Posts Tagged airport

The Kindness of Strangers

Walking on Av Pres Figueroa Alcorta

Ms. HalfEmpty walking in Buenos Aires.

Living in foreign countries where we didn’t speak the language even close to fluently and weren’t aware of all the customs led to some interesting experiences on our South American Adventure. Fortunately, strangers stepped in to save the day!

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Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Worst Flight Ever

Thankfully for our livers, all things must come to an end.  After a weekend of partying in Germany, it was time to depart for Spain — the 8th and final country on our 30/40 World Tour.

Everyone has heard of “German efficiency,” but there was none to be found in the airport security line.  The line wasn’t very long, but was so slow!  They were basically taking apart each person’s carry-on bag despite having a perfectly serviceable x-ray machine.  They even examined my empty water bottle and told me I was not allowed to take more than 3 ounces of liquid.  My water bottle was clear plastic and attached on the outside of my bag.  This extra scrutiny seemed ridiculous.  But I assured them that my visibly empty bottle was indeed empty by shaking it for them.

Our flight to Spain was not direct.  It was also one of the only flights we did not book through STA, since they didn’t have any deals.  We couldn’t find any reasonably priced direct flights from Munich to Barcelona, so we used a discount carrier with a one hour layover in Düsseldorf.

Of course, nothing could be that easy.  Remember how we always say you get what you pay for?  This was another case in point.

The flight from Düsseldorf to Barcelona was delayed.  We had done a great job of booking direct flights with week-long layovers in exotic locales.  Our only true airport layover of the 30/40 World Tour was at LAX, but even then we planned a beach outing in Santa Monica.  This time, all we were able to do was hang out in a terminal filled to capacity with people from various delayed flights.  There weren’t any seats; even the nuns were sitting on the floor.  So we headed to the bar to wait.

Once it was finally our boarding time, they packed us into busses en route to the plane.  Finally, we had made it to the plane.  Thank goodness!

Not so fast.  Our journey was not yet over.  It was not yet time to relax.  This flight involved screaming children from all directions.

AirBerlin plane

After escaping the worst flight ever and arriving in Spain, we paused in the terminal to capture photographic evidence of our tormentor

The irony is that we had been on plenty of other flights with children.  Long flights.  Hours and hours of being constricted to a little seat.  But this tiny little 2 hour flight was horrible.

Perhaps I have a special intolerance as a person without children, but it really didn’t seem like the parents were doing anything.  The little girl in front of us was traveling with her German mother and Spanish father.  She was perpetually backward in her seat so that she could stare at us during the flight.  She got increasingly bold and started sticking her arm through the gap between the seats.

This was a nuisance, but not a major problem…until her arm swatted my drink.  Of course, it spilled all over my legs.  So I got to spend the rest of the day with sticky legs and socks.  Just lovely.

To understand just how much I disdain messes and sticky things, I will take you back to kindergarten.  I hated using glue because it could get on my fingers.  Other kids would smear glue all over their hands and wait for it to dry.  I found this appalling.

Back to the flight.  In the US, they would never serve food on a 2 hours flight.  But this was Europe.  They gave us some sort of boxed meal, but all the “fresh” food was inedible.  I think the sandwich was just mayo — gobs and gobs of mayo.  Perhaps there was something else in the sandwich, but it was hidden by the mayo.

We eventually arrived in Barcelona where we had to hurry up and wait for the train.  Despite visiting Dubai, it seemed excruciatingly hot in the train terminal with little air flow.  I expected it to be cooler in the evening as the sun descended.  Perhaps I was just being my half empty self with additional annoyance and stickiness.

We ended up in a train car with a group of boys on vacation.  With a liquor bottle.  They ended up making quick friends with the two girls nearby, and the liquor went back and forth across the train.  Hilarious people watching!

Barcelo Sants elevator lobby

Can you spot Ms. HalfEmpty? She's sitting in the spacey egg chair in the Barcelo Sants hotel elevator lobby.

