Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Free Doesn't Mean Easy

Good morning sunshine! ...Well at least for me. It's sleeping time in Manila right now but hey I'm not there. I'm far behind and my July 23rd is just starting. 08:43am as I write. I'm finally on my vacay that I've been calculating and planning and planning and planning for at least a couple of months now. But hey, it didn't come easy.

July 20th. I went home on the morning flight. Arrived at NAIA at around lunchtime. Off to get a 3G phone that will work in Korea. Luckily mommy dearest has two new phones: one from Smart that she gets every two years, and another from an upgrade of her company phone. Tatay, Nanay and I all talk into switching phones to save me from a possible PhP12,000 spend and kuya from PhP5,000 (coz he was gonna buy my phone when I get a new one). So yea you guessed it, I got the Nokia 6500 classic by using my "communication skills". Finished off businesses I needed to take care of in Manila.

July 21st. Woke up at 9am. Packed my bags, called up Expedia, booked for an inn, talked to the work manager who called me about some "irresponsibility" (like I care), and by 9pm I'm at NAIA once again. Went to the check in counter and found it odd that they're still putting me on standby eventhough it isn't a full flight. (Free tickets are standby tickets.) I dig up Joseph's number (my UST batchmate who now works ground for Asiana) and ask him stuff. The power of texting prevails and in a matter of minutes I have my boarding pass.

Who knew that on the leg that I'm not worried about is where I'd have more difficulties? I was in at the immigration booth and this officer tells me I need my OEC(?) which was the OFW card. I told him I'm not one, yet. He's like, "You've been working overseas for two years blahblahblah." He orders me to go to the OWWA center, where they tell me I don't need it coz I'm flying for sightseeing and not for work. That makes sense. Just because I wrote "cabin crew" on the Occupation field I get in trouble?

I went back to the officer and thoroughly explained that I don't need it since I'm traveling not to work. Leisure. Sightseeing. Every possible word. And he was like, "You're flying to your home base to tour?" And I'm like, "I have standby tickets to the U.S." Then he goes, "Even so. Blahblahblah..."

I dunno what the hell is wrong with that bading pero he just doesn't listen. Finally I go back to the Asiana counter and Sir Sandy confirms that I don't need whatever the bading was asking of me and takes matters in his hands. I stand back a good 50meters away while Sir Sandy talks to the immigration officer and then gives me a go signal. Approaching the officer for the third time, he was like smiling and saying, "Oh magttour ka pala?" Tanginang yan. Which part of 'leisure,' 'travel,' 'tour,' and 'sightseeing' did he not understand? Tanginang yan. I smile with a sarcastic tangina-alam-mo-naman look. Hell, he asked me that I was going to Seoul to TOUR then he's gonna tell me, "Oh magttour ka pala?" The guy next to him was coughing "Bias" out loud and they were just laughing. Tanginang yan. He was like telling me to go to POEA earlier to do this and that and I'm telling him this flight is not for work. Heck I'm not even in uniform! Well maybe I should've just worn my uniform then pass through unharmed then changed into casual clothes just so I wouldn't have dealt with that horse. (I say horse because he's like one, you know, he sees only one direction and that direction only.)
July 22nd. I get to Incheon at a very early morning: 04:45am. The flight to San Francisco isn't for twelve hours. Hell yea you read that right. Half a day at the airport. I felt so Tom Hanks in The Terminal. The transfer desk I can't be issued a boarding pass yet as the SF flight is overbooked and I'd just have to pray and wish someone gets stuck in traffic and/or decides to go on another day. I'm instructed to go back to the desk ten minutes prior boarding. With that, I pull my luggage and find a dark spot in the airport where I put on my eyemask and sleep. After a couple of hours, I peek through my eyemask and see that the sun is up and the human density is increasing. I get up and freshen up before I choose McCafe as the place to have breakfast. I dig in the hotcakes while sighing, "Ten more hours."

Hella bored, I try my laptop at the wifi hotspot. Doesn't work; guy says something's wrong with the IP address. Good thing they have their own VAIOs so I use it and people are still asleep so it's no use. My phone works though. Good. By 10am I have walked past gates 30 to 50 and prolly have memorized the flights on those particular gates. I check out gate 40 where the SF flight would be at and notice there aren't many Filipinos. I settle for a seat and made a friend with an equally bored person and equally on the twelve-hour wait. Brian (from Vallejo) and I play Sudoku, play music on my laptop, get up, freshen up, he smokes, we eat, he sleeps, I shop... We've prolly done everything we could imagine but there's still more hours to pass.

By 3-ish I meet up with Cielo who's on the way to Singapore to get my money that she withdrew from my account. (Thanks Ciel!) 3:30 I wait around for Mi-Jin, who will go as add crew on the SF flight and hand her an English workbook that I bought from CostCo. She wishes me good luck in getting a seat as it's really full as per Ms Gandy and Ms Mariane (who would also be in the flight as duty crew and add crew, respectively). 3:40 I proceed to the counter and the manager tells me to return after ten minutes.

It was probably the longest ten minutes I could ever think of. I was literally staring at the clock until it struck 3:50. Ten minutes prior boarding. I hand over my passport, ticket, ID (for confirmation that I'm an Asiana employee) and cross my fingers. She still doesn't look up from the computer and it was making me nervous. Finally she says, "I'm sorry... You don't have a choice of seat, we only have one available." And I'm like, "OMG I don't really care which seat, as long as I get on the flight!" So lucky. Very lucky. I get an exit row so she briefs me: "Your seat is on the exit row so..." I just smile and confirm and she smiles back as she's saved from muttering more English words. On the plane, the cabin crew do the briefing. I memorized that by heart.

