Apr 5 2009

Lazy days on the Red Sea

We have finally officially started the second half of our travels. First stop: Egypt.

Our trip started off possibly in the most stressful way possible. We arrived at Gatwick Airport in London thinking we were two hours early for our flight. There were HUGE lineups, because Thompson (the travel agency we booked our resort through) basically flies to all their resorts on Sundays. So we are standing in the queue, and I look up at the screen that has all the departures and I can’t seem to see our flight. “Sharm el Sheikh at 10:30? Where is it?” Dave says, “I’m sure it’s just too early to post it up.” And I say, “Can’t be…there are flights all the way up to noon posted. It’s 10:30, right?” Dave nods his head. I look up at the screen again, and try to find Sharm. “I see a 9:15, and a 12:15. No 10:30.” We then proceeded to look at our flight package, and sure enough–it flies at 9:15. We realized that at 8:30, and we were at the back of the line. A HUGE line. Thankfully, at around 8:45 they start calling out flights that they are doing checkins immediately on. Ours is called. So we run to the desk and they take our luggage, and at that point we literally ran the rest of the way, because there was still security checks and so on. Finally, after running across half the airport, we arrived at the terminal at 9:15 (and weren’t the last people!) The flight was being delayed for reasons we would find out later.
So five hours pass, and we land in Sharm El Sheik. “We are here! This is it!” we say. But the airport is headache–nay, a migraine. It’s used largely for military purposes, and so the Thompson attendants can’t get off the airplane. Four flights arrived at the same time to an airport that should only handle one flight at a time. Finally after “queueing” (more like pushing through a large clump of people) for about an hour and a half, we got through to wait for our luggage. I said, “we got through to wait for our luggage.” *AHEM*. Our luggage? Where is our luggage?
Well, all the airport attendants assure us that this is normal, and they will call back to Gatwick. They tell us not to worry. Meanwhile, well, we are worrying. No one from Gatwick airport is in the Sharm airport, so we don’t even know what happened. Finally after filling out numerous forms, we leave the airport, and are met in the parking lot by a British lady from Gatwick telling us exactly what happened. Apparently a conveyor belt broke with the luggage on it while loading on the plane. That is why the plane was delayed–but that is also the reason the luggage didn’t end up in Egypt, because they couldn’t delay it any longer. So it ended up on the next flight to Sharm.
The next day our luggage was safe and happy in our hands. (Poor Rockford was stuck in a suitcase all that time! ;) )
The week in Sharm El Sheikh was filled with nothingness by the beach, nothingness by the pool, and massages in the spa. Dave went diving & snorkeling on the last day and really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed sitting on the boat doing nothing ;)
Next stop: Cairo!

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Jan 9 2009

The World Travelers

Well, I might have lied.
It turns out the place we will probably be staying at three days a week has wireless internet.
So good!
So I thought I’d recount our excursion from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England–to Santa Cruz Bolivia.
It started early morning, on January 7th. Well, not so early….(not as early as our Brazil team…they left at 2am)….we left the Lodge at 8am.

After a two hour drive to Heathrow, we were greeted pleasantly by Barbie-like airport attendants from Virgin Atlantic. Many security checks later, we were ushered onto the plane and found our seats. Virgin planes are niiiiicccee!

(Photo: Deliriously happy about Virgin Atlantic, or just delirious?)

Each seat has it’s own little entertainment unit, and I’d like to list a few things that it offers:
-A wackload of Movies. I didn’t count, but I think it might have been about 50. I watched “The Brideshead Revisited”
-A copious amount of Television shows. I picked Frasier to watch.
-A smattering of Documentaries.
-Way cool retro video games–that you can play multiplayer and challenge someone else on the flight! Just type in their seat number. So cool. I challenged Dave to a game of Battleship…and won. :)
-Music galore….I didn’t even get into that because I was so distracted by everything else.
-Up-To-Date News, Travel tips on places Virgin Atlantic flies to, and a little map to follow your flightpath.

Aside from the in-flight entertainment, the food was also good. But the most amazing part of the food was the dessert. Chocolate pudding with banana caramel. Soooooo sooooooo soooooo gooooood. We were also given a little gift bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, face mask, and a pen.
So from London to Miami–wunderbar.
Then we got to America.
I can’t even remember how many times we went through security checks….Then when we went to check in to our flights with American Airlines, it was tres miserable. Here’s the thing: Virgin Atlantic has this thing where you can check in with all your basic info first on a computer console, and then go to an attendant and they take your luggage. It makes it really easy, because you just type in the info and BAM. It works. American Airlines has the same thing, but it’s more like “BAM….umm…it didn’t work.” And then you go and talk with their attendants who very rudely ask you “Do you even speak English?!”
And they make you feel like a retard.
So then after haggling with the attendants and finally convincing them that, “Yes, the Bolivian Embassy did say we could go into Bolivia” we were on our way to the gate. Or, were we?
No, you have to go through another buttload of security checks before you can get there. I mean really…where could we have gone in the last half hour? It’s not like we are allowed out of the airport. So we go through another security check and they herded us through so many different roped off areas. I felt like a sheep. Then after scanning our carry-ons, they herded us into this little glass box that had no door handle to get out. The man who was looking at my luggage was trying to speak to me and ask “Is this yours?” But I was in a glass box. And he couldn’t hear me. After pushing Dave and Sarah and me into this box, I started to get panicky, because, well, there was no way out, and there was a man outside of it trying to say something to us, but we couldn’t hear him because we were in a glass box. Then he finally let us past, and says “Now I’m going to search all your bags and have all of you pat down.” Oh, how kind. So he then proceeded to go through everything, wiping down everything with a special cloth–I presume he was looking for drugs. Of all the people they pick to search….missionaries?! I was more than peeved. Finally we were let go, and waited to get on our flight to Bolivia. The AA flight felt so old-school compared with Virgin. The coffee was the most foul tasting thing I have ever put in my mouth. And the flight-attendants were ruthless with their little carts.
But after many hours of travel, we finally arrived in Bolivia. The Bolivian airport was a breeze. Clean, easy to follow. So nice.
This weekend we have off, and then Monday we 0fficially start our work. I’m thrilled.

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