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The lounge at Hong Kong airport was a brilliant idea! Much thanks to my Mum and uncle who recommended it to me. I was at the airport 8 hours but it absolutely didn’t feel like that many. I had always thought showering at an airport was such a random and odd thing to do but I am a convert! Showering and changing clothes was so utterly refreshing and energising. I even washed and dried my hair. I filled up on the food at the buffet, had several coffees and cold drinks (yes Tehani, I drank water) and even a massage! I think the massage, which was agony, totally got me through to San Diego in one piece. I only had a slight shoulder twinge by the time I got here. I ended up catching up on emails and doing a bit of Twelfth Planet Press work and then it was time to head on to LA. Unbelievably civilised! I shall book again before leaving for the return leg.

After the slightly stressful flight to Hong Kong and the dreadful flights to LA and back last year, the Hong Kong to LAX flight was the one I was most stressed out about. As in, this flight was the whole “do I *really* want to go to WFC?” deal maker or breaker. This flight leg was why I decided to go through Hong Kong instead of Sydney in order to get it down to 12.5 hours. Still a long time sit and a longer time to sit if you hate the people next to you. But this was not that kind of flight! I sat next to a US Marine and a lovely lady next to him. We were a good row of cool people – you know, people who don’t go to the toilet 900 times whilst others are trying to sleep or talk too loud or complain or freak out or whatever.

I had planned to try and sleep this whole leg – planned it as in organised prescribed drugs because I do not sleep in public. I took 2 blue pills after dinner but yeah, they knocked me out in no way. I hardly even felt sleepy. I napped for like 20 minutes on take off and apparently that was all I needed. I ended up watching “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” and then Carrie Fischer’s live show, both of which I enjoyed. Then I tried to sleep. I think I got 4 hours. I got up to go to the toilet and when I got back to my seat, my seatmates were like, “great plan” and both got up to go as well – I do love it when you’re all similar people. And then I settled in to admitting I was not sleeping and watched Season 16 of “America’s Next Top Model”. Really, “couture or not couture?” is the only thing I could handle brainwise by that stage. And 12.5 hours is really all I can handle for sitting. I was sore by about 8 hours in. I’m going to try something different on the leg back to see if that helps.

Going through passport control and customs in LAX is never fun and is something I quietly stress over on the flights. Because if you get held up too long, you can miss your connection. It took 30 mins to get off the plane and to standing in line at passport control and I was starting to feel good about my agreeing with the travel agent to miss the first plane to San Diego and take a 4 hour layover instead.

As we’re getting shepherded to the right line for passport control, a lady behind me started asking the guard about whether or not she had to pick up her suitcase etc because she was checked all the way through to San Diego. I turned round and told her I was doing exactly the same thing and I knew how to do it (I’d both done it last year and also talked though the whole thing at the Perth airport check in counter). She was so relieved and suddenly was smiling and happy and I said no worries we could stick together and do it. And when I took my boarding pass out to double check the time of the next flight, she suddenly realised we were sitting next to each other on the next plane! I kid you not! I love how small the world is!

Anyway, passport control was fine (though the guy who processed me took way longer than the person who processed her) and then we picked up bags and passed through customs[1], and then dropped our bags at bag drop, found the new terminal and passed through security (I watched another lady be searched by TSA, it is indeed very personal and intimate) and then we were through! At that point she went to find her colleague and I went to find Starbucks and the internet. Starbucks has a new flavour – salted caramel!! Its yum! I think I paid $10 to check my email. As I was sitting there at the gate, the lady and her friend came back and told me that our gate had been changed and that if I wanted I could grab food first and then go or else there was a shuttle to take.

I opted for the shuttle and here came 20 mins of things going horribly wrong! I didn’t double check *which* San Diego flight was in which gate. I went of course to the first and found mayhem in Gate 44D. Salt Lake City was supposed to be leaving from there but was just getting moved gates, again, apparently. And then there was a whole flight of other people bitching and no staff. And then I found some people who looked as confused as me and we verified that this was now the San Diego flight and then suddenly the San Diego flight was cancelled and they were BUSSING people to San Diego! Holy crap but hell no! I asked someone and she said the plane had had an “event”. I later found some people who landed on that plane and the “event” was that the cargo was on fire or “Bravo” as apparently it is known, and they had lots of emergency vehicles and all sorts of drama.

