Thursday, January 27, 2011've got style

I am LOVING being back in the States. And I really like Miami. The traffic and pace of life is zany enough for me. I love my apartment, even if it is expensive, and I love being able to take the train into class/work. On that note, given that we are required to dress professionally and the nature of what we're doing it often feels more like a job right now. This does not bother me one bit because I enjoyed working. And I enjoy dressing professionally, frankly I have more professional clothes than casual. It's nice to get up in the morning, pull out a nice, crisp dress shirt and pair of pants, and put on a nice pair of shoes with a belt. Look good, feel good.

We only have class one day per week now. Thank God!!! that makes it much more bearable to sit and listen to somebody drone on and on and on and on and on for eight hours.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Farewell Dominica

So I'm finally settled in Miami, for now anyways. It took two days of constant back and forth little trips consisting of an unmentionable number of bags containing a broad array of useless crap to get here! Getting the furniture turned out to be a bit more of a hassle than I would've liked -- I had to sleep on my couch the first night (but it's a great couch!).

It still feels a bit surreal that I'm not going back to Dominica. When I came back to the states on December 18th (I shall forever remember that day!) I knew there was a chance that I could be repeating, just because of my "stellar" success on Minis 1 and 3 pharm. PS, I rocked the pharm final! So when I got my grades it all came at once. Joy, relief, a minute tinge of sadness, but it was all there. Then I began reading all of my friends' statuses about how they're all going back to "The Rock"as it is known by some. And then the surreal feeling set in. I'm not going back. That blasted island dominated my life for about a year and a half, it was in my consciousness every single day that I was there and I had to alter a great deal just to accommodate to that fact. And then poof! just like that I'm gone. I'm greatly relieved to be moving on to something new, and living in a place where idiocy is not The National Passtime, but it is just strange nonetheless. This might be my last post to have the "Dominica" label on it! I met some great people there (some greater than others...) and hopefully I will be able to keep in touch with those still there and those that went to Michigan. But for now, "Forward, the Light Brigade!"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Trip to Miami

It came time to head out to Miami. I went for a few reasons, the primary one to find a place to live. The second was to get a break from Dominica (always much needed!).

So let's get to it shall we. The next is a bit of a rip from an earlier post:

Because I'm just that lucky, American Airlines was booked solid out of Dominica on my outbound leg, so I had to get a little creative. Luckily, I'm an airplane/travel geek and know pretty much all of the routes and major operators everywhere in the world. Thus, one can deduce I'm familiar with the same in the Caribbean. That's all well and good until one considers that there are only four nonstop destinations served out of Dominica: Antigua, Barbados, San Juan, and St. Maarten. St. Maarten immediately got the axe because the nonstops are operated by Winair and their ten-seater planes. No thank you. San Juan was eliminated on the outbound due to American Airlines being booked. (Thankfully, American Airlines DID have open seats to Dominica on my return leg). That left Antigua or Barbados for the outbound plane--cue Suzy Bogguss.  This was pretty much perfect, as it meant one less flight on LIAT, an airline I abhor. Had I not taken American on on the return, it would have  LIAT out of Antigua or Barbados and a tight (Antigua) or next day (Barbados) connection. Neither of those options was acceptable. All in all, I would rather do a short connection in San Juan and I get to avoid Antigua--an airport I abhor, see the trend here--completely.  I do, however, have a rather lengthy 8am-240pm layover in Barbados during which I can read and study.

I made all my flight arrangements, paid for it, then looked over it. I discovered I was an idiot and booked the return flight for one day early...BONK! Thankfully I just called up American Airlines and they changed it no charge. This was literally minutes after I'd made the initial booking. My opinion of American Airlines is SLIGHTLY raised. They still have a year's worth of flight schedule-related aggravation to overcome. 

