At four hundred hours, both of our alarms go off and we jump into action, silencing the buzzing sounds. We then take a few minutes to adjust to the fact that it’s morning, the sun hasn’t risen yet, and we have to take our showers and prepare for our day. The consensus? It’s way too early.
After brushing our teeth, showers, the usual last minute packing for the odds and ends, and hugging John’s mother, Patty, goodbye, we tout our backpacks, grab our hats, and settle into the car for the ride to the airport that John’s father, Jeff, was kind enough to offer. We head to the Richmond International Airport to the soundtrack of metal and Ozzy Osbourne. John’s working on something for a VPN from home and so his father and I chat on the way in. For the most part, we’re talking about other drivers and how anyone that’s not the person driving the vehicle you’re in is a terrible driver. Jeff’s also telling me a bit about music, both rock and metal. Considering neither are really in my usual easy pop internet radio stations, I don’t have much to offer but the occasional nod and promise to look up an artist or song.
Finally, we arrive at the airport and gather up our things – which is easy when all you’re taking is a backpack and hat – and say our farewells to Jeff.
Richmond International Airport isn’t overly large, so getting checked in is easy – John simply sticks his credit card into a kiosk and it gives us our tickets. In minutes, we’re through security and waiting at the gate. By 0630 EST, we’re in the air and headed for Boston. The flight is only an hour long so we watch a couple of episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. These particular episodes are pretty action-packed (the ones where Ed and Al confront Scar about the Rockbell’s for those not in the know – and no, you can’t really count that as a spoiler after six years) so the flight goes by quickly. The stewardess comes by periodically and we both get water. When she offers us snacks, he takes the tiny cookies while I munch on Cheez-its.
At last, we land. The view from the plane as we’re coming down is pretty – amazing, even. We’re in Boston until 0500 EST, so we’re pretty excited. John’s planned the layover so we can explore for a bit since he’s got experience here. We take the Silver Line bus into the Metro and change over to the Red Line towards Alewife and South Station. We were both impressed, by the way, with the way the diesel engine swapped onto the trolley grid and vice versa on the way home. (Here’s a nifty tidbit – the Silver Line is free, which means getting from the airport and transferring onto the Red Line is free, too! We got out into Boston for free, though we did have to pay for our tickets coming back. Admittedly, $2.75 per person is still way better than what we’d be paying in DC.)
We get off at Park Place and explore for a bit. We’ve already decided that the first order of business will be food since we woke up at the unholy hour of four in the morning. We were thinking about looking for the usually advertised fare in Boston – clam chowder – but the first thing we see coming up to the street level through the elevator is a Burger King.
“Besides, nothing’s actually serving food right now,” John tells me, reminding me once more that it’s way too early in the day to be awake. A good day for me starts with me waking up no sooner than ten in the morning. He cushions the blow a bit by adding, “And I really just feel like a whopper.” Well… Okay, if we’re not going because it’s the only thing open, I can accept that.
Of course, that’s when we ran into our first snag. We crossed the street to get into the Burger King, but… they’re only serving breakfast food. I cringe a little and go with the egg-normous burrito (which really is too big) and he gets a croissant with bacon, egg, and cheese. While we’re waiting for our food, I get a good look at the rules there – and wow is it strict.
The bathroom is only accessible to customers who have already purchased food – a specification that surprises me. Another note is that those who have purchased food are only to take fifteen minutes to consume their food before they’re advised to move on. Holy cow – so much for enjoying my food.
Still, it starts raining while we’re there, so we ignore the latter notice, deciding that we’ll venture out when it lightens up a bit. After a few minutes, we find the rain is sprinkling more so than drumming, so we head out, going around the corner to the right to find the Starbucks. I greatly need caffeine despite my distaste for the bitter drink called coffee. Yuck! He wants to get some work done and I need to wake up so we head over and get our respective drinks – a mocha latte for him and a caramel macchiato for me, both at child’s temperature. David, the barista, told me that the drink would be sweet. Upon tasting the beverage, I immediately feel betrayed. My taste buds are assaulted by the too-strong taste of coffee, coffee, coffee and I’m squinting at my drink as John rolls his eyes at me and leads me to a table behind the counter since all the window seats are taken. “Just because he said it’s a sweet coffee doesn’t change the fact that it’s still coffee,” he chides me. Eugh.
