It finally came time to leave for Dominica. I had five days to basically get everything together, but I'm a good packer so that was hardly an issue.
To detail my venture into a new part of the world I figured it would be beneficial to both myself to detail it here and beneficial to anyone here who may want to read it...haha.
29 August 2009
This flight to Antigua was non-stop on Delta, but it left at 1000...I mean really, can we not get some lights at the airport in Antigua to facilitate more reasonable departure times AND even more, connection times upon which this flight undoubtedly needs...Ok, rant over!
So, I was dropped off at the airport by the family and had a long goodbye. Even though this was an international flight, I checked in at the kiosk, which is a beautiful contraption that greatly eases the hassles of getting through the check-in process. Why more people don't use this option is beyond me, it's literally a two-push process. Adding a passport scan does nothing to impede the process! The whole thing took two minutes and then I was immediately directed to the baggage drop
The security was its usual self---that is to say a bunch of idiots acting like they can't read and/or have never been to an airport before...so getting through that took about ten minutes.
When I checked the flight status online before leaving for the airport the flight was schedule to leave from T7, which would have been wonderful as obviously that's right after security, you don't even have to go down the escalator! However, upon checking in I discovered that the flight had been rescheduled to leave from E2. Which, of course, is the farthest possible gate from the security check point being at E (the last concourse) and Gate 2, at the END of the concourse! I'm not a huge fan of taking the people mover, I usually just prefer to walk, but I got down to C and noticed that I was about twenty seconds ahead of a train, and figured, what the hell, I'll just take the train. Probably a good thing I did that too as literally the minute after I got to the gate they started boarding. Interestingly, upon check-in I got the "This flight is overbooked, please see gate agent for details blah blah blah" message. This was the second DL flight in a row where I'd gotten that one (previous one was 13 August PHX-ATL). So, when I get to the gate, hoping MAYBE they'd route me through JFK for some perks (it's happened before) or some other way, they told me, no, we're fine....so why do I get the message in the first place??? I mean really
So, all that being said it came time to board out 737-700. New livery, don't have the registration, but it did have winglets. The configuration had the PTVs and the slimline seats. Seated next to me was a young eight or nine year old whose aunt was sitting further up. Next to him was a women who I would guess is in her fifties or sixties going to Montserrat. The kid sitting next to me behaved perfectly with the exception that he got finger happy with his PTV and kept pressing the same button sixteen times when the menu didn't act fast enough. Of course, that proceeded to freeze the PTV every five minutes. Mine worked perfectly, and I watched a little LIVE TV until we got out of range, and then I watched The Proposal while the meal service came around, but it was nondescript so I really don't remember what it was, lol.
We lined up for take off and meandered our way to the South runways, and we start rolling, and we just keep rolling, and never speed up....I remember thinking to myself, "gentlemen up front, this little stretch of pavement doesn't keep going...it's gonna end, what's the deal here...?" Well, the deal was we had to go back to a gate, though we didn't deplane. They turned on the TV systems for us so that was very generous of them. Turns out, the plane had been repaired, and the part used to repair it was the part for a 737-800, not a 737-700, so I guess that means the plane couldn't have been legally dispatched. So, after an hour we were back on the runway (the TVs were never turned off, the safety thing having been displayed prior to the initial non-take off) and this time we made it into the air!
Because I'm just that lucky there were about forty young kids on this flight. Most of them were well behaved, one or two of them had cranky moments during pressurization, but then settled. There was one, however, of course, in the aisle across and back from me who felt the need to scream and holler on and off pretty much the entire flight....and his parents did nothing about it. The lady in my row even said something about it, but nothing. I may be setting myself for bad karma but dammit control your children on a flight!
The flight itself was rather uneventful minus the screaming kid. I swear I'm done with VFR routes!! Having never been to the Caribbean before it was nice to fly over some of the islands. Just before touching down on the runway in ANU we either hit a pocket of air or the pilot felt like keeping us on our "toes" because the plane basically bucked up and right back down and we become a Deltoid Wave, with a good chunk of the plane going "awwooooo" during the process, and then we all had a good laugh about it as the plane touched down.