Now, fast forward a month, it was time to go. My LIAT flight was supposed to (har har) leave at 7am on the dot. As such I had to get picked up at the UNGODLY hour of 430 to endure the harrowing drive through the jungle to get to the airport (you think I'm kidding). I have a pretty strong stomach...but toward the end of this ride I time and time again question why I didn't take any dimenhydrinate (Dramamine for the name-brand folks). It was too dark to take any real pictures, and frankly a densely tree-lined road is going to look the same regardless. A tree and a green bush aren't all that much to get excited about! The ride was mostly drama free except THE most obnoxious individual on the planet (excluding Bill Maher) was on the ride to the airport with me. I don't know where this quack came from, and I don't know where he's going. I just hope it's in a different direction than me! Nothing was ever good enough, nothing EVER right, and everything was either "RIDICULOUS" or "UNBELIEVABLE"...much like his attitude.

We eventually get to the airport, and even at the delightful hour of 545 there is already a line at the LIAT counter. For those not in the know, LIAT is not my favorite airline. (That is actually a very politically correct manner of saying I think they are the scourge of the earth). The have surly, unhelpful ground staff and even worse customer service. It took about ten minutes to work my way up to the counter and get checked in and THEN pay the departure tax (that, incidentally, proved too much for Captain Obnoxious to grapple with...). After that there is not much to do at Melville Hall Airport. Thankfully they have added free wifi so Facebook and other time-sapping black holes are easily accessible while you wait. Also, I think the departure lounge at DOM doubles as a meat locker at night. It is frigid. Here are a few pictures of the place.

Because I'm just that lucky, Pablo Personality himself was going to be on BOTH of my flights that day (oh joy and jubilation) and LI361 to Barbados was delayed by an hour. Not really a big deal seeing as I had a 5 hour layover in Barbados, so it was just a matter of where I sat for that hour. It just never ceases to amaze me why that airline cannot get its act together. In the air, they're fantastic though. What's the deal?!?
They finally call us to board and we do the usual ten yard stroll through "Gate" No.1 to the airplane. I took the "lounge" section of four at the front and sat back. The flight attendant had difficult working the PA system. In fact she had to use a megaphone...which thrilled me to no end considering I was sitting a mere two feet from here. Dash-8's aren't that wide you see...We took off over the Atlantic and turned South towards the beautiful island of BaRRRRbados. (I love the Bajan ARRRRRRR). The flight was pretty much uneventful, blocked at  exactly an hour. I slept about half of it (having been up since 4, and having not gone to bed until one...). The flight attendant passed came through with a beverage and snack service. The beverage consisted of Bajan Cherry. A cherry in the Caribbean is more like an Apple to most everywhere else. Why they can't just call it a type of apple is the type of question I stopped asking after I moved to Dominica...We were also served a little cookie thing that reminds me of the Biscoff Cookies on Delta. Best comparison I got, sorry! The juice was actually quite good. 
After the snack round it was basically time to land, and sit through my FIVE HOUR layover (with Pablo Personality), oh goody! After immigration (which was lightning fast that early in the morning) I--as always--had to wait fifteen to twenty minutes for my bag. No matter what airline I fly, no matter what airport I fly into...I ALWAYS have to wait for my bag. Exactly one time has the bag been waiting for me.
The bag finally came and then I went up to the front "atrium" of BGI. There is absolutely nothing to do there. It's not closed in, and there are some fans, and usually a breeze, but this being the Caribbean the breeze was hot...and I was wearing jeans, so I was less than thrilled. There was ONE restaurant serving food in the front part of the airport. I ate and then meandered over to the Concorde display, because how many other chances will I get to see a real, bonafide Concorde?? Even if it is out of service the novelty of it is still pretty cool. I guess I spent about forty-five minutes in the museum, and there were about three other people in there with me. It was quite strange having a tour guide dedicated to me. I couldn't tune her out without her knowing it...To be able to walk through the plane itself was really cool too! I got to sit in a seat, which seemed really flimsy for the ticket prices that British Airways would charge!! Either way after exploring and being overloaded with more knowledge about supersonic flight than I could ever conceivably need to know, I traipsed back to the American Airlines counter (bag in tow since they didn't open until 1230) where I joined the queue for baggage drop and checkin. I obtained my boarding pass and
made my way post-security. I got my passport stamped and went through security quickly, and then went to find something to eat. 
My hand on one of the TINY windows.
Hurricane Tomas anyone?
I finally found something that wasn't a hamburger or souse-related, and settled for some chicken curry. Like most food in the Caribbean it was BLAND. Side rant...can somebody please explain to me how food that takes so long to cook, is so heavily sauced, and smells so good when being cooked can just taste like saucy cardboard when you finally taste it? I've been to three islands in the Eastern Caribbean and this was the case in all of them. Caribbean cuisine...well that's a misnomer!
The cool mobiles in the lobby.
My ride!
Where other folks were going.
Can only fly her once...
Boarding old school style!
It finally came time to board (after more rants and raves from Jolly Joe who found me in the passenger lounge) and we made our way back out of the waiting lounge. To get to gates 1-10 (we were Gate 9) you actually walk right past the entrance to customs and immigration, where we could easily intermingle with arriving passengers from other flights. We then handed over our boarding passes. Some passengers were selected for extra screening, while the rest of us were just let loose onto the parking ramp! I would imagine that if somebody wanted to, it wouldn't be all that difficult to get onto another plane as boarding passes were not checked again. I settled into my seat, 27F and nodded off. The middle seat in this row was the only one on the plane not occupied that I could tell. While preparing for takeoff I noticed a very interesting procedure (this being my first American Airlines mainline flight). After the Captain announced "Flight attendants please prepare doors for departure," the flights attendants came over the PA with "Doors L2 and R2 prepped" and so forth for all the doors in the cabin. I've never seen that before.