After an afternoon of travel that seemed like days, we checked into our hotel — conveniently located above the train station.  This hotel had a space theme.  All the hallways were dark until you walked by the sensor and then a group of vertical lights from floor to ceiling adjacent to each door would illuminate.  It was a neat effect and probably saved a good bit of electricity too.

Barcelo Sants room

Outer space portal above our glowing hotel room bed

Our room was elegantly modern with space touches including a captain’s swivel chair.  There were also round portals in the room with pictures of the moon.  Oddly, one of them was above the toilet.

Barcelona taxis

During our 4 days in Barcelona, I spent a lot of time watching the parade of taxis from my hotel room window while waiting for Mr. HalfFull to coif himself. He takes longer than me! It was great people watching to see the drivers smoke and chat. It was like I was spying from space!

We even had multiple sizes of pillows with varying degrees of firmness.  Plus, there was an amazing ergonomic backrest for sitting up in bed, and a perfect bed tray. Our room was so awesome and relaxing that we didn’t leave until 1 PM the next day in search of food.

Maybe the flight wasn’t actually that bad.  I mean it wasn’t great, but it could have been much worse.  Perhaps we had just been spoiled by awesome airlines with hot towels, edible food, and the gift of silence.

  • How do you select flights?  Price?  Schedule?  Number of stops?
  • Describe your worst flight.
  • Does a dislike of glue as a kindergartener make me an old soul?
  • Is it a sin to spend the whole morning of your first day in a new country asleep?  Or is sleep important to help you enjoy it?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Dubai Whirlwind

Yoga in the Desert

Mr. HalfFull and I arrived in Dubai at 4:25 AM for the start of our 36-hour whirlwind tour of the United Arab Emirates.

You may be wondering why we spent less than 2 days in Dubai.  Valid question.

Travel Plans

We wanted to minimize airport layovers during the 30/40 World Tour.  But sometimes there are no direct flights.  Usually, we were able to make week-long layovers in a separate country, as we did in Fiji and New Caledonia.  But sometimes it just didn’t work out.

International flights only entered and departed Mauritius on Wednesdays, so that was a limiting factor.  The original plan was to fly from Mauritius to Munich to visit my cousins, and the best flight was via Air Emirates with a layover in Dubai.

We really had no intention of visiting the desert in the middle of the summer.  But my mom’s cousin, Sir Expat, a British gentleman (in the most chivalrous sense of the word) living in Dubai was willing to host us!  He has lived there for years, speaks Arabic, and has a car and an extra bedroom.  What more could we ask for?

We figured we could handle 104° temperatures for 36 hours and booked the layover.  It turned out to be a great decision!

Dubai Airport

Ms. HalfEmpty at the baggage claim in the Dubai airport

Airport

We experienced one of our best flights on Air Emirates and arrived in Dubai very early in the morning.  The UAE customs agent was perhaps the least friendly we encountered.  He didn’t seem to think traveling around the world was a valid reason to visit Dubai.  Perhaps it was because we were spending such little time in his country.  But after some stern looks, he stamped our passports.

The airport was expansive and modern with cultural touches.  For example, there were huge rugs with cushions and trunks in various locations like baggage claim.

Please don’t blow up the picture and look at my sleepy expression after our red-eye flight.  I kept wanting to cuddle up on those cushions while waiting for my luggage.  But after the encounter with the customs agent, I thought it was probably best to wait for an invitation before sullying a ceremonial area.

Despite being before 5 AM, Sir Expat was waiting for us at the airport to shuttle us back to his flat.  As we stepped outside the heavily air-conditioned airport, the blast of heat hit me.  The sun wasn’t even up and we were in a covered parking garage.  What had I gotten myself into?

Sir Expat asked if we wanted to drive with the top down.  Ordinarily, this would have been a rare treat.  But it just seemed too hot.  How does anyone drive with their top down in Dubai???  I guess they can only do it in the dark before 5 AM in the summer.

Driving Tour

Driving in Dubai

Driving toward Atlantis, The Palm Resort

Thankfully, Sir Expat invited us to nap for a few hours before setting out to see the city.  The city is filled with skyscrapers and lush manicured lawns surrounded by desert sand.  It is decidedly non-environmental.  But it’s an architect’s dream.

