Saturday, September 29, 2007

Back in the USA

Our flight out of Penang was about 8 am so we awoke at 5 am and left for the airport at 6 am. Kelly's sister Chin drove us in the van with our luggage. Kelly's sister Ping and Kelly's mom drove in a second car. Kelly's sister Chu and her two sons, ages 10 and 12, also drove in a third car to see us off. It was both a happy and sad occasion so there were some tears.

I wore my USA socks which were a gift from the family.

Security asked me to check-in my PC which I had intended to carry on. That cost me an extra $115. It was not packaged to be checked. It was packaged to fit in an overhead compartment meaning it had no padding. Although they labeled the box fragile, it sustained quite a bit of damage and was not functional once I tried to get it working in the US. A technician troubleshooted the problem and after 15 minutes he determined that vibrations had knocked my RAM loose and it was fixed. That cost me another $65. I hope there is no other major damage.

We learned ahead of time that we were each allowed two bags to check-in which could total no more than 70 kg together so we used a scale to put as much as we could into each suitcase. We also knew the size and weight limits and number of carry-on luggage allowed so we had everything figured out and carefully packed. Kelly has been packing for months, literally. She started packing the day she got her US Visa. It was a long hard process to figure out what to leave behind, what to throw away, what to give to friends and family and what to sell.

We sold my big chair, PC monitor, speakers and UPS. I gave my mobile phone to my niece (age 20-something). Kelly left her laptop behind for the family. I gave my nephews the Age of Empires disks so they could play. I introduced them to the game two months ago and they have been addicted to it ever since. We had some really fun multiplayer games across the LAN. Things really got interesting when we started using cheats. We left behind the furniture and bed we bought. I threw away a huge stack of computer books. I almost never referenced them and when I did, they were almost never helpful. I had about 20 issues of Wired magazine which I gave my friend.

At first we were going to ship a lot of things to the US but after we learned that the cost of an extra carry-on is cheaper than shipping, we decided to pay for the extra carry-on at the airport. We also worked harder to purge things and made some hard decisions on what to leave behind.

Kelly and I flew to Bangkok where we stayed for a day at a hotel.

At the hotel I saw a notice that said ...

A Word of Caution

All big cities have their share of dishonest people who prey on foreign visitors. Although much safer than many other destinations, Bangkok is no exception, so please take a moment to read this, and protect yourself against such characters.

A handbag dangling from a wrist or shoulder is a tempting target anywhere in the world. Snatch thieves in Bangkok either operate on foot or on motorcycles, and are equally adept as their counterparts elsewhere. They will also grab valuables from open vehicles, such as Tuk-Tuks, particularly when stationary in traffic. Please take the usual precautions, and ensure that large amounts of cash, valuables, irreplaceable documents etc. are locked in the hotel's in-room safe or in the safe provided at the Front Desk - not kept in your handbag.

Bangkok's confidence tricksters come in a fascinating variety of shapes and sizes. They are all charming - from the smiling boy scouts who solicit generous "donations" destined for their own pockets, to the "off-duty policeman impersonator", the "university professor", the "taxi driver", etc. who will approach you in a public place and politely engage you in conversation. They will usually carry genuine-looking identification of some kind, and understandably, many foreign visitors see this as an excellent opportunity to talk to a friendly local - to mix with "real" Thai people. The truth is of course that "real" Thai people do not go out of their way to speak to tourists in the street. The golden rule to remember is that if somebody does, you can be sure they're up to no good - that helpful seemingly well-educated person is almost certainly a crook. If you go with him, or her, you do so at your own risk.

You may be taken sightseeing, then robbed, or coaxes into a game of cards where it seems you cannot lose. Most commonly, you'll be taken to a shop and grossly overcharged for inferior or fake goods. Be particularly careful of jewelry shops where the sales techniques are especially convincing, even to the most skeptical people. Many visitors have lost very large amounts "investing" in precious stones.

Proceed with caution. Most Thais are delightful and honest people, but naturally shy of foreign visitors. So should you encounter a well spoken and charming person out there, eager to know which country you come from ..... Beware.

The sign behind Kelly says NO DURIAN! The statue has a Durian fruit for a head. Durian is a smelly fruit whose smell offends some people. Kelly is making the sign for Durian which is imitating how you open it.

I have never seen water fountains in Asia but I saw this set at the Bangkok airport but they didn't work.

At 1 am we caught our flight to the US. The 16 hour flight felt very short since we were very comfortable, we slept a lot and each seat had a screen with a remote control to movies, TV shows, music and more.

There was also many maps showing where the plane was and they gave info like estimated hours to arrival, current air speed, altitude, etc. This shows our route from BKK (Bangkok) goes right over the North Pole to JFK airport in New York.

I was disappointed that the plane cam wasn't working which should have given views left, right and forward from under the plane but in reality there was not much to see. They had everyone put their window blinds down but we took a peak once in a while but all we saw clouds. After we passed the North Pole, we quickly transitioned from day to night.

Kelly and I arrived at JFK airport in New York at 6:40 am Thursday September 27, 2007. The sunrise out our window was amazing.

We passed thru immigration quickly, picked up our luggage quickly at the carousel, got a porter to help us transport our 4 large bags, my bicycle, my PC and our two carry-ons, to the curb where we waited an hour before we got picked up by my parents.

While waiting, Kelly tried to sit on some seats provided but found she was too short and experienced the opposite of my "I'm too big for Asia" feeling. She felt she was too small for America. Here she is trying to balance on these rotating chairs which are designed to discourage homeless people from sleeping on them.

Kelly also saw this street cleaning truck for the first time.

