Monday, July 5, 2010
Getting to India: 7/2-7/4
preface: this is really long, so if you don’t want to read it, at least just scroll down and look at the pictures – I think they’re an ok-enough explanation
Getting to India was waaaaay longer than I expected. I suppose it was the layovers, the inefficiency of the airports, and the fact that there were so many unknowns along the way. I guess I just expected a more streamlined method of travel, like when I went to Japan. But that was one flight and using ANA. These flights were United and Lufthansa.
ROANOKE to DULLES
I sat in seat 11C, a window seat. I was so glad I got a window, I’m a big fan of spacing out by looking at the clouds during flights. This was pretty much the most useless flight I’ve ever been on. I could have driven to Dulles airport faster than it took to check in, go through security, and fly for 20 minutes to get there in time for my 3 hour layover. (interesting tangent 1)
Anywho, here’s our particularly tiny plane.
DULLES to FRANKFURT
Remember that pie? Of course you do. I forgot mine! I was doing last minute things the morning I left, so I inadvertently left my slice of Shoo Fly Pie at home! So I had to buy lunch at the airport. Actually, it was relatively cheap: a sandwich on a bagel- delish, but no piece of pie.
Ok, so the actual flight…
I went to the ticket counter and got my ticket switched from an isle to a window: seat 55J. Usually the windows are with seats A and K, but in the last two rows (55 and 56) they have fewer seats so I got a window and an extra foot next to my seat on the window seat to store my bag. Sweet! I sat next to Val, another girl in our group. I was afraid that when I switched my seat I’d be put next to a gross smelly guy who talked the whole time, so this was fantastic. (and there were some people on the plane who were not at all aware of their own b.o. uggh. (interesting tangent 2)
So, it’s interesting the things you learn in vet school. Most people would probably assume that practical skills I’ve mastered involve veterinary medicine of some sort, but based on this flight, I would have to disagree. I have apparently learned how to sit in one place, semi focus, and not pee for 8 hours. Thank you vet school for teaching me how to sit in one place forever. The only difference between the plane ride and vet school is that when people were sleeping on the plane, they were doing so quite openly rather than that sneaky hand-on-elbow-while-“looking”-at-laptop maneuver.
As for meals, I got the vegan meal, which was good because the lunch/dinner choices of chicken and “vegetarian” were apparently on the meh end of the delish-o-meter. Also, the vegetarian meal had shrimp so I’m glad I got vegan one. (though I do wish I got the piece of cheese that came with the vegetarian meal... mmm... cheese)
Oh and thanks to having another window seat, I got to stare out the window. Here are some lovely views from the sky as well as our route map:
Layover in Frankfurt:
I was led to believe that the Germans had some austere sense of style. The airport in Frankfurt is super boring and there was nothing there that was at all orderly. Every “line” we waited in was a big mass of people jammed up together – it was worse than merging on the beltway at rush hour with a traffic accident ahead. Seriously, they need to get a handle on this thing... Oh, and they seriously needed to turn up the AC, it was toasty! And that’s coming from me!!!
It was even worse when we tried to board the plane. First of all, the plane was overbooked. First Class, Business, Economy, you name it. So, I couldn’t change my seat from isle to window, but fortunately, Alex said she’s switch her window for my isle, so I got to look out the window for flight #3. Anywho, it was crazy busy. And as I said before, the Germans handled this in what was possibly the worst way they could have without actively being ridiculous. They first allowed first class to board the plane, so they could make it to the top floor (it was an airbus) and not have view us commoners. Lufthansa then told everyone else they could board and all hell broke loose. We queued up into a line, which turned out to be a line so that we could find out what line we needed to be in next. Then we just got into non-lines but rather bunches of people near the ticket counter based on whether we were people of Indian origin/ had Indian passports, or not. There were originally two lines for the non-Indians, but both of the lines didn’t move for about 25 minutes because there were issues with their visas, so they opened a third line, where the back sections of the lines got to go first (because that makes sense). Then as our two lines still didn’t move, they resolved one guy’s issue and promptly closed his line. So we were forced to move to the new 3rd line. That line picked up pretty quickly since the woman wasn’t actually checking our visas but instead just looking at our boarding pass and the front of our passport (she didn’t even open mine) and stamping the pass. Then we lined up in the real line to board our plane. We were so worried since we were probably in the last 20 people or so to board that we wouldn’t get seats and get bumped, but it didn’t happen. We got on board, found our seats, and were actually kinda glad that we didn’t have to spend time in the hot stuffy airplane all that extra time. We took off about 30 minutes late.