One of the trends in the UAE is land reclamation.  Basically, they create more land by filling in the sea.  But they don’t just dump the rock and sand in a circle or rectangle.  Of course not!  This is Dubai.  They do things big.

No Boat Parking

It seems like they are really big on rules in Dubai!  (In case you can’t make it out, those are a bunch of boats around the No Parking For Boats sign.)

Dubai is home to the Palm Islands, where each man-made island is in the shape of a palm tree — a tree trunk with a crown of fronds surrounded by a separate crescent-shaped island.  The original plan was to create 10 islands, but the real estate bust hit and they only completed 3.

Sir Expat drove us to the first palm island — Palm Jumeirah.  The trunk is populated with apartment buildings, while the fronds are filled with private villas.  We drove through an underwater tunnel to reach the crescent island that surrounds the palm and is home to Atlantis, The Palm Resort.

Armadillo Subway Station

View of the subway station on the left nicknamed “The Armadillo” because of its color, shape, and scale-like exterior

The next artificial island project in progress is World Islands, which will be a map of the world in the ocean.  How crazy is that?  We were able to see some of the progress looking down from the top of Burj Khalifa — the tallest building in the world.  But I wasn’t really able to make out any specific country.  Pretty soon, I guess you will be able to say that you live in Japan — Japan Island off the coast of Dubai!

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Mr. HalfFull and Sir Expat marvel at the architecture in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Next on the tour, Sir Expat shuttled us to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a traditional Arabian souk with wind towers and lantern lit hallways.  It’s filled with boutique shops and restaurants throughout the beautifully adorned hallways.  We sat down to enjoy iced coffee and a snack before proceeding on our 36-hour whirlwind tour.  Plus, it provided a great view of another architectural icon — Burj al Arab.

Burj al Arab

Sir Expat found the perfect photo-op location to capture Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull with the Burj al Arab

Remember how I told you about the heat? It’s so hot that it’s illegal to labor outside between noon and 3 PM. Sounds a bit like Spanish siesta time, but I’m not sure that’s the custom. I’ll tell you more about my Spanish siestas when I update you on our trip to Spain in a post to come.

Dubai Creek

Ms. HalfEmpty along Dubai Creek with the sacks of goods and crazy painted boats

Sir Expat also took us for a drive along Dubai Creek where we were able to see the import/export business. We saw fleets of decrepit multicolored boats that didn’t look especially seaworthy. But apparently, these ships travel back and forth from Dubai to India carting all sorts of goods including refrigerators, car parts, and sacks of unknown goods. It was crazy to see stacks of all these items along the shore. I was only out there for a few minutes before I was too hot to move — and I wasn’t even lifting goods!

Shopping Mall

Dubai International Mall

Look at the tile work on the ceiling of the mall!

Since it’s so hot in Dubai, malls are a favorite hangout. These malls are magnificent…if you like that sort of thing. I don’t really find malls to be exceptional havens of culture, but when in Dubai, do as the Emiratis.

Dubai International Mall (Spain section)

Ms. HalfEmpty and Sir Expat walk around inside the mall designed to look like Spain at night

We visited a couple impressive malls over our 36 hours. One had each section decorated in the style of a different part of the world – China, India, Persia, Egypt, Spain, etc. It was almost like a museum. We saw ships, elephants, and impressive tile mosaic work. Don’t worry, the mall has stores and restaurants too. I even saw appropriate Muslim swimwear for women.

Mulism Swimwear

Ms. HalfEmpty finds swimwear for Muslim women

Matt wanted to hold my hand in the mall.  Ordinarily, this would not have been an issue, but Dubai has fairly strict PDA rules.  In fact, Sir Expat told us about a recent case where a British couple was jailed for kissing in a restaurant.  I only had 36 hours; I couldn’t end up in jail!  When Mr. HalfFull tried to be funny and touch my booty in the mall, I just about lost it. Why is he such a rule flaunter?