She hands me back my documents plus a boarding pass with one last sentence. "Go to the gate now." To which I wide-smiledly obey after saying endless kamsahamnidas.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


July 08, 2008 - OZ 752 - Singapore to Seoul
Scheduled Time of Departure - 23:30 Seoul Time
(all times are in GMT+9 timezone)

21:30. Checked out from the hotel.
22:25. Preparing service items for the flight inside the plane.
23:05. Getting myself ready for boarding of passengers.

Over the PA system, the cabin manager announces we'll have delayed boarding by two hours because there's an engine problem so they're still trying to fix it. Crew meal preparation starts. Hmm dinner. Just right, I'm starving. Took my celphone out of my bag and texted Al.

00:10. Having crew meal dinner on a passenger seat.

It was getting really warm inside the cabin as the engine won't be able to support the airconditioning system while it's being fixed. Meanwhile, we hoard blankets to provide the passengers at the gate area, where it's really cold. I remove my coat and continue eating.

01:30. Feeling really sleepy already, I made myself a cup of coffee.

Chatting with Ate Sofie, it's getting really really warm so I undid my scarf. Most of the crew is asleep on business class seats. I can't imagine how they could fall asleep when I'm sweating endlessly. Ew. Every now and then we hoard more cups, water, blankets, orange juice and hand them over to the ground staff who were taking care of the impatient passengers outside.

01:50. I overheard the first officer tell the captain that we will be extending another two more hours (lead time) to let the maintenance team work on the engine, and if it doesn't get fixed by then we'll have to head back to a hotel and fly in the morning. Right, as if it isn't morning yet.

By now passengers are really mad. I could tell by the faces of the ground staff. There was even a time when they asked one crew to go and talk to them coz the passengers wanted to speak to a Korean. More water, more juice, cups and almost every blanket has been given out by now. A number of passengers had gone back to hotels and will take the next Asiana flight the following night.

05:30. Over the PA, we were notified to prepare to go back to hotel.

Well finally! Scorching heat inside that metal tube called airplane got me looking like I already came from a flight. Oops, why can't we go out yet? They're trying to get as much passengers out from the gate area before we go through for fear that they'd attack us(?) We've been advised that some passengers are sleeping there already and will be flying on a Singapore Airlines flight in a couple of hours or so.

06.30. We're back at a hotel. Will get sleep before the sun rises!

13:30. I woke up from coma.
13:55. The phone rings. Wakeup call. Leaving the hotel by 14:15, flight by 15:30.

What the hell! Twenty minutes to prepare?! I call up Ate Sofie then literally run and change to my uniform, pull my hair back to whatever bun I could manage, dab a little makeup and run. Once inside the coach that takes us from the hotel to the airport, all of us were doing our makeup.

14:50. Airport. We learn it's a ferry flight!

Oh yea. So we really didn't need the makeup after all. We're flying ferry flight (no passengers). Hmm. It's my first. What do we actually do? No idea.

15:45. We're still in Singapore. WTH? Why aren't we moving yet? More delays! Waaaaaah! Some unclear paths over Manila (of all the places) makes it impossible to pass so we aren't cleared for takeoff.
16:00. Crew meal again. Me thinks, will the delays ever stop?

I'm so worried coz unlike most of the crew onboard who gets a dayoff on July 10, I don't. I'm scheduled to fly to LAX the following day, and yes Los Angeles is one of the most tiring flights and particularly the one I hate the most. I haven't had a decent sleep nor a decent shower--oh if only there's a shower room onboard I'd be the first one to use it!

17:00. Takeoff. Finally!

We just had to do the doors and then we're free to somersault in the aircraft. We all are in business class doing our own businesses. Haha. There's a galley full of supplies so when I get thirsty I just get up and serve myself. Add crew life in business class with absolutely no passengers. Hair down, coats and scarves off, and wearing slippers... We lounge around like I was just in Seokyo Hotel.

The big question in my head was: What's my schedule for the following days?

To the passengers who were freaking out and shouting, I have just one thing to say: Don't complain when there's a safety issue like this engine problem. There's always a choice: Fly then die in a crash, OR wait and actually get to your destination. You think we actually like delays? If you have to get to your destination asap and it's a matter of life and death, I believe you won't think twice about getting another flight. There always are other options.

I got LAX cancelled for me and was given days off if you must ask. :) Wee. I got checked in at the hotel past midnight. You could imagine the shock of the people at front desk. Haha.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tips for an NY tour

Tabby's really slow. I'm thinking of getting it downgraded to XP although Al said HP wanted to do troubleshooting over the phone before they send us a box to send Tabby to them and alter the configs. Like, it takes 30 plus minutes for a complete boot, otherwise it's gonna hang.

Updates, updates.

To those reading this on my official blog, I've been to New York where Al joined me for a three-day layover. Officially the navigator and tour guide for a good three days, not to mention travel agent. Everything's great. Getting lost and figuring out the subway station, referring to maps, getting drenched in the rain, queuing up with fellow tourist and of course, getting our cameras on their best modes for the must-capture photos.

Here are some tips to a good New York tour:
1.) Check the weather and dress accordingly.
2.) Buy an Empire State Building Express Pass off the internet. You'd be wowed how express "Express" could be. If you need entrance tickets, get them through the internet rather than onsite to save your time. If you plan on visiting a lot of places, consider the NY Pass.
3.) Use the subway (not advisable for late nights) and get a day pass.
4.) Street food is great.
5.) The less you carry, the longer you'd survive.
6.) Comfortable shoes and 5th Avenue go together.

That's all I could think of right now. I'm hella tired and sleep from my SF flight where I stayed for two days over at Al's. Shopped one day (ooh I love the 4th of July sales!) and the other dedicated to doing home stuff like laundry and cooking dinner. I'm on my fourth week of the six-week work period that I have--and my back hurts already. =[