Now the hectic part begins. I've flown enough (though not nearly as much as some of you road warriors -- did you like that shameless kiss up?) to out of the way destinations to know that if you're not flexible and expect everything to run with German efficiency you'll have a coronary after a while, so I went into the airport expecting "Island Time" to be in full force. Immigration was actually fine, being no faster or shorter than anywhere else really. Baggage claim, however, was horrendous. There were only three flights on the ground and it took a solid hour for my bag to come of the belt...insane considering the baggage claim belt is literally thirty yards from the plane.
Anyway, once that conundrum was over and done with, it came time to get to where I'd be staying that (one and only) night. I decided to stay in Antigua 1) the flight was cheaper and 2) to get another stamp in my passport (travel geek supreme here). I originally searched for a Hilton or Holiday Inn affiliated hotel for the points (Hilton Honor Silver woot woot) that I'd get from the hotel program AND the airline program...hey, double dipping is beautiful thing. Alas, no affiliated hotels seemed to exist in Antigua...major bummer. So, I did the next best thing...HOTELS.COM! Yeah, so I had no idea about any of these places, so I went with the cheapest one closest to the airport with cable TV and AC. I chose The Verandah. Turned out it was very nice, though I was by far the youngest person staying there that was not being accompanied by an adult. No matter really since I didn't get there until around six in the evening, and I would be basically just sleeping there. The room was very nice as you can see.
And so was the outside.
I chilled in my room that night (it gets dark in the Caribbean around six thirty, maddening to me) reading and watching old tennis matches on the Tennis Channel (I don't even have that at home!).
The next morning I had a little bit of time to kill before checking out, so I decided to sit on the beach and read my book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I didn't have much time, but since I'd paid for the private beach...
Noon came around and it was time to check out. It took about a half hour to get to the airport. Since my flight wasn't until 1640 I was in no rush to get there, but where else could I really go with a fifty pound bag and nowhere to put it? In a nutshell I paid my exit fee (which it turns out a short stayer like me didn't need to, live and learn) and then schlepped my bag up two flights of stairs to the air conditioned restaurant. I leisurely read my book and ate some lunch before going back down the stairs to check my bag in. Despite LIAT policy being ONE carry on, I was able to check my bag (50.5 lbs) and walk through with a backpack and a small rolling suitcase that easily weighed close to thirty pounds (twice their limit of fifteen). I didn't say anything and neither did they.
I still had a while to kill so I just watched the tarmac, unfortunately pictures aren't allowed. I was paged to the desk after a while, and I panicked, thinking my flight was cancelled, or delayed, or something was wrong with my checking, etc, etc. About fifty scenarios went through my mind. Turned out to be the Ross University welcome person/lady/ma'am just wanting to make sure that I had everything in order to arrive in Dominica, which I did. Right after that a flight from San Juan, PR arrived with about twenty students on it, so it was nice to at least have somebody to talk to. A month later I've seen a few of them, but not many.
Two flights were going to Dominica within about ten minutes of each other, and mine was delayed. Just my luck. Either way, we boarded our little puddle jumper and settled in. I was very glad this was to be a short flight because Jay Jay the Jet Plane could have done cartwheels around this plane (side note: can planes do cartwheels??) The flight was uneventful and we landed on a tiny airstrip that turned out to be Dominica just as the sun was starting to set. Immigration was no problem, and surprisingly enough neither was baggage claim. My bag arrived unlike many, thank God. Ross was there to meet us and a group of us set out toward Portsmouth (the airport being in Marigot). The road was windy and steep, and not one you'd drive for jollies. Most of the roads here are like that. We were dropped off at the Housing Office where we waited for our bags. They were loaded on a separate truck that tailed us by about forty-five minutes. Our bags eventually arrived and the landlords called.
My apartment is fine, it's not what'd you find in the states, but nothing here is. According to many students it's one of the nicer complexes in the area that doesn't cost and arm and a leg. The landlord has been responsive to anything I needed. Apparently the last tenant destroyed the apartment so many things had been replaced. I got a new table, new refrigerator, settee, and dry erase board. Makes me wonder how destructive and negligent the former tenant was. I was have twice-weekly maid service and classes are less than ten minutes by foot, which is great for sleeping late in the morning! Some people have half hour to forty-five minute walks. For those who care my road is Balvin Rd. which branches off Moo Cow Trail (seriously). Moo Cow Trail is appropriately named as at any random time five or six cows can be found tethered grazing. Sometimes they look at you rather blase and ignore you, and sometimes they voice their "displeasure" at being disturbed by, you guessed it "mooing" at you.
So all in all the first impressions are good!