Sunday, November 01, 2009

International Visitor Leadership Program - 31 Oct 2009

Setting off from home at 3.30am. Reached the airport before 4am. First leg, flying to Narita on Northwest Airlines (NWA) was an eyeopener into the "American way". The NWA flight safety video was slick and enjoyable to watch, with plenty of fast cuts, catchphrases, and great acting. Also noticed that the stewardesses were wearing different attires. They were also allowed to keep their long hair untied. Individuality 101.

The transit at Narita was a bit chaotic. The boarding gate was changed, and the queue was not controlled, quite un-Japanese...

The marathon 2nd leg from Narita to Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) was quite a ride. First ride on a 747, not really different from other airliners, except for semi-open spaces which passengers use to "stand & hang around", to combat the effects of sitting through a 10 hour plus session.

Transiting at MSP was slightly more structured, but timing was razor-thin, with a long walk between the departure and boarding gates. I made it worse by exiting to the public area by mistake, and had to "re-enter" by passing through security again. By the way, US security involves removing shoes and belts.

The final leg, MSP to Washington DC (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to be exact) was a short but meaningful ride. I was in the window seat for the first time, and was sitting next to an old couple. Cue friendly grandma small-talk. Explained that Singapore was not part of China, and that we had hot and humid weather. The air stewardesses were wearing special T-shirts in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Cool. Food was minimal, with only complementary drinks and a packet of peanuts.

Reaching Reagan airport was a relief. The long wait for luggage didn't really hurt the experience. Being a internal flight meant no need for security clearance upon landing.

The quick taxi ride was a bit surreal. I seemed to be watching a letterbox format movie through the windscreen of the taxi. Magic carpet ride and autumn leaves everywhere. Reached the hotel at 5 plus. Unpacked and explored the room, and left the hotel at 7 plus to find dinner and shopping for amenities.

By then the mercury had dropped even more. Wandered around the area, and found the 7-11 around the corner. The Metro entrance (Foggy-Bottom station) was next, and I explored further. Foggy Bottom seems quiet except for the Metro entrance. Quite a few quaint buildings, mostly low-rise. Imagine a SMU-style city campus setting (without the completely new buildings), and you won't be far off. Quite cosmopolitan though, as I heard some Mainland Chinese accented Mandarin being spoken on the streets.

I was getting tired of finding a dinner spot, when I came across an American diner restaurant at a street corner. Johnny Rockets is your typical Billy Bombers-type eating place, except with African-American and Middle-Eastern servers, a Caucasian cook, what seems like an Indian owner.

Its strange (but cool) to land in USA on Halloween. Lots of costumes on show, pity that it was raining, so I didn't risk taking out my camera (the Pentax K7 is staring at me now). Will try to grab a few more shots tomorrow...

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