Eb's in Zürich!
Trip Start May 31, 2007
72Trip End Ongoing
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Bear with me while I type this and please ignore the smatterings of 'ü' and ^ which may or may not appear throughout it. I' m still getting used to a non-English keyboard and things aren't all in familar places...
I arrived here in one piece, yesterday at half past six in the morning, after an 8 hour flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, then KL to Zürich <---- note the poper use of a ü. One of very few you'll find in here ;)
So, here's a lil rundown of the proceedings thus far.
I left Melbourne in a flurry of activity on May 31st, a date I'd had in my mind for the last 6 months...so you'd think I would have actuall managed to get everything done by the time it rocked around. To say that I hadn't was an understatement akin to Noah glancing up at the sky and saying "might get a spot of rain today".
May 31st dawned and I was overtired, pressed for time and suffering from a headcold wich could stop a freight train. So, hepped up on the sorts of flu meds you usually have to meet a man in dark alley for, I woke up somewhere around the 3am mark and started the whirlwind 'holy crap' sorting and fixing and packing bonanza which would serve to fill the next 8 hours.
At something like half past 11, Liam and I set off for Tullamarine. I was to check in at 12 and we live in Cheltenham. Well done me for giving myself a whole bunch of contingency time!
I managed to get on the place without a hitch and set forth towards seat 14A. I found that seat 14B was occupied by a friendly looking fella who was loading a metric ton of duty free into the overhead locker. He greeted me warmly. I quitely thanked my lucky stars that he wasn't a jerk. I greeted him and sat down in my seat. Then he kept talking.
For 8 hours.
I quietly stopped thanking my lucky stars.
To his credit though, the fella next to me was both friendly and fascinating. So I really enjoyed his company. However, my furious packing and finalising bender had seen me get about 4 hours sleep in 2 days so it was a bit of a marathon to talk for 8 hours, especially considering the subject matter...
I found myself constantly gobsmacked and fumbling for words as the fella next to me outlined his life to me. He was a refugee who'd come to Australia 18 years ago to flee communist Vietnam. He spent 6 days and 7 nights aboard a 12m x 4m boat, drinking contaminated water from an internally rusty 44 gallon drum, eating plain rice cooked in sea water and sleeping in a cavity next to the roaring pistons of an engine. As he related story upon story of a punishing life at sea, I couldnät help but feel both humbled at his courage and guilty for my luck at being born in a country which, with any luck, never know such atrocity and hardship.
I left him at Kuala Lumpur airport, where he'd accompanied me to the transfer counter to make sure I git there okay. I felt sad to leave him, but my tight connecting flight meant I had about 40 minutes to find a phone, call home to say Iäd got there okay and then get to the gate.
Phoning home was difficult, to say the least. Iäd taken the liberty of bringing a handful of cheap phonecards from home with which to make a quick, cheap call. You know the ones: you dial a tollfree number written on the back of a card, key in the PIN on the same card, then the number and off ya go: the call is billed to the prepaid card. Sweet lil deal.
However, the airport phones took deep offence to my raging gall of trying to call a toll free number from the airport. No, this is the airport, the place where paying quarfteen times more than you normally would for simple goods and services is an underestimate. No, you have to pay to call a toll free number, dimwit! It took me 4 phones and 3 cards to figure this out. I tell ya, Iäm a bloody genius! So I need cash, okay, fine. But of course, I'd changed all my money to Swiss Francs at Melbourne airport and I now had <glances at watch> 9 minutes
Up here for thinking, Eb!
So I went one a mad dash towards the free internet booths they have at KL airport. Now, if something's free, then you get all the joy of dealing with the free thing's main problem. Supply and demand. I hovered around the 4 computers like a cranky fly at a barbie as I waited for a Japanese guy who looked like a character from Street Fighter to stop reading his email, an over-tanned German dude with a persistent sinus problem to stop reading the newspaper and some guy who looked like a jetlagged Marselles Wallis to stop tracking his FedEx parcel. The fourth computer was completely stuffed and seemingly stuck halfway between Google and the first link to MSN online. So I waited and hoped that the German guy, who managed to wipe a snotty hand on every concievable surface wouldn't be the first to finish up.
Hey guess what happened??
So I pulled my sleeve down over my hand and frantically searched for 'free sms' on google.
I typed in a quick "I'm fine" and raced with the speed of startled gazelle, to gate 12.
To this day, my SMS is yet to reach its intended destination. Joy.
Anyhoo, I skidded to a halt outside gate 12, only to find the flight had been delayed an hour. Bells tolled loudly as I let out the loudest expletive you've ever heard.
Exhausted and cranky, I wandered off to a Starbucks where I tested out my credit card with its maiden international transaction. So far, so good. I wandered back to gate 12 and plonked myself squarely in front of the entry.
You see, I'd received a tipoff.
