Seattle, WA USA
So I arrived in San Francisco after a 23 hour trip from Siem Reap. I picked up my luggage and sailed through customs with the guys only charging me $30 for the excess purchases. They appreciated the fact I had all my receipts – at least the ones from stores that gave out receipts – and they appreciated I had kept a running total of all my purchases both in local dollars and converted American dollars. (Hey I’m a lawyer what did ya expect?) Anyway, I picked up my luggage (yay!!!) and transferred it to my Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle.
And that’s when the fun began. My flight ended up being delayed almost four hours so I sat in the SF airport for almost 6 hours completely exhausted. I finally got on the plane and had thankfully been upgraded to first class.
I arrived back home at 10:30 p.m. to be greeted by a lovely Welcome Home sign and into the arms of my waiting sister Cheryl and niece Callie … but no Big E – my grand niece Cora or aka The Big E – 🙁 … it was past her bedtime!
Anyway, we wandered downstairs and waited for my luggage and waited and waited and waited. Finally we were told by an Alaska Airlines staff person that all the luggage had been offloaded and I would need to fill out a lost luggage claim form. Are you freakin kidding me??!!! I travel all over the world for 3 1/2 months and THE ONLY TIME MY LUGGAGE IS LOST IS BY U.S. AIR CARRIERS. Well done! Well freakin’ done! No wonder the American public is so fed up with flying. The tiny little air carrier out of Bagdogra, India was able to transfer my luggage from an aiport near the Himalayas all the way to Vietnam, but two mighty U.S. air carriers are unable to make transfers within the U.S. of A. First American Airlines screws the pooch with my lost luggage transfer from Miami to NYC when I had a 5 hour layover, and then Alaska Airlines blows it on a simple transfer from San Francisco to Seattle when I had a 6 hour layover. Talk about service. You guys SUCK! (And the wonderful folks at Alaska Airlines tried to blame it on the fact that international luggage has to be re-screened. Uh lady, I had an almost 6 hour layover in San Francisco, how long does it take to screen two pieces of luggage and move them to the plane? Gimme a break.)
So my Bonehead of the Year award is a tie and goes to both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines for their inefficient and bonehead handling of my luggage. When the rest of the carriers around the world on 36 out of 38 flights were able to successfully transfer my luggage you American Airlines and Alaska Airlines somehow found it in your inefficient little hearts to blow it and lose my luggage. Your award is in the mail (and it will be successfully delivered to you!)
Now that I got that off my chest, I must say that all in all my sabbatical was one helluva journey. People have already asked me about the highlights and the lowlights, and I thought I would just give a quick synopsis of what I think. The highlights were many, but as I look back, the top 20 things that stand out to me are the following:
1. My first glimpse of Machu Picchu
2. The hospitality in NYC
3. The Hermitage
4. The hockey game in St. Petersburg, Russia
5. The first time I heard the call to prayer in Istanbul, Turkey
6. The U2 concert and all the fun surrounding the trek to Attaturk Stadium and back
7. My hike in Cappadocia
8. The food in Greece
9. The Dahabiya cruise
10. Abu Simbel and the searing heat
11. My first glimpse of the Treasury peaking through the Siq at Petra
12 Making it to the top of the Monastery at Petra
13 My night in the desert at Wadi Rum (simply because of the stars in the sky)
14 Getting to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town
15. My first glimpse of a leopard in the wild
16. Elephants surrounding my tent
17. The Taj Mahal
18. The Mekong River cruise (Vietnam and Laos)
19. My homestay in Koh Ker Cambodia
20. The glorious, wonderful, friendly human beings I met all over the world from the wonderful folks in Peru and NYC to the delightful Turks, the hospitable Egyptians, Jordanians and Indians and the lovely, lovely folks in Laos and Cambodia. Of course, there were the beautiful, smiling children all over the world who greeted me with waives and cries of hello, hello. And then there were the fantastic tourists I ran into wherever I traveled and who were my companions and friends along the way. The lovely Romanians. The Zuzartes from Bellingham. Annie and Roscoe from Australia. Patrick and Tina from Germany. The Canuckleheads from Toronto. The entire Daas family in Delhi. And on and on.
And yes, there are many, many other highlights and things I like to say fall into general categories such as the breathtaking sunsets and sunrises I saw all over the world including on the Nile, at the Taj Mahal, and on the Mekong. And of course the incredible, wonderful quirky markets all around the world.
Then there are some things I saw that I can’t really say are highlights, but certainly fall into a category best described as memorable such as the the traffic and congestion in India and Southeast Asia and the stark poverty everywhere I went.
Of course, the personal lowlights are easy to peg. The theft from my suitcase in Botswana or South Africa (still not sure which). The night spent in the Varanasi train terminal. The boat ride on Bai Tu Long Bay with the most annoying guide ever. And quite frankly, that’s about it.
So if I can say that after 3 1/2 months of travel there were really only 3 lowpoints, I gotta think it was one helluva journey. You know when I began planning this sabbatical over 2 years ago now, the doctors had given me about 5 years with my transplanted kidney. When I got that news, I was determined that I would make the most of my sabbatical and see and do all the things I had dreamed about. I am now happy to report that I think my trip was a rousing success.
Thanks world! I can’t wait to get back out there and meet you again!!!