Desert Safari

What trip to Dubai would be complete without a desert safari? Sir Expat booked us on a tour at the hotel next door. He knows about everything!

Mr. HalfFull, Sir Expat and I piled into a Land Cruiser with our driver, Ahmed, for the drive out to the dunes. First there was a stop at the gas station so we could caravan to the dunes with the rest of the fleet of Land Cruisers. Little did we know how important it would be to have those other cars with us.

Sand Dune Driving

Roller coaster ride through the sand dunes

Before driving on the dunes, each SUV pulled over to let air out of the tires for optimal sand driving conditions. Of course, I sat in the front seat to truly experience the thrill of the drive. It was a bit like a roller coaster, but without the safety features. At any time, this SUV could flip over. I’m not sure my already battered neck appreciated the ride, but how could we not do it?

Climbing up the Sand Dune

Sir Expat lends a hand to Ms. HalfEmpty as she ascends a sand dune. It was a workout!

Remember how I told you that my mom would have freaked out on the narrow, curvy roads along cliffs in Australia? I’m not sure she would have survived the sand dunes. She’s the type of person who would grab the “oh sh!t” handle in a car on a normal drive and use her pretend passenger brake pedal. But even I was grabbing the “oh sh!t” handle on the sand dunes. I’m not sure I would have been able to stay in my seat otherwise!

Sand Dune Jumping

Mr. HalfFull gets mad air

A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned how being in a fleet of vehicles turned out to be a good thing. Our driver had only been driving the dunes for 6 months. One of the keys to driving on the dunes is never, I repeat NEVER, drive along the top ridge of the dune.  Or you will get stuck!  Like we did.

Our Land Cruiser was straddling the top of the sand dune with the undercarriage resting on the sand and the wheels touching nothing.  Ahmed tried several times to move, but we were stuck.  Fortunately, another vehicle from our group was nearby.  We all hopped out while they towed our Land Cruiser (in case it tipped over).  The first time, the belt came loose.  But eventually, our wheels were back on the sand.

Dining Bedouin Style

Sir Expat and Mr. HalfFull dine Bedouin-style at a low table in the desert

We drove further into the desert until we reached the camp.  There, Mr. HalfFull and I rode a camel together.  It was pretty much what I expected until it was over and the camel made an abrupt drop down.  Perhaps they should have told us to hold on.  But this was more about adventure than safety.

The camp was also our dinner location at low tables surrounding a stage.  Apparently, the camel knew where the food was too.  After we all got through the appetizer line and the camel rides were over, the camel decided he would enter the walls of the camp and help himself to a few hors d’oeuvres as well!

Henna Tattoo

Ms. HalfEmpty shows off her “poop finger” tattoo

I also got a henna tattoo in the camp.  My original idea was to get my name in Arabic, but the woman doing the tattoos didn’t know Arabic.  Instead, she had her own style of tattoo swirls.  It all looked fine and dandy until she got to the end of my finger close to my nail.  Instead of a nice elegant line, there was a blob of paint.  For the rest of the trip, Matt called it “poop finger.”  Of course, “poop finger” was the darkest and therefore, the last part of the tattoo to wear off.

Burj Kalifa

Burj Kalifa

Mr. HalfEmpty and Ms. HalfFull pose outside the Burj Kalifa

Sir Expat made us a reservation to go to the top of the Burj Kalifa on our final day.  Yes, it’s the same building of the Tom Cruise stunt in Mission:  Impossible — Ghost Protocol.  We only went on the inside of the building, Tom was on the outside.  Minor difference.

Gold Machine

Mr. HalfFull discovers the gold vending machine at the top of the Burj Kalifa

Have you ever seen a gold vending machine?  We encountered one at the top of the Burj Kalifa.  It only takes cash and this one contained gold nuggets in the shape of the building.  So it’s a souvenir AND and an investment!  No, we didn’t actually buy gold to cart around in our duffels.