FRANKFURT to CHENNAI
This flight was awesome! I love the airbus. It was infinitely better than the previous flight. We had individual TVs in the seats in front of us (rather than 4 super old school in-the-ceiling-of-the-isle-from-the-mid-90’s style). This meant that we could choose our movies as well as when they started. Plus, it gave us access to the flight map, which I loved. I just wish that the map had international borders on it, since I can only guess where we flew over. I think the list includes: Germany (duh), Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
When we were flying, I watched a few movies (Datenight, The Bounty Hunter, and half of Sherlock Holmes) but mostly looked out the window. I’d slept for a few hours on the previous flight, so I really tried to not sleep on this one. I wanted to be on Indian Standard Time when we arrived (at about midnight) and be ready to sleep when we landed.
Airplane Window Landscape Viewing Conclusion: Iran is sandy, mountainous, and beautiful.
It was a wonderful way to spend 9 hours.
Even though we left super late, we still got in on time. Also, the food was ok, but nothing fancy. I wish I’d taken the silverware though, because it was super cute and also we could use some forks in this apartment. (We’ve only got spoons.)
Finally, we arrived in Chennai at 11:50-something PM on 7/3.
Customs was a snap and everybody’s luggage arrived intact, though it was a bit slow to come off the carousel. So around 1:30 AM we left the airport and took our luggage trolleys to the parking/pick up/drop off area. It was a zoo. Ok, actually it kinda smelled zoo-y. There was definitely a bit of an animal scent in the air as soon as we left the airport. But that’s not surprising since there are animals just hanging out. I didn’t see any outside the airport, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. This zoo was made of people:
TANUVAS sent two vans to pick us us: one for our luggage and one for us. Our van was super tricked out… and by that I mean that the walls, seats, and ceiling were covered in this velvet-esque, interestingly patterned fabric. Plus, it had some sweet interior lights.
Around 2 AM we arrived at our housing: the sabbatical hostel. It’s pretty nice. There are two sets of suites: 1,2,3 and 4,5,6. Suite 1,2,3, has two double rooms (though we’re only using one) and a single room. Same for 4,5,6. I’m in room 4, which is a single, and I’m lovin’ it, since I keep weird hours. (it’s 2:47 AM as I’m writing this, though I slept a little earlier when I was waiting for the internet to reconnect)
There will be pictures of the accommodations up soon, so bear with me while I fight with the internet for a steady wifi connection long enough to upload everything.
1 - Carrie, one of the girls on our trip had been in Colorado, visiting family and flew into Dulles that morning and drove down to Roanoke. Then she flew back there because the airport would have charged her a $250 re-booking fee had she simply missed her Roanoke to DC flight. Talk about energy conservation…
2 - Jen had a seat up towards the front/middle section of the plane, but due to the fact that the plane wasn’t full, she had 3 seats next to her that were empty. But, before the flight took off, a man a few seats away asked if he could switch with her since there was a dog(a little poodle thing) in his isle and he was allergic to dogs. Jen said she’d switch, and soon after the fasten seat belt light went off, the guy fell asleep on all three seats and a kid in the seat in front of Jen started screaming. No good deed goes unpunished. About an hour later, Jen got up to look for solace and found us in the back of the plane with an empty seat in front of us (an isle one too) so she promptly grabbed her gear from the front and moved near us so she could pass out.