Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day one and a half

Beijing airport: If you're a transit passenger on certain airlines (but not others) you have to go through immigration and get your passport stamped in order to change planes. We fell into this category. For all the other airlines, you also had to collect your baggage and recheck it for the next flight, so we were the lucky ones, weren't we?

Nobody told us this, though, so we didn't know what was going on.

What happens is that you start by confusedly filing down the steps off the plane to the tarmac, where there is a bus waiting. You get on the bus. It takes you to another building at reckless speed, dodging large aircraft and evading random airport workers on foot and in other vehicles. At the other building you wander around for a while until you find the place you think you are supposed to be, find out you are wrong, or perhaps you are right but they're not ready for you yet. At some point an exasperated and busy airport staff member appears and herds you around until you feel like saying, "BA-A-A-A-A!" Suddenly she barks, "WAIT THERE!" and points at a very specific spot on the floor.

You stand on that spot as she goes off and deserts you. You don't know what is happening, but you are afraid to move.

Time goes by, confusing stuff happens, and you fill in forms. You do not have to fill in the one that asks if you are suffering from psychosis, venereal disease, or snivelling, and you feel slightly disappointed by this. A while later, as your passport gets stamped, you are grateful that your stopover was for five hours because if it had been any shorter you might have missed your flight. You start to worry about the return trip, when you have only two and a half hours to accomplish all this, whatever it was.

KL: It's the same as ever. Hot, but not as hot as Japan, despite being nearer the sun (ha!) and the food is much better.

Independence Square: Late at night we go to see the illuminations. I take pictures, which may or may not end up on here at some point. We are sitting at the edge of the grassy area when I turn and notice an electronic bulletin board with words scrolling across it in English. The words I see are:

FLASH FLOODS BY CITY HALL

"Flash floods!" I tell The Man and our friend. "There's a sign about flash floods!"

We look at the sky. It has not rained all day. They think I am making it up, and I try hard to assure them that I really did see this sign. We watch it as it scrolls, but now it is in Malaysian. We wait and wait for the English to come back, and the others tease me. The idea of flash flooding only in one spot by City Hall is starting to seem rather unlikely to me, too, and I start to wonder if I hallucinated it.

The English scrolling starts again:

THIS IS AN ELECTRONIC BOARD TO WARN OF FLASH FLOODS BY CITY HALL

I feel better when the last five words appear.

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More tomorrow.

3 comments:

Radioactive Jam said...

Nearer the sun - ha! indeed. I wonder about causality re: City Hall's flash floods. Their gov't runneth over? No...

Kay said...

So, you are carrying a computer with you--an adapter, what else??--give us the contents of electronic baggage>>and don't stop the wonderful travelogue--I will be checking several times a day from the basement!!!!!!

kenju said...

The airport experience sounds horrible. It would be bad enough in your native language, but to have to decipher what is happening in another language - terrible!