At Melbourne, I'd tried my luck at getting a good seat on the plane. The trick was, so I was told, to go up to the counter just as you board the plane and ask if the emergency seats were taken. The emergency seat was my Holy Grail. Nobody in front of you and leg room ahoy! But I'd got there a we bit too late. My trip to the currency exchange has seen me miss out. This time however, I would prevail!
At the last minute though, I decided to change my tack a little. My vocal buddy on the way over, as lovely and interesting as he was, kept me awak for hours and, as a result, made me want sleep like all get out. So I tried instead for a seat with the adjacent one vacant. That way I can have a lil distance between myself and the other punters.
The lady at the desk blithely crossed out my old seat number and gave me seat 20D. "Cool", I thought. That was painless. I proceeded onto the plane and sat in 20D, a seat in the middle bit of the plane. My old seat was a window. Oh well, I'll be asleep anyway. I hope.
I bleerily looked across the other side of the bank of seats. Far over the other side, 4 seats away sat a gruff looking but well-dressed gent who was reading a German newspaper.
The plane slowly filled with weary travellers.
The seats next to me remained empty.
I waited a lil longer. My excitement building slowly. I tempered it though, knowing that any moment, the 4 seats would fill with at least 3 other people.
The stewardesses started doing the little 'here's how you inflate the lifejacket' dance.
The seats remained unfilled.
I spent the whole safety demo rehearsing in my head how I'd ask the German if I could claim those four gems as my own so I could stretch out for a much-needed sleep. And, as soon as the stewardesses put the lifejackets away, I leaned over to the German.
"Entschuldigung, sie bitte" I said in my best Schoolbook German,
then my fluency ground to a halt:
"Can...uh..Ich..schlafen...<insert excited indication of the area encompassing the real estate in question>.
The German looked up nonchalantly from his paper, glanced at the seats and shrugged noncommitally. I took that as the loudest 'yes' I was ever gunna get and, chanting "bitte! bitte!", I set about pushing back the armrests and settling in for the night.
One thing I love about Malaysia Airilnes is that the give you blankets. Big ones. Nice ones too! The one I shoved into my backpack when nobody was looking will come in very handy. Oh don't look at me like that!
So I proudly stretched out to my full length and settled in for the night as the passengers in the aisle next to me wished great ill befall my first-born. "Hah! Hah!" thought my Internal Nelson Muntz.
It was bliss.
I reached Zürich at 6.15 am and, even though the airport is signed in both German and English, I found myself silently wary of the locaion of things. I blindly followed the flow of passengers from my plane to passport control and then on to customs. The transit at some point included a short trip on an internal train which had the most awesome elevator music consisting of a mixture of mooing cows and the sound of large bells. Liam summed it up brilliantly. Switzerland has a fever...and the only prescription...is more cowbell ;)
I'd taken the liberty of bringing some food with me on the plane since I've got this wacky condition where I can't seem to eat most foods without rolling about in seven shades of bloody uncomforatble for a few days after. 'Fructose intolerance' they call it. Don't worry, it's not contageous. So anyway, I had actually managed alright on the plane with the specialty meal I'd pre-ordered and had even had a chicken dish which I could have eaten for ever. Hot dang, it was tasty! Fly Malasia - They give you semi-free blankets and their caterers deserve a medal. Having such a decent run on the plane, food-wise meant I'd accumulated somewhat of a surplus of food in my hand luggage. Best do the right thing and declare it.
Thinking I'd have to turf a metric ton of perfectly good grub, I steeled myself and headed to the bright red 'Something to Declare' room where I met a decidedly Aryan chap who didn't blink. He asked me if I had anything to declare (in German) and, once we'd clumsily ascertained that I wasn't entirely sure what he'd asked me, he revealed that he spoke English and again asked if I had anything to declare. I answered "some food". "Anyzingk else?" he asked. "Uh..."I thought hard..really hard. He was staring at me! "^Some medicine?" He eyed me for a moment and I started to break a light sweat. "Vehr are you from?" "Australia!" I answered brightly. Without missing a beat, he showed me the exit and I was free to go. Good thing I din't tell him about all that ivory....
I reached the airport outsidey bit that's really a high-priced shopping emporium designed to lure jetlagged tourists into paying 40 bucks for a bottle of water and a Cruskit.
It was surreal.
The air smelled like how the best bakery in heaven would smell and the loudspeaker was playing 'Doo Wah Ditty'.
I'll just let that thought sit with you for a bit.
After I'd stood there for a full ten minutes, doing nothing more than inhale the nicest smelling air in the world, I set about trying to find a phone to finally call home to say I was okay...
Thus began my slow haemorraging of money that only Switzerland can bring.
But more of that later. For now, my time at the net café is almost over, so I must bid you adieu til next time. Excuse the typos. No time to proofread.
Hope all's well. Feel free to comment.