For today’s post, I found the perfect example of what I am hoping to have people share for the “MyID” feature. A group of international students at Ball State University in Indiana tell about their first impressions of life in the United States. Special thanks to littleleafyuko!
Posts Tagged ‘MyID’
My ID: 26 December 1986 into San Francisco International
United Airlines (flight number unknown)
My Initial Descent into the West Coast came on a post-Christmas family vacation at the tender age of 7. We flew to San Francisco—my first long plane ride—and my first several hours on the West Coast were spent trying to make my ears un-pop from the airplane. I tried holding my breath, sneezing, chewing gum…nothing seemed to work.
Within a few hours, I had seen my first palm tree and my first sunset over a body of water. A few days later, we drove down the coast, and it was really the most beautiful site I had ever seen. Well, the train track that hugged the Pacific coastline, anyway. See, at that time I was fascinated by trains, planes, and little else. My only other recollection of that trip was that I apparently, according to the family albums, got in trouble in Knott’s Berry Farm for kicking Snoopy in the ass.
As far as cultural differences, well, it’s difficult to really evaluate that when you’re 7. Fortunately, I would have many other times to get back and learn about everything we plan to share with you in this space as we move forward.
My ID: 8:05am, Saturday, 09 May 2009: Muscat Seeb International Airport
Oman Air flight WY602 from Dubai
Coming from the hustling, bustling, steel-and-glass metropolis of Dubai, my Initial Descent into Oman had me expecting more of the same. Sure, I had heard that Oman seemed to preserve more of its traditional heritage than its more famous neighbor to the north, but given that Muscat’s arrival onto the international scene along with the rest of the major cities in the Gulf region, I was skeptical.
From the design of the airport itself to the slower pace of the immigration and Arrivals halls, I immediately understood that this wasn’t the same as Bahrain, Dubai, or even Doha. This place indeed marched to its own rhythm, and I was going to enjoy it.
Even the ride into town was different. There didn’t seem to be the maddening traffic prevalent in the other cities here. There were surely signs of Western influence—your occasional American restaurant chain or hotel—but it seemed more understated and subtle. Upon landing in my fifth city in the Middle East, I finally felt as though I was really in this part of the world.
My ID: 6:33pm, Sunday, 28 August 2005: Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Cathay Pacific flight CX721 from Hong Kong
My Initial Descent into Malaysia, via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (like so many others), had me thinking the entire country was a lush, green bed of palm trees. As far as I could see into the distance, rows and rows of palm trees, seemingly planned and organized. I had expected a tropical paradise of sorts, and my first impression was exactly that. And as KLIA is one of the most beautifully designed airports in the world, featuring large glass panels and atriums with more palm trees, that impression continued until long after I had arrived.
While this wasn’t my Initial Descent into Australia, or even into Sydney (this was my second visit), I had one of my more interesting airport arrival experiences here, worth sharing. Sadly, it may even provide a glimpse into Sydney’s culture, although let’s hope that isn’t the case!
For the last hour or two of my 13-hour flight from San Francisco, I had been talking to my seat buddy, a young lady from Montreal who spent a lot of time in Sydney working in modeling. She had the typical model look–tall, incredibly skinny and pale-skinned–definitely not my type. But she was nice, and most interestingly for me, she was from Montreal. I had always wanted to visit there, and was happy to get some “local” perspective.
This trip, she was to be reunited with her boyfriend, who lived in Sydney and awaited her at the airport. After standing in the customs queue together for another 30 minutes (after our 13 hours together on board), we were about to wish each other farewell and part ways, as she saw her boyfriend awaiting her in the arrivals hall. They hugged, I gave her a casual “good luck” and told her to keep in touch, perhaps by connecting on Facebook. I can’t emphasize enough that after 13 and a half hours of acquaintance, I was just hoping to have someone local I could get some information about Montreal from when I finally did get my act together and visit.
This, apparently, did not sit very well with her boyfriend. She introduced us and we shook hands, and I watched them walk off happily into the Sydney morning. I then proceeded to handle my international arrivals business (sorting out the money situation, phone, etc.), and was shocked to turn around 15 minutes later to a tap on my shoulder. It was the girl’s boyfriend, who had apparently left the girl he had been waiting months to see in the car, and felt the need to walk back into the terminal and seek me out with an important message.
(insert thick Aussie accent here)
Guy: Listen mate, I just wanted to let you know that she’s NOT going to keep in touch with you, and you are NOT going to see her again, alright???
Me: (so astonished that I can’t even stand straight) You actually left her in the car and walked back in here just to tell me that? Whatever man, I’m not even interested!
I then stepped aside and walked away, the situation apparently diffused, given that I didn’t receive any more taps on my shoulder.
But I didn’t know what I was more shocked by–the fact that the guy felt the need to come back and say this to me, when we were clearly introduced–or the fact that he actually had the nerve to tell his lady after they got back to the car that he had to go back into the terminal to talk to me. I mean, what’s she thinking at this point?? I just hope that he didn’t get any that night, and if he did, well, bless that poor girl (with a working brain cell, please).
So, this was my first perception of Sydney–meathead, gym-mongering guys just looking to show off their macho wares to impress a girl. I would later find that while this may be spot on for certain areas like Bondi, fortunately, not every Sydneysider is this way!
My ID: 3:34pm, Tuesday, 22 March 2005: Narita Airport
United Airlines Flight UA837 from San Francisco
While it goes without saying that most first-timers to Japan arrive through the Narita gateway, my first true experience with Japan was, quite literally, at Narita Airport. The destination of my first trip to Asia was the Philippines, via Singapore, and my flight from the US touched down first in Tokyo. I’m not counting the hour I spent around Gate 54 as my first foray into Japan, but it just so happens that I had the reverse route back, six days later. This time, my incoming flight from Singapore left about a three hour window before I had to depart back to SFO.