The entrance to the Burj Kalifa is actually in a sprawling shopping mall.  So after our building tour, we walked around our second mall of the trip.  This one had a wing of super high-end stores, an aquarium, and a skating rink!  One of the most interesting things for me to witness was women in full veils, with nothing showing but their eyes, eating in restaurants.  I’m not sure I would even want to eat out if I was so encumbered.

Apparently, we also exported Kim Kardashian to this Dubai mall.  There was a larger-than-life poster announcing her appearance at the grand opening of a new milkshake shop in the mall.  Aren’t they lucky!

Kim Kardashian at the Mall

Ms. HalfEmpty poses next to Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, La Toya Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Pamela Anderson, and the larger-than-life Kim Kardashian in the mall

After our final mall adventure it was time to grab our bags and head to the airport for our afternoon flight.  Dubai reminded me a bit of Vegas.  Both are deserts filled with skyscrapers and the craziest things.  When considering if they should build the next outlandish feature, they probably ask why not rather than why.

  • Excluding airport-only layovers, what’s the shortest amount of time you’ve spent in a country? 
  • Have you found customs agents to be generally friendly or gruff?  Did the length of your stay matter?
  • Have you visited super hot climates?  How did you fare?
  • What crazy things have you seen in a shopping mall?
  • Have you ever required a tow out of an unusual place?
  • What atypical item have you acquired from a vending machine?
  • What American “exports” have you been surprised to see overseas?
  • How do you feel about turning a desert into a lush, green oasis with air-conditioned skyscrapers?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Into Africa (Sort Of)

Getting to Mauritius, an African island nation off the coast of Madagascar, was an ordeal that started back in Australia. Mr. HalfFull researched airport transportation and discovered a direct bus to the airport with a pickup location near our hotel. This seemed like a great option until we learned that our hotel offered an airport shuttle for less than the bus. What a great deal – no walking with luggage AND a lower price!

But as we’ve learned time and again on the 30/40 World Tour – you get what you pay for!

The shuttle did, in fact, pick us up at our hotel on time. But this was not a direct shot to the airport. Instead, the shuttle was also transporting a family from the airport to their hotel. So we dropped them off and thought, “Okay, we’re off to the airport now!”

Not so fast.

Melbourne

Skyline in Melbourne

The shuttle proceeded to make more stops to pick up passengers heading to the airport. During this circuitous journey, we passed by our hotel AGAIN! Then we stopped at a hostel to pick up two young girls who weren’t ready. With each stop, we got more nervous that we wouldn’t make our flight on time, despite having left our hotel with plenty of time.

Mr. HalfFull was livid on the shuttle ride, especially when he noticed that we were heading away from the airport. He almost blew his lid when we passed by our hotel the second time. But it was me, Ms. HalfEmpty, who tried to help him see the bright side of things! I pointed out that we were getting a nice drive-by tour of Melbourne – parts we had not seen – enroute to the airport. How’s that for role reversal?

After the most circuitous shuttle ride, I endured the longest plane ride of my life (almost 12 hours)!  I didn’t think a long flight would be a problem for me, but I was so ready to disembark after the first 8 hours. Also, this flight was during the day. Even though I’m an expert napper, you can really only sleep for so long before it’s no longer a nap.

When we arrived in Mauritius, it wasn’t very late in the evening, but it was already starting to get dark since it was the winter season in the southern hemisphere. We knew we had about an hour ride from the airport to our 4.5 star hotel (50% discount in the off-season!) on the beach. This turned out to be another crazy drive.

It was too late for a shuttle, so we grabbed a taxi; a harrowing ride ensued! Our driver had no qualms about passing vehicles with oncoming traffic on narrow roads. He also spoke on his cell phone for much of the ride, and was often not in his lane. Plus, we were moving fast!

La Palmeraie at Night

Nighttime view of the overflowing pool at La Palmeraie

Thankfully, we survived the taxi ride, although that fate seemed uncertain several times on the ride. We arrived at a beautiful Moroccan-inspired resort – La Palmeraie Boutique Hotel. I felt under-dressed and yucky from the plane ride. Plus, this wasn’t really a hotel where the normal clientele carried duffel bags.

