January 15, 2011
Boracay, Philippines – After returning from Florida and New York for the holidays we had three hectic days to make the final preparations for our trip. By the time we boarded our plane late on Saturday night we were exhausted and actually somewhat looking forward to the 14 hour flight to Hong Kong so that we could get some much needed down time. We had planned to start our trip in the Philippines and discovered that our friends, Vic & Courtney, and their family were planning a trip to Boracay at the same time for a family wedding, so we decided to make Boracay our first stop.
Sent from my iPod.
We all boarded the same flight at SFO, but we didn’t see our friends for another 48 hours. The flight had to make a stop in Taiwan to refuel – something about strong headwinds. When the plane landed in Hong Kong we had to race to catch our connection to Manila. We made it by the skin of our teeth – but our bags didn’t. We had to make a fast decision at the gate to either wait for our bags and take a later flight out of Hong Kong, therefore missing our flight to Boracay from Manila, or to get on the flight and hope our bags would follow shortly. We were told that the bags would be put on the next flight out and that it would be best to go to Manila to work out our travel plans. We got on the flight thinking that when we were in Manila we could wait for our bags there and rebook a later flight to Boracay.
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November 15, 2008
I arrived back in San Francisco via Tokyo on the 12th in order to see a doctor about my arm and to attend my obligatory Neurotech appointments. I was pretty sad to leave Beijing, and I made quite a scene at the airport when Stuart and I were saying our farewells. I bust into tears right in front of the security checkpoint just as a group of Chinese tourists approached. In the middle of my sobs, I lifted my head from Stuart’s shoulder to see that we were surrounded by a sea of old Chinese people in red hats. I’m not sure why I got so emotional. I don’t know if I was sad to be leaving China, or sad to be away from Stuart for three weeks, or (most likely) scared to leave Stuart alone in China to fend for himself. Probably all three. Now that I am home, I am happy to be here. Its nice to have some time to rest my arm and rejuvenate. I saw a doctor at Kaiser yesterday, and aside from the hospital catching on fire during my appointment, it went very well. The doctor (who looked kinda like George Clooney) said my arm looked like it was healing well, and said that I should be good to go by December 1 (good timing as I fly back to Beijing on the 2nd). I also have to admit that I am really enjoying the comforts of home.
Top 10 awesome things about being home:
10. Clean clothes
9. Well maintained sidewalks
8. Western toilets and soft TP
7. Orderly queues
6. Pedestrian right-of-way and observed traffic laws
5. Western medicine
4. Friends and family
3. November heat wave
August 31, 2008
Comments Off on Ya Had Me, But Then Ya Lost Me
Due to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China made some changes to the visa application process making it a bit more complicated. You now need proof of travel in and out of China and hotel reservations for your ENTIRE stay in China. This is to discourage independent travel and encourage traveling with a tour. And because Tina has to come back to SF while we are in China, she needed proof of her flight from Beijing to SF and back for her multi-entry visa.
Getting our train tickets from Mongolia to China turned out to be a problem because you can’t book train tickets online (it also costs more buying them over here). So instead, we got one-way flights from Ulan Bator, Mongolia to Beijing, then from Beijing to Bangkok.
So last Thursday, I got up early and drove to the Chinese Embassy in SF. There was a long line but I finally made it in and waited in another line. Once I got up to the window and handed in our paperwork, the woman “helping” me starting going through all the forms circling dates and highlighting names and checking them against our passports. She started asking me questions through one of those speaker things like at a movie theater box office. Except her’s didn’t work that well. And neither did her English. So I couldn’t really hear her. But when I could, I didn’t really understand her.
Turns out I had left some pretty crucial information back at the ranch. Thankfully, the ranch had a fax machine – or at least Tina’s office did. So I got outta line and had Tina fax her flight information to the Embassy. Then I got back to the window and we started it all over again – the highlighting, the circling. When she asked where my hotel reservations where, I explained that Tina had made them and that I was going to be staying with her. She gave me a long cold stare. It was then that I noticed, right in front of her, a big stamp. The size you use when you really mean it. Or when you don’t want someone to enter your country. Ever. With the bold, red letters, “DENIED“.
After understanding me about the hotel reservations, she got curious how we were getting to Mongolia in the first place. We were taking the train from Russia, I explain. She asked where our flight info to Russia was. Wondering if she was gonna need anything else, I asked if she cared what we did after China. “No”. So, I got outta line again and had Tina fax our Russia flight info to the Embassy. When I got back to the window she asked where the train tickets were. Again I notice the stamp. I explain that we don’t have them because they’re hard to get over here. Cold stare. Have I mentioned the stamp yet? She asks me to write on the Mongolia to China flight reservation printouts that we are taking the train from Russia to Mongolia.
Apparently that was good enough – she finally approved our application. So I left the Embassy, walked past some guy praying for Tibet, got into my car and wondered if it’s not too late to get my job back.
August 11, 2008
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