While we were waiting for the plane to take off it apparently began to rain very hard, as when we pushed back I pulled up the window shade to find the tarmac soaked. Like most island airports, BGI only has one runway, so we taxied down the runway and made a turn at the piano keys and lined up. The captain spooled up the Rollers (Rolls Royce engines for the lay people) and we made our way quickly down the runway. Typical 757 takeoff: QUICK and spirited. I love the 757 but over half of my flights in 2010 were on one...and frankly, I'd just like a little variety!! After take off, water was the only thing we were going to see out the window so I put the shade down and tried to sleep for a few minutes. I must have fallen asleep because I completely missed the beverage and alleged food/snack service. I woke up and did a little bit of studying/watching Dexter as we came into Miami. Not being familiar at all with Miami landmarks I couldn't even begin to tell what we flew over.

Because I'm just that cool...I study on the plane.

After landing I wasn't in a rush to get off the plane. I was meeting somebody at the airport whose plane hadn't even landed yet, so I figured I'd just mosey through the airport and wait. I passed on taking the people mover to Immigration because I usually prefer walking anyway. But know it's coming...guess who did?? If you guessed Pablo/Joe, then you're correct. He took the tram and I actually met him coming down the escalator from the stop -- and sure enough, it was unbelievable that the train didn't take you directly to immigration. Whatever, I decided that moseying wasn't such a good idea. Attitude Adjustment anybody??? kthnxbai I will say this, however, Terminal D is LONG. I felt like I was going to end up in Fort Lauderdale before I got out of the terminal! I made it through immigration and had nothing to declare in customs after grabbing my bag so I consulted my travelmate, and she indeed had landed and was waiting for her bag. Wanting to avoid trying to meet up in an airport I had no knowledge of, I simply walked over to H and met her at the baggage claim. By now it was about 8pm, so we grabbed our rental car and headed out! We got a very nice Ford Edge that had more bells and whistles and touchscreens than I'd ever seen before. It literally took us about five minutes to figure out how to turn the radio off!!

Ok, that's all for this part, I'll post the second later!