Room @ La Palmeraie

Flower petals and a letter on our bed at La Palmeraie

As soon as we arrived, they greeted us with a refreshing local drink and chatted with us in the lobby. Despite our attire, our money was still green (or multicolored, as the case may be). I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in our room and found flower petals on the bed, a personalized letter from the director of the hotel, and flowers in a vase. The little touches made us feel extra special.

We were gearing up for a relaxing week on a continent (Africa) and an ocean (Indian Ocean) new to both of us. After weeks of being on the move, I was looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for 7 consecutive nights! Check back to hear about our experiences in Mauritius.

  • In your experience, do shuttle drivers do a good job of scheduling pickups to create a direct route to the airport?
  • Do you and your spouse ever switch roles?
  • How long was your longest flight?
  • Describe your most harrowing taxi ride.
  • Have you been impressed with a hotel experience?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Stumbling Out of the Gate

We landed at Fiji’s Nadi (pronounced “nahn-dee”) International Airport before sunrise. Mr. HalfFull booked the first week of our trip in the South Pacific, so I expected him to know every detail, or at least the next step that would get his booty from Air Pacific’s airplane to the beach hammock he’d been raving about during his last week at work. He was fairly certain that we could walk to the marina from the airport, but he grabbed a map at a rental car counter just to be sure.

I waited outside for Mr. HalfFull, who reported that the woman at the rental car desk said it was a half hour to the marina. I asked if he was sure she understood that we were walking and not driving, since she worked for a rental car company. He was convinced that she understood.

Mr. HalfFull also asked her if it was safe to walk along the main road. He meant safe for pedestrians, with a sidewalk or at least distance from traffic. Interestingly, she assured him it was safe due to the abundance of military personnel in town. Hmm…

Nadi Landscape

View of the Nadi landscape as we walked away from the airport

We exited the airport on foot and saw a couple of the armed military men she mentioned. It felt great to walk after being on an airplane for so long, and Fiji’s lush mountainous landscape was gorgeous in the morning sun. We found ourselves in Nadi’s rush hour, with lots of decrepit vehicles and many pedestrians including children in school uniforms.  Smiling people greeted us on the sidewalk with a cheerful “bula!”

After we passed our first traffic circle, a Fijian man started walking with us. We definitely stood out as pasty white people walking along the busy street lugging our backpacks. He asked us where we were going, telling us he was on his way to work as a local pilot who flew between Fijian islands. We told him a bit about our trip, and he replied that it was nice to see a father and daughter traveling together. Hello!?! I quickly responded that we were married and showed him my ring, and we soon parted ways.  Mr. HalfFull must have been looking pretty haggard after 27 hours of flights and layovers!

We continued our walk and were soon joined by another Fijian man. This guy was much older with a full graying beard and gruff demeanor. I thought he wanted to pass us on the sidewalk, but he started walking in step with us and asked where we were going.  I was a bit scared at this point because the new guy did not appear to be as friendly as the pilot.  But we told him we were headed to Denarau Marina, which he said was a long way. We replied that it was okay because we needed a good walk after flying, and the woman at the airport said it was thirty minute walk. “Bullshit!” he exclaimed. According to him, it was a two hour walk from the airport. I knew she meant driving time, Mr. HalfFull!

We further explain our destination to John, the gruff man on the street, and he informed us that our boat doesn’t even leave from Denarau Marina! What? How could Mr. HalfFull be so utterly wrong? He claims that we need to drive an hour south to Likuri Harbor. (We later learn that our second accommodation was scheduled to leave from Denarau Marina, and Mr. HalfFull mistakenly thought that both left from the same harbor. This poses an even bigger issue because now we are not sure we will be able to catch our second early morning boat four days later, since we will be an hour away.)

John guides us to a taxi in front of a nearby hotel and instructs him to drive us to a hotel with bus transfers to Likuri Harbor. We are very uneasy at this point. Where are we going? Why did John help us? Did he have our interests in mind, or was he in cahoots with the taxi driver? How could we have gotten into this mess? What is it going to cost?

