Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy 25th and Arrival in China

I left the afternoon of July 17th for China and arrived the afternoon of the 18th to Beijing...probably my shortest birthday yet :-)  but it was a good one.  Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday!!

Today, all and all, went fairly well.  Arrival at the airport - check.  Checking in, getting boarding pass and not being charged for overweight luggage - smooth.  Boarding the flight - fantastic because I started drinking the mimosa's before aircraft doors closed.  Food on the flight was delicious and I ate a lot - had seconds on the ice cream.  While eating I watched the movie Date Night which I thought was funny and cute all at the same time.  For the rest of the flight I slept and listened to music until 'morning' time which was really lunch time because it was the next day...skip head 13 hours already...time really does fly. 

Disembarking from the plane went smooth as well and no problems with customs.  I headed down towards baggage claim for the dreaded hurry up and wait game.  To my surprise the bags had already started around when I arrived.  Since the baggage trolleys were free I snagged one to use and after only 5 minutes my safety bag showed up.  Now I was thinking "sweet, maybe I won't have to wait around until the end" but I thought it too soon.  I waited, and waited and waited and saw everyone slowly leaving the area from my plane but my second bag was no where to be seen.  A nice lady with a scanner scanned by baggage claim tickets and said the bag I was waiting for did not make the flight.  Bummer - I filed a report and hopefully within the next 2 days I will receive my bags at my final destination hotel.  This happened to me as well when I went to Trinidad except it was my safety bag which did not make the flight.  I wonder if this will start to be a tradition/game - let's see which one of my bags did not make the flight at the other end?!

I went to the area of the Beijing airport which has shuttle buses thinking maybe my hotel had a shuttle bus I could take.  Well it did not but the nice lady at the ticket counter said that if I took bus number 6 right outside it would take me to where I needed to be - alright then, I hoped on the bus.  After taking my seat and the bus left the airport I then realized I did not exactly ask which stop to get off at but recalled which area she said.  According to the sign I just barely noticed before I got on the bus my gut told me I stay on until the end of the ride.  The end of the route came and I did not see any buildings with any hotel names on them so I confirmed with the bus driver that I was indeed in the correct area.  The bus driver pointed to the main road and told me to turn left - hotel will be there.  I did just that but only noticed the Marriott.  I did not want to keep walking just in case I was going to wrong direction so I walked into the lobby to confirm.  The bus driver was indeed correct, I just needed to keep walking about 5 minutes further.  Now keep in mind that I am wearing a backpack and pulling my heavy safety bag or other carry on luggage behind me while the temperature was 90F and high humidity.  Doesn't that sound exciting?! 

It was glorious to check in and go up to my air conditioned room.  I tried turning the lights on but noticed nothing happened and I thought maybe something was wrong or fuse blown.  I determined somehow that this small box with a red light next to the light switches fit the room key so I swiped my room key in then back out again and what is that saying...?...'let there be light'  Although after maybe 20-30 seconds the lights would go out and I would keep swiping my key card thinking how am I going to keep these lights on continuously.   Took about the third or fourth time for me to realize I leave my room key in the slot to keep the lights on.  That was my clue that it will be an early bed time for me tonight!

Hopefully Air China will not lose my safety bag tomorrow....night y'all! (or should I say morning to most)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goodbye Trinidad - Hello China + Happy Birthday

I was warned that road life could become hectic when you think you know what direction you are headed.  My current training assignment here in Trinidad is not quite finished yet but I received notification three days ago that I was assigned a billable assignment in China.  I figured I would finish this assignment first before shipping out to China....WRONG!  I am heading back to Chicago this morning - I leave for the airport in an hour.  I will take care of personal and work related items during the next six days in which I then fly to China on Saturday. 

