June 2 - Time to Travel to Toronto, Thalea!

Posted by Thalea on 5. Jun 2012

I woke up automatically at 8 this morning. I was surprised but then again I wasn’t, because when I see sunlight I usually wake up in a fright thinking I’ve overslept for something. After waking up like this, my body won’t let me go back to sleep, so I just stayed awake. I was actually kinda happy when I woke up because I woke up to my cat lying right next to me with both of our heads on the same pillow (he’s too cute!). I decided to use my time to configure my iPhone so that I could still use it like an iPod touch while in China without incurring any phone charges. Eventually, I got a good system down between Skype, Textnow, and various apps that would allow me to surf the internet freely even with the Chinese block on the web.

By the time I had figured this all out and set everything up, it was time to start packing my stuff again and head to the airport to go to Toronto. Mind you, I had spent many hours getting my tech-stuff perfectly prepped, so I only had about 2 hours to get cleaned up and repack my things (and believe me, I had things scattered all around the room, not to mention the laundry that I needed to sort through and put pack in my suitcase).

One of those two hours was spent reserving a hotel in Beijing, because I had to surf through Chinese booking sites, as well as try to find a hotel near the train station that I will leave from when I go to Guilin. I also needed to map out directions from the Beijing airport to the hotel, and Google maps really sucks at giving reliable directions for Chinese destinations (trust me, I learned this lesson last year). I had to use a Chinese website like Google maps but more reliable in terms of directions, although not as reliable as Google maps in the US.

The second of those two hours was spent in a flurry of activity in getting cleaned up and repacking my things. My mom popped in every once in a while to make sure that I was not wasting time. But I worked efficiently and, believe it or not, I got everything packed and was ready to go in exactly one hour! In fact, I had a couple of minutes to spare, so I used those to hug and pet my cat one last time before I left.

My mom and I put my suitcases in her truck, and we headed out. We were hungry (I was actually craving Waffle House, and my mom thought I was sick because I almost always would prefer to eat anything but Waffle House), so we stopped at Waffle House. I got a waffle and my mom got a patty melt. We took our food to go and went to the airport. I ate my waffle slowly (my stomach was still acting strange). After about 30 minutes, we arrive at the Atlanta airport. I got my things out of the car and hugged my mom goodbye. It was kind of a bittersweet moment because I would have liked to have been able to spend more time with her.

I was flying American Airlines. I checked in and went through security and reached my gate in about 15 minutes (fastest time yet!). I still had about an hour and a half before my plane was boarding so I decided to search around for an ethernet cable for purchase (I forgot to pack one and I will definitely need it while in China). My mom sent me a text saying that my cousin was at work on a different concourse so I went to visit with him for a while. We chatted and caught up for a little bit before he had to go back to work. I then looked around that concourse for an ethernet cable and eventually found one at a shop. The cashier was chatting me up and I told her a little about why I was going to China this time. She was kinda silly, as if she’d been working for several hours and was really tired, but she was nice.

I ventured back to my concourse and sat down as I tried to get online. The last time I flew through Atlanta, WiFi was free. Now it’s not. This really bummed me out. While I was trying to get online, I noticed that the screen behind the ticket counter said that the plane leaving out of that gate was going to Miami. So I checked my flight status and, sure enough, my gate had been changed but it wasn’t very far away. I went to the new gate and sat down again. This time, I noticed a women with three children, one of whom was a little girl who was probably a “terrible 2”: she kept screaming like a banshee but there was nothing obviously wrong with her, meaning that she just wanted attention. I prayed that I wouldn’t be seated anywhere near them.

Soon, it was time to board the plane. I made sure I had all of my belongings, and then went to the gate counter. Because it was a smaller plane, they had to put my carry-on suitcase with the checked baggage, so I made sure I had everything I wanted out of it before I relinquished it. I then got on the plane and walked all the way to the back to my seat. To my extreme, simultaneous horror and sadness, I was seated in the row directly in front of the banshee girl. While she wasn’t sitting behind me (she was on in the other aisle of the plane), her slightly older brother was sitting behind me, and the boy seemed like he just could not control himself when it came to playing with the seat tray. The banshee girl screamed about every 15 minutes or so while the boy kept messing with my seat back. Needless-to-say, it was not a very pleasant 2-hour plane ride.

I was on my way to my layover at the LaGuardia airport in New York. As we approached, I was able to see New York City, Long Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Even though I was about ready to throw those kids and their mom out of the window, I was pretty excited to see the Statue of Liberty from the air.