The taxi driver was very engaging and wanted to tell us all about Fiji and the sites we passed. He even played a burned Bob Marley Legend CD in the car, which he offered to us for FJ$2.  Needless to say, we didn’t invest in dead pirated technology.

He said he could drive us directly to the harbor instead of the hotel. At that point, we had no idea what we were supposed to do, so we went all in and agreed to let him drive us directly to the jetty.

Hindu Temple

Largest Hindu temple in the Southern hemisphere

Along the drive, he stopped at a Hindu temple so we could take a photo. I did not get out of the car for fear that he would drive off with our luggage. He stopped again at his friend’s souvenir store so he could get coffee and we could spend money. This was rather awkward since we were at the start of our journey and traveling light, not wanting to carry extraneous items. He asked if I wanted coffee, so of course I said yes. After some commotion, the shop owner presented us with a glass of Coke, saying his coffee machine was broken, but this was just like coffee. Ha!

Finally, we arrived at a clearing next to a wooded river in the middle of nowhere. There was no town, no houses, no boats — just a small, rickety, wooden dock with an old shack nearby. There wasn’t even a sign to inform us that we were in the correct location. Suffice it to say, I was nervous and not happy with Mr. HalfFull.

Fisherwomen

A haggard Mr. HalfFull with Fijian fisherwomen

There were a few sturdy Fijian ladies at the dock and we asked them if they were going to Likuri Island, but they were going fishing. They explained that the powdery black substance on their faces was natural sunscreen. I guess a mud mask can be sunscreen, but it looked reminiscent of blackface and made me uncomfortable until they explained the purpose.  We bid the ladies farewell as they boarded their canoe and paddled away; we were left alone at the dock.

Fisherwomen Float Away

Fisherwomen floating down the river

We still had no confirmation that we were in the correct location or if a boat was ever coming. Thankfully about fifteen minutes later, a van showed up with another passenger heading to Likuri Island. We had been in Fiji two hours and this was the first independent confirmation that we were in the right place!

Ms. HalfEmpty meets Ms. Holland

Ms. HalfEmpty & Ms. Holland watch the boat arrive

The girl who arrived (dubbed Ms. Holland), was traveling the world alone after graduating from university. We were relieved to find her and became good friends on the island over the next few days. She was almost done with her five month trip, which included some of the same places we planned to visit, but in the opposite direction around the world. So we were able to glean a few tips and insights from her experience. We chatted for a long while before the boat arrived.

After another half hour, a car pulled in with an older Australian couple driving and a Fijian guy with a Robinson Crusoe Island t-shirt in the backseat. After a few hours lost in the fog of travel, things were finally starting to look promising! About fifteen minutes later, two boats pulled up to the wooden dock, and we grabbed our luggage in preparation to board. But the Aussies informed us that we were waiting for two more buses full of people. Apparently, there was a schedule, we just had none of the details, which drives me crazy. It’s not like I’m a control freak; I’m just a realist. After all, I had allowed Mr. HalfFull to plan this segment of the trip. (Note to self: always check fine print after he books anything!)

Eventually, we boarded the second boat and arrived on the island to singing and guitars. Of course, I did not arrive in a state of relaxation. That sneaked up on me the next day, when Mr. HalfFull was relieved of his travel implementation duties. More details of our (mis)adventures in Fiji and the start of our trip to New Zealand will be published on September 12th as a guest post on theprofessionalhobo.com.

  • Have you experienced travel (mis)adventures?
  • Have you ever departed an international airport on foot?
  • How detailed are you when planning a trip? Is winging it part of the fun?
  • Are you fearful of strangers in foreign countries?
  • How long does it take you to relax on vacation?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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America?

Palisades Park

Ms. HalfEmpty napping in Palisades Park

You may be wondering why, after a week in Fiji and a week in New Zealand, I am writing about America.  Prior to this trip, I took easy/free internet access in the United States for granted.  After landing at LAX, we took a bus to Santa Monica to kill time before our next flight.  I expected that I would need to patronize a café to get on a network.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could sit in Palisades Park and use the city’s free internet!  But on Likuri Island (our first stop in Fiji, where we used generator electricity during the day and none at night) there was no broadband internet, but you could pay per hour to sit in their office and use antique computers.

