Wednesday, May 18, 2005

St. Thomas adventure

I'm sitting on the flight from Newark to LAX back from a week long trip to St Thomas and I thought I would write down the impressions of the trip to make the time go faster. The trip has been great. However before I get into that I will start with what truly sucked. This trip is the first time in my life that I used the airline Continental Airways, lets say that it will hopefully be the last time. First of all as we arrived in St. Thomas my bag wasn't there. I know that given the amount I have traveled in my life so far and this being the first time I've ever lost my bag it is only what should be expected. Not only that, but one of my travel companions Heather also lost her luggage (Different ticket, but still Continental).

First the people of the Continental desk seemed more or less clueless what the procedure is (Strange since it seemed so common, there were 5 bags missing on just my plane) and it took forever to process the claim. I can continue to enlighten people who have yet to loose a bag what the reimbursement you get from the airline when they loose a bag. You get $25 a day (Starting after 24 hours of reported lost bag) and if they never found the bag you get only up to $640 in reimbursement if you have no other insurance, as my friend Heather said "I have shoes that costs more than that in the bag". Also, since St. Thomas is such a minuscule airport it was actually closed the day after we arrived so there was no hope of getting the bags then. We did call them though and was greeted by a cheerful voice saying that one of the bags were still in Newark and the other bag is "safely in Santa Domingo" (Too bad that we weren't there, we really should have known better so I guess it really was our fault ;) ). The next day (When the airport was opened again even though nobody ever answered the phone) we first got the message that our bags were there at the airport so we went there (Heather was missing her bag a little bit more than me, I would probably have waited). When we got there only one bag was there (Heathers fortunately), my bag would arrive at 3pm though so they would ship it to my hotel and I would have it as I got back that night. Well, needless to say no bag showed up that day. The next day I started calling at 9:30 and was asked to call back at 10:00 when St Thomas baggage claim opened. At 10:00 I was told to call back at 10:45. At 10:45 I was told to call back in 30 minutes. But, lo and behold when I called then they actually had my bag at the airport and would ship it to the hotel (And this time it actually did show up).

My trouble with Continental did not end there though. When I left Newark the yanked my I94 (The thing they stamp in your passport as you enter the US) and I didn't think of it since I thought I was leaving the states. Now as I am heading home immigration tells me that I have actually not left the states so I can't get a new one (You should always have one in your passport if you don't have a green card when in the states) so now I am no longer an entirely legal immigrant in the US. According to the people I have talked to at Continental and Immigration it should be fairly easy to fix, but I only had 30 minutes for my connecting flight so I couldn't work on it more. It still bugs the hell out of me though because I know it's going to be a mess fixing it (Contact with authorities always are, here or in Sweden doesn't really matter) and it's all the f*cking airlines fault for yanking it out of my passport when they shouldn't have. To top it of at Newark we were stuck at the arrival gate for 20 minutes because immigration had arranged the gate for international arrival when it wasn't (The irony, if it only was the whole I-94 mess would have gone away). Waiting for 20 minutes at the gate before being able to leave the plane when you have 30 minutes to begin with before the next departure is very stressful.

While I'm on the topic of problems I failed to convince Cingular, my cell phone operator, to enable international roaming on my account (I find it amazing that it is so difficult to convince them to take my money). So I have been without a phone all week except that I got to borrow Ceci:s phone so I could get in touch with the other people. It was kind of nice though to be completely unreachable for a week. I also managed to not check my email all week and that was actually not bad.

Ok, that was the bad part. Appart from this as I said before the trip was awesome. It was me and 3 friends (Heather, Sasha and Ceci) that went. I stayed at a different hotel than them because when I checked their hotell was booked. By an amazing stroke of luck the hotel that I booked had a 5 star PADI dive center on the premise which was great since I had planned on doing some diving. I haven't been doing it at all since the trip to Egypt a year and a half ago. I managed to get 8 dives in and also get an Advanced Open Water certification. The weather wasn't spectacular but it was still warm and I didn't mind that the sun wasn't always showing. It just helped with me not wearing any sunscreen (I was the only person who didn't managed to get sunburned of my entire group). Saw a bunch of colourful fish, turtles (Bigger than me in some cases) and a bunch of different rays. There was also a bunch of large (About 1 meter long) iguanas running around everywhere.

Other adventures of the trip was that we went out driving dingies to go snorkling (Especially when going out on the Atlantic side of the island where the waves were bigger and you really got to bounce around). I went riding on a wave runner (Which basically is a big jet ski) which was also totally awesome. Went kayaking one day to from my hotell too. Also, the food was excellent almost everywhere (I had the best lobster I've ever had in my life only to be superseded with an even better lobster dish a couple of days later). They also had a bunch of interesting and really good drinks starting with the more or less standard Strawberry Daquiry to the Chocalate Bushwacker. Another cool thing I did was hitchhike for the first time in my life which basically means sitting in the back of a pickup truck and knocking on the side when you want to get off (This seemed the preferred mode of transportation to a lot of locals) and it was completely legal (One time we were even followed by a police car).

I also encountered something called a pour it yourself bar. The concept were that you asked the bartender for a drink (Him being incredibly obnoxious and totally uninterested to serve pretty much anyone, he was awesome) and then he puts a glass and the stuff needed to mix it in front of you and you get to mix it yourself. We were 5 people drinking for 2 hours and our tab was $21 (A lot less than anywhere else we went where a drink was usually at least $5 or more. The shopping was also great and I picked up an Omega diving watch (I'm really happy with myself because I actually managed to haggle the price down almost $200), also picked up a 32 year old scotch that seemed really nice. Finally I cant help thinking of the rather mean quote regarding most of the discussions during the trip by the "hens" (As I started referring to my travel mates as retaliation for them starting to calling me Hank). The quote is "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people"... I will leave it up to the imagination of what the usual topic of the discussion was.

The pictures from the trip are available here. As usual I sucked at taking pictures so these are all from the other people on the trip.

That in short pretty much what happened on the trip. I had a fairly interesting week before the trip too. David Christian had a brother in town so they were going out quite a lot and I joined them most days and in the beginning of the week I managed to leave my cellphone in a bar (IE I lost it). Later during the week I also managed to leave my MP3 player and headphones in the washing machine and apparently neither of them were made for that so I have had to make do with a backup to use during my trip. Fortunately I had one on hand. Finally before the trip I picked up one of the new Sony PSP gadgets (Portable game console). Totally awesome little machine, I love it so far (So much more capturing than the Nintendo GBA SP I had before). I've also almost finished expanding my home stereo system to 8.25 TB of disk storage (Before raid, a little bit over 7TB usable storage though). I'm planning on making all my DVD:s available directly without needing to flip through a bunch of discs. It will be fantabulous!

Monday, May 2, 2005

A very Southern California saturday

Yesterday I woke up in the morning and went skiing in Mount Baldy. The place is 1 hour and 10 minutes from where I live (Door to parkinglot). The skiing was awesome for being so close to where I live, although they pretty much only had red and black (Diamond for Americans) slopes. After it closed at 4 in the afternoon I went home in time to host a barbeque with some friends at which a friend of mine had a testing of Jello shots for us.

Great being able to go skiing just over the day, and next season I will definitely be better at taking advantage of it.