|Alison Came and Left|
Alison was supposed to leave Amsterdam two weeks ago on Sunday, but because of day-light savings time and some user-induced errors with her alarm clock, she missed her flight. After much hassle with the airport people, she was able to switch her flight to two days later, and she ended up arriving Wednesday night, instead of Monday night.
Her flight here was by-far the most hectic thing I have ever heard of. It went from Amsterdam to Paris. An hour and a half layover in Paris, then an eleven hour flight to Vietnam. A nine hour layover there, and finally a three hour flight to Taiwan. So, when she arrived in Taipei, Justin and I picked her up from the airport, then promptly made our way to my favorite bar, Underworld. The three of us hung out there for a bit catching up and what not, then we headed home.
The next morning, Alison was jet-lagged and feeling sick (Taiwan seems to have that effect on people). So, she spent most of the day in bed, but finally got up the energy to go out. We went and got ganbangmian, which is what I call the Asian chicken noodle soup, because even though it has nothing to do with chicken noodle soup, it has the same medicinal effect. After that, we walked around the ShiDa market a bit, but she was feeling more and more sick. So, we headed straight over to a pharmacy and got some medicine. The rest of the day was spent hanging out in my room...as did almost the rest of the trip.
When I went to visit her in Amsterdam, we spent the majority of our time hanging out watching movies and talking, just like we did back in the States. So, for basically the whole week she was here, we would sit around my place all day watching movies, playing card games, and going out for food when needed. Most of the nights consisted of us going to one or two of the only three bars I go to in Taipei: Underworld (a hole-in-the-wall bar that plays good Western music), Chocolate & Love (a jazz bar owned by a guy from The Netherlands that serves Absinthe), and Fresh (a quirky little gay bar with a nice and quiet roof top garden to hang out in).
Just in the one week she was here, we managed to make more friends that either of us has made on our own in our respective countries. This realization has led us to one conclusion - we must live together at all times, otherwise we will lose our sanity...well, what is left of it. All throughout the week, we kept on talking about how much fun it would be to move to Taiwan after I get my bachelor's and she gets her master's.
One of the few days that we did not just sit around all day was when I took her up to the northern coast line. We took the MRT (subway) as far north as it goes, then a bus about thirty minutes northeast from there. We had a lot of fun sitting on rocks talking about random stuff, and trying to figure out where this group of six or so American teenagers came from. Well, they were clearly the sons and daughters of ex-pats, but we (at least I) really wanted to know what their story was. Anyway. Alison took all the pictures while we were there (but only because I made her), so all the pictures in the gallery of the beach are hers.
Yesterday was the sad day when she had to return to The Netherlands. We managed to get a few hours of sleep before waking up at like 3:45 in the morning. We took showers, got dressed, hopped in a cab, and got the first bus to the airport, getting us there a little before six. We walk in, get in line, get to the counter, and this is when the story gets crazy. The person checking Alison in said that because she missed her flight here, her return tickets had been canceled. The person working did not speak that great of English, so I explained to her in Chinese that Alison did miss her original flight, but got it changed to two days later. They then said that their records did not show that, and there was not much they could do because all the flights were overbooked as it was. Crap.
At this stage, Alison is starting to get very nervous, as was I. So, I pull out my bitchy side1 and said it is not our fault that they failed to properly change her ticket, and they had better find a way for her to get back, which I followed up with, "And she is not going to pay a cent. This is your fault." The employee instantly became much more compliant and said to hang on one second. She came back a few moments later and said she "managed" to get Alison a confirmed seat on the flight from Taipei to Ho Chi Min City, and on the flight from Ho Chi Min City to Paris, but not on the flight from Paris to Amsterdam because that was Air France, and not Vietnam Airlines. At first, we thought we were in the clear, but we when realized that Alison only has like an hour and a half in Paris, so she could get there, and not have a seat on the flight to Amsterdam. So, we told them that would not do. The person did not understand and said "Oh, do you still want to go to Amsterdam? Paris won't do?" As much as I wanted to laugh in her face, I told her that Alison has to go to Amsterdam, and they had better find a better solution.
That was when the manager came over. He was much more helpful. He completely understood why Alison would be nervous doing that, but he said all the same flights were overbooked until Sunday. For a while, we got used to the idea that Alison would have to stay a few more days, and even made some plans to go bowling, but then Alison realized she has a lot of university responsibilities to attend to, and that actually is just a bad idea. So, in the end, the only option was to go ahead and confirm her flight from Ho Chi Min City to Paris, buy a China Airlines ticket to Ho Chi Min City that left later that day, and try to contact Air France before her flight left. The manager felt bad about this being the only option, and he was so incredibly helpful about it. Instead of having me use my cell phone minutes to call the Air France office in Taipei, he called them, got the flight confirmed, and called a travel agent to come to the airport to sell Alison the ticket to Vietnam. If she would have purchased the ticket at the airport it would have been a little shy of $500 USD (without taxes and fees), but with the slightly shady travel agent, it was just a little over $400 USD (with taxes and fees).
After the few hours it took to get that all sorted, we still had like four more to wait before her flight. So, we got breakfast, and then explored the airport a bit. For a bit of the exploration, Alison sat on the front of a luggage cart, and I pushed her around the airport. After exploring, we sat in a restaurant, played with our datebooks and then looked at pictures from her trip on her laptop. Eventually, the time had come for her to leave. We said our goodbyes, and I booked it back into the city just in time to make it to class.
I think Alison is probably back in, or just about to land in Amsterdam right now, assuming all went well. I got a note from her while she was in in the Ho Chi Min City airport, and there didn't seem to be any problems as of then. So, I am just going to assume for the best, and also assume I won't hear from her for a while, because I bet she is going to go straight to bed when she gets back and not wake up for a while.
Alison's Visit view
The coolest cat in the world, Alison, came to visit me from Amsterdam!
1] At some stage during me getting this all sorted, Alison (whether or not she knew it) gave me the best compliment ever. She turned to me and said, "You know, it's sort of insane that you can discuss all this plane ticket stuff in Chinese, and not just like basic conversation stuff." It made me all happy and warm inside, aww.