I had plans to celebrate my birthday which happens to be next Saturday the 17th with everyone here in Trinidad - Trini style.  Another UOP crew member even has the exact same birthday - cool huh?!  So that is now not happening but...I received an email from my future crew members in China saying that on Saturday the 17th they will be getting together to celebrate my future chief's birthday, which happens to fall on the 17th as well.  Seriously now, think about these odds.  My first assignment and someone has the same birthday and now my second assignment all the way in China and someone there also has the same birthday...I still can't get my head wrapped around the idea but it's pretty cool anyhow!!  Sadly though I will be unable to make it to China for the Saturday event.  What will I be doing you ask?  Have you guessed yet?...I will fly out on my birthday.  I will be drink mimosa's as soon as I board!!!  Champagne is my drink of choice.

Since I went from having two possibilities of celebrating my birthday on the actual day either Trini or China style to being on a plane by myself, my Trinidad crew had a surprise.  Being that tonight was my last night I felt it only appropriate to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant, right?!  Upon arrival we sat down at the table and it took us a few minutes but noticed that there was a Happy Birthday sign with balloons above the end of the table.  Now I know what you are thinking, ah that is sweet - but that was just a coincidence and not the surprise.  I am not sure when Vinosh had time to ask the waiter but at the end of the meal the waiter brought over a slice of cheesecake with one candle.  The local saxophone player and singer sang Happy Birthday to me and then I made a wish :-)

L to R: Vinosh (Petrotrin), Ken, Jeremy, Me, Afshin, Kelly, Eric

Thanks for the wonderful birthday wishes and cheesecake!  I will miss you Trinidad...until next time!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July from Trinidad

Yes, Yes, Yes I am still here in Trinidad but to relax on this 4th of July weekend I decided to take an overnight trip to Tobago.  Eric, a fellow crew member, and his wife Kelly were already there and they were kind enough to let me stay with them in their hotel room because they had two beds and we were all leaving the next morning.  Sounds all well and should have been but.....  I arrived to the airport a little more than 45 minutes before my flight.  Waited in line to check in and when I reached the counter the clerk said my flight has 'closed' 3 minutes ago.  I kept asking what that meant and her response "It closed!".  Finally I was able to get her to tell me what my next steps should be which was to check in as a standby passenger.  No problem I thought because I have flown standby my entire life - no biggie.  I turn to my left and saw a large large gathering of people in line trying to fly standby to Tobago.  When I reached the counter here is how the conversation went:
Me:  How long is the wait?
Clerk:  Can't say
Me:  Okay, can you tell me how many people are infront of me?
Clerk:  Can't tell you
Me:  Alright, how come you can not tell me?
Clerk:  Because it causes conflict with others who I flying standby
Now, as soon as I heard that last statement I knew I was going to be in for a treat (and not one you look forward to either).  I suspected that their system of standby was not based off when you checked in with the clerk but random order upon when the agents felt like for a variety of reasons.  I was indeed correct because the man who checked in before me left 2 hours before I did.  What? you ask yourself, 2 hours?  Yes, I know, I waited around the airport for 4 hours until I was able to get on a flight which takes 20 minutes to reach Tobago. 

By the time I landed there really wasn't much sun left so I walked the 5 minutes to the hotel and the three of us relaxed by the poolside until we got ready for dinner.  The hotel was extremely relaxing; I am definitely going back there another weekend! Here are some pictures so you can live vicariously through me.  We ate dinner at a local place that was owned by a German.  The food was yum - and since he was German, part of the veggies that came with my ribs included red cabbage german style - delicious!
Kelly and Eric had the flight back to Trinidad which left 30 minutes before mine.  Their flight was on time however mine was delayed and I arrived back an hour after originally scheduled.  This weekend was not my luck at the airports!

Tonight the entire crew contributed to making a Fourth of July grill out to bring a little home to Trinidad.  We found a disposable grill and made brats and hamburgers.  Kelly and I cooked the sides - pasta salad, baked beans and deviled eggs.  Everything was delicious and fun had by all.  The one thing we forgot to pick up - fireworks!