Friday, May 7th was my last day working my contract at GWOS. I had thought my contract ended a week earlier, and had bought a plane ticket for that timeframe. That detail was an oversight on my part, and it cost me nearly the price of a plane ticket just to get it switched. Honestly though I was happy to work the extra week because projects were coming together and I got a lot of work done that week. My boss Dr. Dave Blunt was on vacation in New Zealand, so on Friday I trained a temp guy to pick up some of the slack while another co-worker, Thomas Stocking, was going to be handling the bulk of the IT duties. A few of my co-workers invited me into Thomas's office for a glass of fine scotch to finish the work day off.
After work I got in my car and headed to REI to pick up a hat and a light colored, long sleeved shirt, two things that are priceless in SE Asia. I didn't immediately notice that the hat, like my backpack I'd bought for my first trip, was made in Vietnam.
For dinner I grabbed sushi with Blake and Lily on Castro St, and after that I drove down to Lila's house to stay with her family for a while. I spent a lot of time there playing on the iPad with Maks and trying to find the best way to pack some gifts for my trip. The best way ended up being to keep my expensive and fragile things in my backpack while putting heavy and liquid things into a cardboard box for check-in at the airport.
The How Weird Street Faire was on Mother's day, which was Sunday, and I had planned to go but ended up not being able to make it. That's my favorite SF electronica festival, but it just wasn't going to fit into my schedule and it wasn't high enough priority for me to really make it happen. Getting packed for my trip and making sure I had everything I needed was my main focus the last few days. Late Sunday night Lila and Maks dropped me off at SFO. Check in was easy, but the last bar closed at 11pm and I was just a few minutes too late to get any service, so I ended up waiting at the gate, tired but trying to stay awake for the last few hours.
Just after 1am on May 10th, China Airlines flight 3 from SFO to Taipei boarded, and it would be the most uncomfortable international flight I'd ever taken. The plane was shoddy, the seat was uncomfortable, the food was bad, there were crying babies, there was what seemed like a VHS tape hooked to a 1990's projection style TV for us to watch a movie on, and no personal entertainment systems on each chair (which was fine by me anyway, those things all suck.) On top of that, I had an aisle seat so people kept running by and brushing my arm or leaning against me to let other people pass.
I slept for most of the flight. I thought about watching a movie on my iPad, or listening in on the in-flight movie, but remembered that it is disconnecting and weird to lose myself in a fictitious plot when I've got my own new story going.
I remembered that I'd forgotten to pick up a travel bug to take to Asia. Oh well. Next time.
One good thing I'll say is that the coffee was good. I think I like Asian coffee more than what we usually get in America. I'd have traded the better than average coffee for a comfortable seat though.
The in-flight GPS display came up on the big screen and showed that we had just flown over almost all of Japan. It then switched to a display of "breathing exercises for relaxation" where a girl was sitting calmly on a chair at the end of a dock on a mirror lake with what looked like Mt. Fuji in the background, though I suspect it was some Chinese mountain. The video had just begun to explain to us how to relax when the girl was torn from her serene location by static and color glitches commonly seen when you pause a VHS tape. The captain had an announcement.
We landed in an overcast Taipei that was mostly unremarkable. What I could see of the airport outside was foreign and neat, but beyond it was just familiar green vegetation and grey skies. I spent no more than 45 minutes there before being seated on flight CI0781 to Saigon. Maybe I'll go back for a longer visit some day...