law. Secret, because we didn't want my sister to find out.
Sounds a bit dodgy, doesn't it?
The truth is, we were planning the most fantastic present for her - a surprise visit! For the last few months Ju's Husband and I have been organising the best time for me to visit, and the dates I will need to be picked up from the airport. And the whole thing worked like a charm! Ju's Husband collected me from Heathrow in the afternoon of 29 March and brought me back to their place. I walked in the door behind him, then as he was greeting Ju I stepped to the side so she could see me and the grin on my face.
The first thing she said to me? "What are you doing here?"
But more on the first few days of my holiday later. For now here are some delirious ramblings from my time in the airports on the journey over:
28 March – San Francisco Airport
I still can't get over how completely hassle-free this airport turns out to be. Where I expected a forty five minute wait at border control, I only stood in line for five. Where I expected a drudge to put my bag on the wrong conveyor, I re-checked them myself at the correct counter. I feared I would be another forty minutes making my way through security, but even being moved aside and patted down for a body search barely took a moment of my time.
So in comparison to LAX, I am not only pleasantly surprised, I am actually relaxed and almost enjoying myself. I sit at the gate lounge (anyone who has travelled will agree they are too open for me to be able to say 'in' the gate lounge) and I watch the ground staff deal with people's questions with frendly efficiency. I'd like to take this time to work on either one of my stories, or on one of my characters for the dice-rolling games I play. I already have a character for Eclipse, and two for Casus Belli. I want to delve deeper into their natures, but I am too tired. It has been twelve hours on a plane for me already, and I am looking forward to another twelve or so. This time I am not just landing in a foreign country unvisited, but one in which I don't speak the local language. The sum total of my German (barely remembered from high school) is Guten Tag, Wie geht es das? and Ich habe zwei Schwestern und sie sind zillinge. The last is my favourite of course. I love the contortions required to pronounce the words.
I find myself wondering how different this string of thoughts would be if I wasn't slightly sleep deprived. Not very, probably.
Despite facing another long flight – let me check: another 10 hours and 50 minutes – I am at the moment glad that I am not stopping over for the night. I like San Francisco, and would love to spend more time in this beautiful city but I am also eager to be finished with this journey. I have no patience for the delay a stop-over would cause. It is thirty minutes to boarding, according to my boarding pass, and it is about twenty minutes too long a wait. Though I am yawning every half minute, I want to move. I want to get there.
When it was about 9am Sunday 28 March New Zealand time, I was probably in the shower. Since then I have lived out another twenty five hours or so with no shower. Twenty minutes ago I bought a new t-shirt from a souvenir shop and changed out of my long sleeved tee which was smelly and too hot for the plane anyway. I deodorised. I feel better.
If I keep typing and keep rambling and keep writing this for a post which may not eventuate, then perhaps I won't fall asleep. If I don't fall asleep now I certainly must on the flight. I need to sleep on the flight.
I need to sign off before your metaphorical ears drop off from the boredom induced by reading this post.
29 March 2010 – Frankfurt Airport
Now having travelled the next eleven hours or so I can admit there were times – long, painful, boring times – when I was tempted to think a day's stop in San Fran would have been a better idea. The Lufthansa flight had no personal entertainment. In fact it felt like a domestic flight which happened to last for eleven hours. There were large CRT television screens hanging from the roof over the aisles and the majority of the entertainments were advertising for the Star Alliance and music videos. There was also a movie which played for the middle section of the flight. I think it had Matt Damon and may have been a spy movie. I didn't bother with it.
Instead I tried to sleep.
It didn't work very well.
I was surprised that I was provided with no entry documents on the aircraft. As far as they seem to be concerned I was never here. No stamps on my passport, no forms handed in. I get out of one plane, and through an x-ray point to my next gate, then on to my next plane out of the country. Like a ghost. But it's not long now. In about an hour and a half I should be allowed into the gate lounge (I am allowed to say 'in' this time as they are cordened off from passing strangers) and boarding will undoubtedly follow soon after. The next flight will be like a domestic one for me – one hour and thirty minutes makes it pretty much the same as the Christchurch-Auckland journey.
I feel a bit stink for non-english speaking countries' airlines. The staff have to be fluent in english anyway, and all the signs are doubled. All notices are repeated in english. The attendant at the gate counter seems to have more of an english accent than german. I had always had the policy in the back of my head that if you visit a person's country you should be prepared to make an attempt at their language. But I'm actually terrified of greeting someone with Guten Morgan, or saying thank you with a danke shoen, just in case they spout forth with something I can't begin to fathom. I only fear this because I've been complimented on two seperate occasions by native speaking germans for my accent. (Thanks Mrs Oppenheim). Anyway, it's a stupid fear, completely unfounded, and I've avoided it in total by speaking english like everyone else.
Which leaves me here, sitting on the cold concrete floor until the gate lounge opens for me. I have now been flying for a total of almost twenty four hours, and it must be about thrity six since I last had a shower. Rachie will know how squirmy that's making me. I hope Ju doesn't mind hugging a smelly sister.
I think she won't mind.