Mercifully, we landed in New York safely and I was able to get away from the devil children. Having retrieved my carry-on suitcase, I walked to the nearest schedule screen to see where my next flight was leaving from. Interestingly and coincidentally, I was to leave for Toronto from the exact same gate that I had just exited. So, I parked my bottom on a bench near where I’d just entered the airport. Not even 30 minutes had passed before it was time to get back on the same plane I’d just exited. Again, mercifully, there were no demon children on this flight, just quiet, boring adults who all looked like they were ready to take a nap (me included).

Although I had to put my carry-on suitcase back under the plane, I was very happy to find that the plane was only about half full, so I had a whole row to myself! I sat down, read, and listened to music in peace as we left for Toronto. Leaving New York, I could see all of the lights of the city. They were brilliant! I wish I had taken a picture, but my camera was in my carry-on suitcase.

It was a relatively short trip to Toronto from New York. As we approached, I saw the city’s lights, although they weren’t as multitudinous as New York’s lights. We landed, and I once again retrieved my carry-on suitcase. I tiredly trekked to Customs. Although I’d had a pleasant plane ride, my stomach was really hurting by this time. When I got to the Customs counter, I saw an agent who looked like he would have rather been watching grass grow than work that night. He asked the usual Customs questions. When he asked what I was there for, I told him I was transferring to China. He then asked what I’d be doing there and I told him about my research project. During this very brief conversation, he seemed to perk up noticeably, I guess because he was genuinely interested in my research project.

Tired, hungry, and ready to lay down, I found baggage claim, claimed my bag, and looked for my hotel. It was the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, and it was right on the concourse. Even though it was expensive, I booked a room here because I knew I’d be getting in late (11 pm), and I didn’t want to have to contend finding an airport shuttle to some hotel off of the airport’s grounds. So I just ate the price. I asked a worker at the information desk how to get to it, and he told me to keep walking down the airport until I saw the Avis sign on my right and then there would be an elevator to the hotel. So I walked. And looked. And walked. And looked. And walked some more. And looked some more. And then I walked until there was nowhere left to walk. There was an elevator though. So I got on the elevator. Another airport employee got on with me, and when I told him I think I passed the sign for the hotel, he told me I definitely did. Sigh.

Getting off the elevator, I walked back in the opposite direction, this time searching even harder. On my way, I came across a small food shop. I began to order a sandwich when I was told that they were out of sandwiches but they still had wraps left. So I got 2 chicken wraps, a cinnamon bun, and a bottle of water. I paid and put my items in a side pocket on my suitcase. I then continued to walk and I eventually spotted the sign for the Sheraton hotel. I walked outside and found the hotel right across the road and connected to the airport itself via bridge. I went in and up to the front desk to check-in. I stood patiently waiting, but the employee seemed not to acknowledge my implicit request to be checked in until I got 2 inches away from the counter (other guests kept walking up and asking questions or trying to get him to solve problems). Finally, he checked me in. I got my room key and headed up to the sixth floor to my room.

As soon as I walked in, I smelled smoke. Not happy. I began charging my electronics and tried to get online. It cost $16 to use the internet for one day, on top of the $150 it cost me for the room in the first place. Not happy. I had to print a few documents and supposedly sent them to a printer at the front desk to be printed, but when I called to have them print the documents, a trainee answered the phone and basically told me she didn’t know what she was doing and that I could print 5 black and white pages (holy cow, five whole pages!!!!!) for free at the computer stations in the lobby. Not happy. After I printed my documents (I suspected that the hotel probably found some sort of way to charge me for using the lobby computer), I went back to my room, took a shower, ate, and tried to watch Adult Swim, but there was no Cartoon Network. Not happy. The only thing about this hotel that made me happy was that the shower water was instantly hot, and the bed was comfortable. If I had arrived in Toronto a few hours earlier, there would have been no way I would stay in that hotel. I will never stay in that hotel again if I can help it.

Now, I must tell you that before I printed my documents, I rechecked my hotel reservation in Beijing to find that it had been cancelled (not by me). So a rebooked a different room in the same hotel, redid directions to the hotel and printed the document. What lifted my mood considerably was that, even though I had to pay for the internet (I mean seriously, I could stay at Roach Motel 6 and get free internet, and a complementary breakfast too at a fraction of the room cost of this spoiled poodle of a hotel!), I was able to chat with family and friends. This alone calmed my mind after such a long and stressful day. I chatted until I could no longer keep my eyes open to look at the screen. I said goodnight and went to sleep, planning to get up early so that I could have enough time to repack my things (boy this sounds familiar).


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