Being the rookie traveler that I was at the time, I decided that instead of eating the same dried out sandwich and Pocky pack I had at Gate 54 earlier that week, I would stand in line at immigration to get my passport stamped. I had my fancy Narita Immigration sticker 30 minutes later, and stepped outside to breathe Japanese air for the first time—in the Narita parking lot. After a 15-minute tour of Narita’s long-term parking and train station, I thought better of my inkling to leave the airport, and went back to the gate for my flight…but not until I had experienced Japan for the first time!
My ID: Train 4:32pm, Friday, 07 June 2002; Stazione Milano Centrale
My Initial Descent into Italy came via the rails, arriving into Milano Centrale after a night’s journey from Munich. Along the way, as the Alps bore down upon me like an intimidating older brother, I saw in the distance countless waterfalls so rugged that man dare not attempt approach. Cutting river valleys that housed rocky streams, and huge mountainside cliffs with trees above. Only water, strong enough to hold the ships of the sea and brave enough to tumble the likes of Niagara and Victoria, could experience these places up close. The Alp lakes were stunning, scattered with islands and vast waterways resting peacefully in the mountains’ pocket.
While I enjoyed my first day walking around Milano, the next few days heading further south in Italy left me with a few impressions, some of which I have subsequently discounted and others with I still hold true today:
- Rome has a lot of bad smells in it!
- I’ve even seen little kids smoking here; everyone smokes!
- Road rules don’t seem to apply to scooters—they are everywhere and do whatever they want!
- Every building has elaborate designs sculpted into it—outside and inside.
- Italian guys are so forward, aggressive and (if you’re a male) unfriendly. Could the stereotypes be true?
- Italian guys wear really, really tight jeans.
- The concept of air conditioning has no meaning in Italy.
- The shoes people wear here look like bowling shoes.
- Many people here have small, prissy dogs…..not the big dogs I’m used to!
- There is no hospitality here. Business owners are rude, and nothing is complimentary.
Over the next several weeks, my impression grew to be that of a stark difference between the North and South of Italy. The further north I got, the more comfortable I felt. This was shaped by a few experiences, such as seeing a brawl break out in a stairwell at Naples’ Central Station within minutes of my arrival there, and some of the shady characters I shared train compartments with in the south.
(Note: Please do not get upset, my Italian friends—this was all taken directly from a journal I kept the first time I was in Italy, and “MyID” is supposed to be an unfiltered, unedited account of first impressions! I know now these aren’t all true :).
My ID: 1:22pm, Wednesday, 23 March 2005: Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Philippine Airlines flight PR502 from Singapore
The tone was set for my Initial Descent into the Philippines before we had even approached Manila. About two hours into my flight from Singapore, where I had just transited from the United States, the Philippine Airlines flight attendant serving my section pulled me aside and asked a question: “Do you play basketball in the PBA?”
Of course, I had no idea what that was (it turns out it’s the Philippine Basketball Association), so I politely suggested that while I do play basketball, I was not a PBA participant. The middle-aged woman apologized unnecessarily, saying that I looked like I played basketball (perhaps my bald head at the time suggested as much), and asked if I needed anything else to make my flight more enjoyable. I settled for some mango juice and reclined my way into Manila.
The pleasant exchange taught me a few things about what to expect upon my arrival, which turned out to be true. The people were not shy, yet very humble, warm, polite and wanted to make me feel welcome. While this can be expected in the hospitality industry, in the Philippines I felt it from everyone, and it was genuine (and perhaps this is why the hospitality industry around the world employs so many people from the Philippines). I knew the visit would be good, and indeed it was.
My ID: 7:10am, Friday, 28 November 2008: Copenhagen Kastrup International Airport
Scandinavian Airlines System flight SK926 from Washington-Dulles
My Initial Descent into Scandinavia was one of the most spontaneous travel moments I’ve ever experienced. With a four-day break from work, I decided the day before the holiday that I would fly to Copenhagen. I had done no advanced planning, no research…nothing. I literally just packed a weekend bag, put on my winter jacket, and stepped onto the SAS plane. I didn’t know where I would stay or what I would do, but as my flight was a red eye and I would be landing in the morning, I figured I would have a day to figure it out.
Before we landed, some nice Danish people I had met on board had given me directions to Vesterport, near Copenhagen’s central station. They even had made a few hotel recommendations. While my first few choices were not available without notice, I eventually found a temporary home, dropped my bag, and set out to explore the city, amazed that I could pretty much cover it on foot.
My ID: 3:53pm, Wednesday, 21 January 2004: Vancouver International Airport
Alaska Airlines flight AS673 from Los Angeles
My Initial Descent into Canada came on approach into Vancouver International Airport on a cold, gray January afternoon. Living in California at the time, I decided I wanted to see the city I had heard so much about. So I hopped on the plane and took in the beauty for the entire 3-hour journey up the coast. I was treated to a view of California’s Yosemite National Park, the downtown Seattle skyline, and excited for the bigger treat I had awaiting me upon landing.
Just walking down the corridor at YVR to the immigration queue, I knew so much about the culture and heritage of British Columbia. From Native American Indian artifact displays to mock lakes and trees to recorded nature sounds coming from the walls surrounding me, no detail was left untouched. While the immigration officers themselves were a bit stuffy, I found everyone else I encountered during my first 4-day stay to be exactly as I had expected: warm, polite, friendly and welcoming. There have been few cities I have visited where I felt immediately at home, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was one of them.