My sister and nephew also arrived in a second car. The temperature was a comfortable 70F (21 C) They had a 1 hour delay at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge due to construction otherwise we would have had no wait. My parents had a van and everything fit neatly into the back and the ride home was very comfortable.

The ride home was only 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once we were within 5 minutes of their home, we stopped at Perkins for some pancakes (one of my favorite foods). My niece met us there.

Home sweet Holmdel

Kelly had never seen this type of mailbox before.

This is the first time Kelly saw a combination lock on a car door.

Kelly only saw one guy on a motorcycle up until that point. She would say the phrase "This is the first time I ... " often for example at the restaurant she ordered grapefruit juice thinking it was grape juice. She noticed her juice was yellow and not purple and gave it a sip and got a rude surprise that it was so sour and we all laughed watching her expression. She had never tried grapefruit juice before. She noted that the amount of food on everyone's plate was much more than you get in Malaysia.

Afterwards we arrived at my parents and unloaded our luggage then exchanged gifts. We began to unpack and Kelly and my mom spent some time looking at each other's photo albums. We learned that my parents, sister and niece had all enrolled in a sign language course and already knew how to sign A-Z as well as many other signs. Kelly was quite pleased she could easily communicate with everyone except my nephew Shane who is 7 year old but he started learning.

Kelly and I had a nap and managed to stay up late and sleep at a normal time USA time.

The next day we visited my sister's house which I had never seen.

We took a walk along the beach and walked to the end of this pier which is more than twice as long as the pier in Kelly's home town.

Kelly had never seen these outdoor showers before. They are used to clean sand off your body before you get in your car and go home.

English sub-titles on TV which can be turned on and off.

Kelly had never seen this type of shifter in a car before.

Kelly's first garage sale.

Kelly and I went to a dancing show with my mom and niece.

Welcome to USA balloons

Gang of bikers. We only see motorcycles. No motorbikes.

Bananas in the USA are much larger than those found in Malaysia.

Kelly drinking from a water fountain for the first time.

Visiting the park near my parent's house. They have many satellite dishes.

Kelly and my mom.

List of firsts for Kelly and things I haven't seen in over 2 years.

  • Seagulls
  • Squirrels
  • Lack of motorbikes
  • Driving on the right
  • Steering wheel on the left
  • Different plugs on the wall
  • Light switches that go up for On and down for Off
  • Car door that requires you type in a numbered pass-code to open
  • Trying grapefruit juice
  • Cranberry Juice
  • New Jersey Pizza
  • Americanized Chinese food
  • Dishwasher in the home
  • American style washing machine
  • Clothes dryer
  • Bounce anti-static strips for dryer
  • Washed clothes feel softer
  • Poison Ivy
  • Underground pipes for water drainage instead of open canals
  • MPH instead of KPJ (Kilometers Per Jam (Jam = Hour in Malaysia))
  • Tivo
  • Krimpets
  • Yodels
  • Ring Dings
  • Ding Dongs
  • Devil Dogs
  • Pop Tarts
  • Fig Newtons
  • Twinkies
  • Mt. Dew
  • American Milk
  • Quality Steak
  • American pancakes
  • drinking water from the tap
  • hot water from the tap
  • bread toaster
  • Cable TV
  • Cable Internet
  • Fast Internet
  • 80+ channels on TV
  • Garage Sales
  • Yard Sales
  • American Christian Church
  • Beef hotdogs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Cheese
  • English sub-titles
  • Sub-titles on TV you can turn on and off
  • Leaves changing color for the fall season
  • Fireplace
  • Lack of privacy in public toilets (can see people's feet)
  • Paying car tolls by throwing coins into a basket at the toll booth
  • Static shock
  • Leaves changing color
  • Snow (not yet, but Kelly will see snow for the first time eventually)
  • V8 Juice (8 different vegetables in one)
  • Girls and boys playing soccer (football) together
  • Pollen
  • No Darlie toothpaste
  • Water fountains
  • Lots of 1 gallon milk bottles at the store
  • Lots of beef hotdogs at store
  • Snow sled
  • Halloween
  • No rice cooker in homes
  • Jug handle turns (turn right around loop to turn left)
  • Outdoor grills for cooking meat like hotdogs and hamburgers
  • Visiting Costco and seeing large quantities of products for cheap prices
  • Costco - lots of free food samples
  • Costco - upon exit compare receipt to contents of cart to prevent theft
  • Everyone always buckling in, even children in the back-seat ... especially children in the back seat
  • Hotdogs with mustard, sauerkraut, relish, diced onions
  • Free parking almost everywhere
  • Free refills
  • Pools in the back yard common
  • Vending machine with glass to see what it is inside. Press something like C4 to get your food drop so you can retrieve it
  • Burger King
  • Hummers
  • Groundhogs
  • Baloney
  • No Durian
  • Lockers
  • No squat toilets
  • Public toilets always have toilet paper
  • Salad
  • Salad dressings like Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Acorns
  • No cicaks (geckos) crawling on the wall inside the house
  • Houses closed to the outside world so no insects inside
  • Leaving food out overnight and not covered in ants by the morning
  • Maple syrup
  • Asparagus
  • Sparkling cider
  • Street cleaner truck
  • Mail boxes
  • Car shift lever different
  • Public outdoor beach showers
  • Auto check-out at the supermarket
  • Olives (black or green)
  • Auto-open doors that detect motion


Anonymous Sandee said...

Welcome home Pat and welcome to the US Kelly! Great list of firsts ...

Mon Oct 01, 02:34:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Cedrick said...

Does this mean that you'll now end this blog of Asian Adventures and start a new one titled American Adventures? :P

Wed Oct 03, 09:38:00 AM 2007  

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