It’s at this point that we take our break from pretending to be normal human beings. I log onto Final Fantasy XIV and train the FC birds before going to harvest the Krakka Root I’ve got growing at my house. My connection is tenuous at best, so I stick to crafting some basic mats – hard leather and boar leather (I know they’re very different levels, but that’s what I had on hand. So sue me. :P). John tries for a nap but gets told no rather bluntly by one of the workers, which is fair.
Still, I’ve done pretty much all I feel up to in FFXIV for the time being and he’s sorted through what he was working on. It’s time to put the laptops away and go on a little miniature adventure.
We’ve asked around a bit for good clam chowder places, so we have an idea of where to go. It doesn’t take very long for us to work out where we should be headed between Google Maps and the compass he wears whenever he travels. It’s a bit of a trek, but we make it there in one piece – I even steal a dog treat (a milkbone) from the Info booth so I can play nice with the dogs (I’m a dog person, can you tell?). The waitress is a bit confused by the random dog treat, but eh. We really only saw people with multiple dogs or with children. I’m not particularly fond of explaining to children why they don’t get dog treats or making adorable doggies sad because I’ve only got the one treat, so I held off.
Lunch is a bowl of lobster bisque and clam chowder at Legal Sea Foods. It’s surprisingly good and we split the two bowls of soup between the two of us (because there’s no point in traveling with your significant other if you can’t have the best of BOTH worlds!). It’s a little pricier than I might have liked, but the soups are both tasty. The atmosphere is very, very nice and the bathrooms are impeccable. My only complaint is that the staff doesn’t introduce themselves by name or wear name tags so I can refer to them by name and/or recommend them to others. There is no denying, however, that they’re very well-mannered, polite, and checked in with us frequently even though we made it obvious from the beginning that we were only there for soups. Not once did anyone make unnecessary suggestions about what we might eat and nor did I feel that our treatment – wearing backpacks and dressed in comfortable travel clothes – was different from the treatment that they gave to a group of three gentlemen all dressed up in nice suits with ties who had clearly ordered entrees.
After lunch, we’re feeling renewed – it’s time to check out the Boston Commons! We trek through Chinatown on our way to the park, but it’s a nice walk after eating. Once we get there, John’s excited to take me out on a Swan Boat, Duck Boat Ride Thing. No, that’s not the actual name, but I’m sure you all get the picture. When we’re walking up, though, they’re swabbing down the deck and closing up. “We close for the rain,” one of the employees explains.
Well, darn. Disappointed, we walk around the lake to see the ducks from the shore if not the water. At one corner of the park, we spy a series of statues – duck statues! John immediately suggests they might be “Make Way for Ducklings”, a book that he’d wanted to show me before we departed from home.
I snagged a picture of him being adorable – at his protests, really, but it was totally worth it.
On our way out, I note that the flowers by the corner are pretty and remember that grandma loves pretty things. I don’t know if she’ll be able to see the picture, but hey – it’s worth trying, right?
We cross the street for lack of anything else to do and find ourselves excited when we see what’s unmistakably a carousel in the distance. That’s right – you read it properly. A carousel. I’ve got a picture of him on it as proof! He decided on a chicken, the silly boy, but I went for a goat! Don’t knock goats, guys – they’re stubborn little butts.
The carousel itself, though, is admittedly rickety and bumpy. It seriously needs some oil, but at least comes with a bonus sticker on the way out advertising the Frog Pond. It’s not the worst ride we’ve had, but probably not worth the $3.00 per person we paid to try it out.
Afterwards, we walk over to said Frog Pond – it’s basically a large wading pool with a fountain in the middle for children (or adults!) to run through and refresh themselves. I take a break – I’m pretty sure I’ve got a bit of boot shock going on because these are new leather shoes and we’ve walked about five miles today.
John goes around the pool twice – like I said before, it’s a nice size – and I get a sneaky picture of him on the way out but on his way back, he saw the camera and started posing. I still managed a goofy one, though, because I’m bad enough with a camera to make even a great pose look silly (and besides, he’s naturally derpy anyways).
