Mark\’s Rants, Raves And Other Things ;)

Rants and raves about things that interest me

US Day 1

Posted by Mark Sztainbok on August 13, 2006

Well this is it. I’m finally sitting here in a hotel in Los Angeles having an overnight stopover on my way to Seattle and decided it was about time to finally make a new blog entry.

The last few days have been very crazy. We’ve had the removalists come and pack and load our house into a 40 foot container, caught up with family and friends, packed and repacked our luggage (due to the updated security requirements and thinking that we couldn’t take hand luggage), done last minute shopping and generally not having much sleep.

Yesterday morning at the airport involved a lot of running around. We first had to go to the Customs office to get our items sighted for the Tourist Refund Scheme as we still were’t sure that we could take our carry on baggage onto the plane. It was back to the hotel then to get our luggage so that we could check-in and go organise the pets. When we got to the terminal, we found that the check-in queues were already busy and that we would haven’t time to check-in before organising the pets. Craig decided to join the queue while I drove over to the Qantas freight terminal to meet the pets who were being delivered from the Kepala Pet Resort where they had been staying for the previous 2 nights. After finalising the paperwork for the pets, I finally got the go ahead to take the animals into the actual freight terminal. However, once I got there I was advised that as I didn’t have steel capped boots, I would have to go back to the customer service counter and get authorization to enter without them. In the meantime, Craig was almost at the front of the queue and kept ringing me so I had to really hurry. Back at the customer service counter, I was advised to just bring the animals in and one of their staff would load them.

After unloading the pets, it was back to the terminal where I dropped off our rented Tarago and met Craig in the check-in queue. We had no problems with check-in and luckily our carry on luggage wasn’t weighed as both our bags were overweight. During this time, both my (Mum, Peter, Danielle, Taylor, Adam, Nicole, Alida, Steve, Jasmine and Olga) and Craig’s (Grace, Lindsay, Kate, Glen and Grace Snr aka Nan) families had arrived at the airport to say goodbye.

After many photos with all of my family and Craig’s family and some teary goodbyes, we finally entered the main International Depatures area. Customs went smoothly and security has a little heightened due to the recent terrorist plot that was uncovered so we had to undergo the additonal checks of having our shoes x-rayed (to check for shoe bombs) and having our hand luggage manually inspected to make sure that we didn’t have any liquids in it. This didn’t take very long and we were soon boarded onto the plane.

The flight overall was quite good. I never flown Qantas over to the US before (as the previous times I had been there I had flown United) and I was quite impressed with the service. The food was good and tasty and I definitely had no complaints about the amount you receive. The personal onboard entertainment wasn’t bad either. I watched a few of the TV shows they were showing (although I never want to see the episode of Thank God You Are Here with the Wibbly Wobbly’s again :P), watched Failure to Launch (which was better than expected) and played a few of the average games that are on the system. Admittedly though my favourite thing on the entertainment system was watching the flight map which shows where the plane currently is the world and where it is relative to the origin and destination. The 14 hours went surprisingly fast. Between failing asleep regularly (due to being physically exhausted), eating, and using the entertainment system, I didn’t have a chance to play on my PSP or watch any of the 10 or so films that I had ripped and converted from DVD. Ah well. Hopefully I’ll watch one of them on the flight to Seattle tomorrow.

The flight arrived around 8am this morning (about 1/2 hour later than scheduled due to delays in Melbourne) and after about 1/2 hour of having to wait for the shuttle from LAX to Hilton Los Angeles Airport. Check-in went smoothly and we were given one of their larger rooms due to have the 4 pets staying with us in the room overnight. After check-in, we hopped in a taxi and went to Qantas Freight to arrange to pick up the pets. What a process that was! First we had to sit and wait for the US Quarantine Service to fax over approval for the animals. We were then given a wad of paper that we had to take to US Customs. The only problem is that US Customs isn’t actually located near the freight terminal so off we went in another taxi. Mind you if there is one positive thing I can say about LA taxis is that arrive very quickly after being booked.

At Customs, we waited for our number to be called (bureaucracy isn’t much better over here than home), handed over the wad of paper, and waited for a few more minutes before finally getting the paperwork back with the red stamp that the pets were free to be released from Qantas. Another taxi later (this time a mini-van so that we could take the pets back to the hotel) and we were back at Qantas. The paperwork was handed over and we went into the warehouse to retrieve the pets. Boy were they happy to see us! A short trip back to the hotel where the pets and I were dropped off (as Oliver wasn’t overly happy so we thought we would get them back to the room ASAP) while Craig continued on to a supermarket to buy some pet necessities such as food, a litter tray for the cats, etc. Based on how long all this took, I am definitely happy that we organised with Microsoft to have the layover here in LA as there is no way that we could have gone through customs, get our luggage, pick up and get the animals cleared and be on a connecting flight at around 2pm as was originally arranged.

This was followed by lunch at an American hamburger restaurant called Carls Jr. which had surprisingly good burgers. The lettuce was crisp, the onions weren’t dehydrated but were fresh red onion and the meat was good quality Angus beef. The range of drinks you can get with your meal was very impressive too. Amongst the normal staples of Coke (which doesn’t taste as good here in the US due to the use of corn syrup rather than sugar) and Fanta, you could get drinks like (American) lemonade, root beer, and ice tea. One thing I did notice is the size difference between fast food in the US and in Australia. We ordered small chips and a drink which equated to about the size of a medium fries and large drink back in Australia. We saw some people wandering around with the large drink cups and they look like they hold about a litre or so of drink!

We then returned back to the hotel where I had a bit of a doze to try and catch up on some of the sleep I’ve missed over the last few weeks.

Tomorrow, we’re finally off to Seattle on a 1:48pm (weird time, eh?) flight on Alaska Air. I’ll let you know tomorrow what my first impressions of Seattle are.

Time to head off and organise a bite to eat for dinner (which most likely will be room service)..

I’ll try and post regularly but I guess we’ll have to see how well I go…

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One Response to “US Day 1”

  1. Chris said

    Hi Mark,

    How are you doing? This blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but I came across it while searching for relocation tips from those who had made the big move to the US, particularly from Australia. Yours was one of the first sites to come up and the experiences you’ve posted have been a great resource. Thanks for sharing them on your blog!

    I’m currently in Australia, but having accepted an SDE position at Microsoft, I’ll be relocating to Redmond in February. As this is a pretty big move for me, I’m hoping that I’ve made the right decision and could manage my move as smoothly as possible. There’s just so much that I have to deal with in the coming months.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to keep in touch so I can hopefully gather further advice from you.

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