As I was standing in line at the desk to find out what was happening because I’d need to call my cousin if I was being bussed instead of flown, there was a man on his phone bitching about how he’d now been travelling for 14 HOURS! OMG!  I turned round and said I’d been flying from Australia for what felt like 9 days and he should suck it up. It amused the line anyway. And then I got props for my tshirt which cheered someone else up. (“And then Buffy Staked Edward. The End.”) A lovely guy from maybe Europe? befriended me to work out what was going on – I love how foreigners will always group together to try and translate America to each other. How is America more foreign to foreigners than our respective countries are to each other? He was lovely though and went off and talked to a few other people and came back and debriefed me that he thought his flight – the 4,30 one – was delayed, not mine – the 5.30 one – and he pushed me to jump up the line which had not moved at the counter, to confirm that mine was not cancelled. The guy checked straight away and was like, “no you’re flying from Gate 44B, that’s the next gate over” and I thanked him, and the European guy (we wished each other luck!), and I abandoned the angry mob. I found by contrast a very relaxed, sparsely filled Gate 44B and a hilarious couple flying home from Indiana who’d opted to get vouchers and a new ticket off an oversold flight from the day before. They regaled their “event” flight and played “listen to all the oversold flights and the upping of the offer to the volunteer who gives up their seat” (turns out they up the voucher by $50 every 15 mins or so and apparently 90% of people never use the voucher, which is valid for 1 year but they totally are going to use theirs!) American Eagle must overbook all their flights and most of the time one or two people must not show up?

So, I did not get a bus to San Diego! But I did fly on the smallest plane I’ve ever been on – two seats on one side of the aisle, one on the other and taller people couldn’t stand up when walking down the plane. I got a seat by myself!!! So happy! And the flight was 25 minutes! I think I slept for some of it. And then we were in San Diego! The steward was hilarious, she was talking in funny voices and accents and goofing it up – she handed the papers to the groundcrew and pulled the door shut and then announced “I have successfully shut the door, now we can take off” kind of thing. Very lovely flight and short walk to the terminal and I met my cousin who was waiting for me!

We eventually found my hotel. Yeah, we share the same (non)navigating gene. We chatted in the car and kinda just met each other. I checked in and discovered the long schlepp across the grounds to my room. The room is lovely. I got room service and that ended up being I think the first fresh meal I had eaten in about 36 hours. I took a long bath and maybe I ate apple pie a la mode. And maybe I ordered it just so I could say “a la mode”. Delicious pie though!

I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying Power and Majesty.

I got to bed at 10.30 and slept til 6.30 – the hour I said I had to stay in bed til. Yep got that jet lag thing I had last time where the only time I ever get up at 6.30 in the morning is on holidays. I also woke up every 2 hours or so but I feel much better today. I think they might prefer you do room service here? I ordered for $10 a basket of pastries, a carafe of coffee and juice and it was delivered to my room by a guy on a bike with a trailer. He promised me the weather will clear by later this morning. I had breakfast in bed because I am on holidays and am chilling the fuck out after the year that has been 2011. Also I don’t have a puppy wandering around and policing everything I am doing, especially foodwise.

My cousin will be coming by later this morning and I’m looking forward to hanging out with her. She’s thinking we might do the arty part of San Diego today. I’m looking forward to getting to know her and to seeing a bit of the city beyond the hotel. It’s my new WFC rule, must do some siteseeing in the city and not just see the inside of the convention hotel.

[1] Incidentally, I had snacks packed that had seeds and fruit in them and decided to declare them, just to be sure and because you had to tick a box. I knew they wouldn’t care because it was all processed but still, I’m pretty sure in Perth you’d still declare it. The lady I was with was asking me what I was declaring and why and what the customs was all about. I asked her if you had to do that for quarantine for Hong Kong and she said no and looked really surprised about all this. It kind of makes “Border Patrol” make more sense when you realise that it’s not people necessarily flaunting our rules but having no experience with the kind of quarantine we do in Australia.

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