Wednesday, February 06, 2008

February 3rd 2008 was 36 hours long!

I have arrived!

Yes! I am late posting this as I really "lost" most of my Monday here to sleeping.

The trip to Germany was long, and exhausting. Many times I thought to myself, "Okay! I'm done now... can we turn around and go home please?" I spent most of the time in transit being absolutely terrified of what might/could/would/was going to happen.

Melbourne Airport was okay except the last shuttlebus from Ballarat to the airport arrived rather too early for checking in so I lugged my heavy suitcase and carry on luggage around the airport for a few hours. Once I found out the check in gates, I sat myself on a chair and just waited, reading and people watching.

Check in was a surprisingly easy affair and I had no problems going through getting tickets or going through customs with Preciousss! :)

I tried to sleep on the plane to Bangkok but it was so cramped in our seats on that plane, my hip ached a lot. I think I did doze but in a sort of awake kind of way... totally aware of everything happening around me, despite the earplugs and eyecover I was wearing :)

We arrived on time in Bangkok and I entered the stage of my journey I had been dreading the most. A 7 hour stopover in Suvarnabhumi Airport

I felt so lost and small there. The building appeared reminiscent of a gangly and spacious octopus with these tentacles that wandered out from a central core. Each tentacle was made almost entirely of glass and steel so that you could see outside. Outside was grey and overcast and the sky was heavy with the portent of rain.

Once I found the departures section, I wandered about there for an age in a hopelessly lost state. I could not see the connecting flight showing on the information boards and I was a bit panicky after a couple of hours that I may have perhaps had to move to a different airport to connect to my flight to Frankfurt.

I found someone who spoke reasonable English in the First Class lounge for Thai International Airways and she confirmed that a gate number had not yet been assigned to that flight so I would literally have to wait until it showed up. I was relieved to a point.

I went back upstairs to departures and found a cafe. I had purchased about 100 Baht in Australia thinking that that would be HEAPS of cash to spend. It cost me around AU$10.00 for that 100 Baht.

I bought one cup of tea! It cost me almost my entire 100 Baht!!! So now I couldn't even afford to buy water unless I went and did an exchange at vast expense! I opted for going thirsty! But I won't do that again in a time I will spend what ever it takes to get WATER. I got seriously dehydrated in the next 20 or so hours of travelling as a result of that decision.

The gate number appeared on the board and like a rocket I went straight for it and went through customs with my carry on luggage thinking that I could just wait in a comfortable lounge on the other side!

No so.

Embarrassingly, I was about 5 hours too early to wait for my flight and now I was stuck on the other side of customs in a large rather empty and forbidding hall with nothing much to do but sit and wait. I tried to read, I tried my computer with some small success at connecting to the internet, I tried to sleep. By the time other people started to arrive for the flight, I was in some kind of weird zone of not being able to think inside my head. I could only just note things and let them slip past me inside my mind without too much consideration. Exhaustion was setting in.

I did smile when it finally rained. The rain streamed down the outer shell of the clear tentacle I was inside and made the effect like that of being enveloped inside a blanket of water. The air temperature was already cool inside the airport but it dropped quite a lot after that rain.

Some lovely german people arrived and I spoke to them briefly in my halting German to confirm that I was indeed at the right gate for the connecting flight.

We waited and waited. Delay!

We boarded the plane about half an hour later than scheduled. The flight was full! At least it seemed like it was.

Oh to be wealthy enough to easily justify and afford first class travel! What I would have given in that next 12 hours to be able to stretch out and just relax into sleep. To no avail. Uncomfortable took on mammoth proportions! The plane was slightly more spacious than the one I travelled on between Melbourne and Bangkok but still, there was just no way I could find a zone for sleeping comfortably and effectively.

The hours drifted by nonetheless and I guess I just spent most of them in a kind of surreal zone of brain-dead survival. The coming three weeks had better be worth this pain and endurance! I am totally glad I have lost a lot of weight, I feel very sorry for larger than average sized people who have to travel on long haul flights like must be absolute torture on their bodies.

We arrived in Frankfurt only about 15 mins behind our sheduled arrival. I left the plane a bit apprehensive about the forthcoming "grilling" I had expected from German immigration! The guy just took one look at me, stamped my passport, waved me through and I just had to go find my luggage after that! I was stunned!

It took me an age and a lot of walking to find baggage claim! I basically just went to the carousel that had the largest number of people around it and looked for faces I recognised from my flight! :) I waited for my luggage with some trepidation hoping it had actually managed to get onto this second plane! It arrived! I think I squeaked "ES KOMMT!" in German when I saw it come out of the luggage chute! A bloke beside me went "Huh?" hahaha

I half expected to have to have all the plastic wrapping taken off it by some official and the contents perused, but as I went to go through an exit there was no one at the desk at all. I had nothing to declare but still, I was dubious about just walking out , but a lady passenger just said "Go through, it's okay".

So there I was. In Frankfurt Airport having somehow managed to circumnavigate a vast variety of apprehensions I had expected and dreaded.

Now I had to find bats wife who, with her best friend, was to pick me up from the airport. I found a german "Treffepunkt" ... a specially marked Meeting Place and sat. My mobile phone then rang which surprised me! It was bat saying "WHERE ARE YOU?"

I was "I have no idea!"

I stayed put and the next thing I saw S. and R. turn up. Hugs and tears (from me) ensued. I was so relieved.

They very kindly bundled me into the car and I was whisked out of the range of the airport. We stopped at a petrol station so I could go to the toilet and S. showed me the ticketing system they use for public toilets! We realised only slightly later we had entered the male toilets instead of the womens! *giggle* The cleaner guy was shaking his head at us and smiling at these strange women! hahaha

I think I actually slept in the car better than I had for the entire trip thus far. R. drove at the speed of light (about 210km an hour on the autobahn) but it felt so safe and okay. I just relaxed into the spirit of the occasion and felt totally at peace.

I met bat in the flesh for the first time. It was... well... it was very moving for me. Expectations met and assumptions unmet.

But I have been tired this past day or so. Totally jet-lagged so I really didn't do much my Monday except eat a bit and chat to my daughter in skype then go back to sleep.

Today, I felt energised and ready to explore this new world I am currently in. I walked the streets of Nuremberg a little today just soaking in the difference in the buildings and style of things I am not used to. I even went supermarket shopping by myself for the first time with everything kind of similar but oh so different too.

A lady in a bakery even congratulated me on my rather limited German which I managed to speak to her...effectively telling her I was from Australia and didn't know much German! :)

Today has been a good day. I made german scrambled eggs and bacon for my breakfast, bought bread and some stuff from the bakery, went grocery shopping up the street, window shopping down another street and have laughed and chatted with my dear friend (when he finally woke up that is)!

Tomorrow, I shall venture out a little further as I orientate myself to the streets and directions here. I hope to explore the Hauptmarkt by Friday ...and find a laundromat to do my laundry! :)

Cu tomorrow maybe.

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