He urged me to go around with him so I left our stuff to the dutiful eye of a lifeguard (with her permission, of course) and shucked my shoes and socks, rolling my pant legs up so that I could go around with him. It was startlingly cold – and no, it’s not the kind of cold you get used to after diving in since there’s not enough depth to properly drench yourself unless you’re appropriately tiny.
We relaxed for a bit to take in the sights and dry off. I asked a nearby mother for a few baby wipes to clean my feet while John made fun of me for being Asian, as though it’s just an Asian thing to want to be clean! Bah, he’s a derpity derp, as I’ve already mentioned.
We set off for the park exit which, to my great joy and happiness, is just next to entrance we’d come up! I say this because we walked rather a great deal more than either of us typically does in a given week, much less in a day.
In the station, waiting for the Red Line in the opposite direction, I was approached by a young Asian woman who hesitantly caught my attention and nervously asked, “Chinese?”
I’m sorry to shake my head and say, “No, Korean,” but John is already working on the problem – he’s in the process of looking for Google Translate on his phone. Unfortunately, he doesn’t yet have it, but as someone that often needs to translate words from Korean to English or English to Korean, I happen to have it handy. I set it to translate from English to Chinese (simplified) and typed in, ‘Where are you trying to go?’
It’s really quite convenient – I have absolutely no idea what the kanji in the app says, but it’s enough to get the meaning across and the woman shows me the texts she’d been exchanging with someone else telling her that she needs the Orange Line to a stop at the end of the line. Now, it becomes obvious to both me and John that she needs to transfer which is easy – it’s the very next stop.
We’re able to communicate this to her with body language and get her onto the train and off at the next stop so she can get to where she needs to be.
It’s amazing what a little bit of effort and a handy tool like Google Translate can do for not only you but the people you encounter. John and I are in great moods on our way back to the airport.
Of course, when we get back to the airport, we hit another snag – this one’s a bit more concerning to me because this isn’t something that I’ve really encountered before. Rarely have I had to worry about things like layovers and flights running over, but since it’s my first time doing a series of layovers without my parents, it’s immediately a bit scary to me.
Our flight to Duesseldorf has been delayed by two hours. We booked the following layover to Sweden at the same time, so the Air Berlin woman at the counter is immediately able to inform us of the new layover we have with Scandinavian Airlines, which allays some of my concerns. It’s the next part that really scares me.
In Sweden, we hope to meet with Mia and Ben, friends of John’s. We’ve actually got a flight from Stockholm to Gothenburg, but since we didn’t book it at the same time, there’s no way for us to make any quick changes to that flight or change it out for another.
I’m officially panicking, but John’s not as concerned. He calls up Scandinavian Airlines, who we were planning to flight to Gothenburg with to see if anything can be done, but there’re no easy fixes there and we’re redirected to Expedia. John calls them up and gets a nice woman who immediately introduces herself as Diana. It doesn’t take long for him to explain the situation and the two go over our options. After about ten minutes and a few internet searches, John relates the details to me and we decide that we’re just going to get to Stockholm and see if we can’t organize something with the Scandinavian Airline workers there, perhaps by taking advantage of the fact that we’re foreigners. Worst case scenario? We end up paying about $120 total for the both of us to book a last minute flight to Gothenburg. Apparently, there are frequent flights between Stockholm and Gothenburg so there’s no concern over price gouging or losing out too much on the money we’ve spent.
It’s a major relief and I’m 100% okay now that we’ve established a plan. There’s nothing that concerns me as much as having a sudden change and not knowing how to deal with it. If nothing else, I’m really glad that John knows how to deal with things like this. I might’ve panicked and cried if I were by myself, but now that I’ve seen how John handles it, I’ve got an idea of how to deal with this kind of chaos on my own if it happens in the future.
We’ve got a few unexpected hours so go through the usual motions of travelers everywhere – we locate our gate and go in search of both power outlets and food. Boston’s airport was absolutely amazing when it comes to the easy access to electricity. A great deal of the seating comes with outlets built into them! We settle for Sbarro pepperoni pizza and find a nicely sized table near the windows that has a power outlet just below it. It’s a major find and we grab it as soon as the previous couple leaves.
We’re pretty happy there for the next few hours, playing games and going through whatever online errands we need to attend to.
At 1920, we catch the announcements for boarding and pack up to board our flight and we’re off to Germany!