In Fiji and New Zealand, I have discovered that there is no such thing as unlimited internet.  They limit you by the hour or megabyte, and sometimes both, meaning that if you reach your megabyte limit before your time is up, you get booted.  Plus, the connections have been painfully slow, especially when every minute is counted.  These constraints add a lot of stress for a half empty perfectionist!

On top of the internet limitations, I know my half empty mind won’t be able to move on until I get these thoughts off of my mental to-do list.  But no worries (as the Kiwis often say), I have lists of observations and tons of images to write about.  But for today, I present you my final thoughts while leaving America for 10 weeks.

Before embarking on my 30/40 World Tour, I hadn’t been to an airport since Thanksgiving and hadn’t been to Dulles airport in much longer, so it was interesting to see all the changes. The first thing that caught my eye was TSA employees in tuxedo-like uniforms.  At first, I thought this might be a classy new concierge service.  But alas, no.  The tuxedo guys don’t check your tickets or bags; they just stare at you. I guess they are profilers looking for odd behavior.  I can tell you what’s odd — wearing a tuxedo at the airport!

The second new thing for me was the naked full body scanners. I felt very uncomfortable since I was not sporting metallic ink underwear. Mr. HalfFull told me later that he sucked in his gut and wanted to yell, “Shrinkage!” as they scanned his junk. Fortunately, he kept this thought to himself.

Dulles AeroTrain

Sleek AeroTrain @ Dulles airport

The third new airport feature was awesome! Dulles International Airport now has underground trams called AeroTrain. A lot of airports have these, but we have used people movers driving across the runways for years at Dulles. I was impressed – very efficient and sleek.  Perhaps some Scandinavian efficiency engineer from IKEA created the system of tram doors on both sides.  One side opens about 5-10 seconds before the other.  So people on the tram exit on the side with open doors, while people waiting to board are outside the set of closed doors on the opposite side.  We noticed a Dulles employee avoid the stampede off the tram, exit off the delayed side, and then scoot right up the escalator by himself.  This guy didn’t fall prey to the herd mentality.

Since we were not checking bags and had already printed our boarding passes at home, we didn’t have to visit the ticket counter at all.  With time to spare, Mr. HalfFull visited a tech gadget store in search of a single electrical adapter for all seven of our 30/40 World Tour countries. Lo and behold, they had one!  Plus it also has a USB charger and surge protection, all in a neat little package priced at $40.  Great success!

America store in airport

If you look closely, you can see the terrorist video above the register in the middle of the photo

While sitting on a bench with our luggage waiting for Mr. HalfFull, I noticed a store subtly called “America!”  They had t-shirts and souvenirs, plus a video playing above the checkout counter that was visible from my vantage point. I couldn’t hear any sound, but I could clearly see a reenactment of a group of terrorists with red cloths tied around their heads hijacking an airplane. Are you kidding me? They should have called the store “Tea Party!”  This seemed like an odd video choice in a terminal full of potential customers moments before boarding airplanes.

Capitol Grounds lattes

Capitol Grounds lattes & passports -- we're ready to travel!

As you know from my incessant mentions of coffee, I suppose I’m a bit of an addict.  With the new charger in hand, Mr. HalfFull set off to acquire small skim lattes with Splenda from Capitol Grounds.  (I haven’t found Splenda since leaving the US!  Hmm…)  As soon as he returned, our boarding group was called. Perfect timing!

Guess who was on our flight? NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sporting a Milwaukee Bucks shirt!  I wonder if he travels under the name Lew Alcindor to avoid hassles with the tuxedo dudes.

  • Did internet availability overseas affect your travel?
  • What do you think of the tuxedo TSA guys?
  • Have you experienced the naked full body scanner? How did you feel?
  • Do you have metallic ink underwear?
  • Have you ever seen a terrorist reenactment video at an airport?
  • Have you flown with celebrities?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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