Then the fun begins, here in LA, California. After the troubles of being detented and clearing all custom requirements, Andrie, Ezra, Teda and I made our way out of the arrival gate. At first, I expected that there was somebody there to greet us, but no, there was nobody! (not a Malaysian at least) Noticing that we were late, we quickly searched for the rest of the team and finally found them in front of a big billboard marked 'Malaysian' at LAX airport. Then, we met En. Wan (a JPA rep), Puan Hamidah and Kak Ani (they r MSD rep). After that, we were transported to Hacienda hotel, which is about 10 minutes away from the airport.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we quickly settled in for 20 bucks per nite for each person. (Such a big amount for a student if converted into Malaysian Ringgit!). We rented three rooms, (one room for guys and the other two for girls, four person each room). After settling in, we had our meal. Gosh, the meal was expensive and very spicy! (Can u imagine, it's 10 bucks just for that meal u know! I have the pics of the meal and i'll let u guys see 'em in my friendster pics). But one thing, the meal was huge. It took me two eating sessions to finish the meal and yea, that was the first time for me eating real peach fruit, huhu.
After having meals, the contingent, save shamini and few others made our way to the LA downtown. Huhu, we intended to have a look around Manhattan mall at first, but it was already closed by the time. (It closed at 6:00pm, how early was that!) So, we just strolled into Ralphs supermarket and get some things to munch. I bought some medications, got sore throat by the time and Ziha was out with a chocolate juice (?) and Mar with huge M&M chocolate. I remember one thing when Qilah and I wanted to pay for our goods; we did know how to count the shillings! (Pennies, quarters and stuff...) And we did not know that we have to collect the change for shillings ourselves. So, we buat muke sposen in front of the counter and finally the cashier, noticing that we were dumbed, came in our way to assist us. What an experience! (Others beware, you may well get into the same situation!)
At the evening and night, we spent our time just walking around the downton LA. It's sejuk giler... Resty and I were already shivering amidst the chilly winds of California, but we wondered why the locals over there were still okay in their baby-T dress? Huhu... Regardless, we walked and walked around until for about a mile radius from our hotel (no kidding!). While walking, we encountered many things, velvety gardens, well groomed carpety lawns, and even fixed vacuum cleaner on the asphalt! What more is that the people... The American was undeniably friendly, they greeted us with a hi or a smile while we we crossing the streets. They were also kind to pedestrians; the cars actually stopped when we tried to cross the avenues to give way to us!
Then we went to sleep at about 10pm LA time and so the day goes...
8/10/06 - LA time
10:30am - We were ready for our flight to Dallas, Texas. This day was indeed challenging. In the morning, we heard about a foiled plan of some terrorists trying to blow up American airplanes in CNN. Thanks to them, we were prevented from bringing any kind of fluids into our carry-on luggages. What we did was we hoarded our fluid-based toiletries and things for a cargo luggage into Ezra's bag. (Thank God Ezra's bag was big enough to fit them all, huhu!) In the airport, we were worried that we would be missing the flight since we were already late. At the time, it was already 11:30am and the scheduled flight was 11:55am and we are still haven't done with our boarding pass and security checks. (The queue was long due to strict security check). Furthermore, Resty, Teda, Shamini and Shin Hwei got problems with their ticket as the their seats for the flight were not conformed yet until at the time of departure. Later, the issues were resolved save Teda; Teda's seat was absolutely unconformed for her flight from Dallas to Champaign. I'll tell more about it later...
Then we moved in for a security check. We have to open our shoes, our jacket and remove our things and laptops for inspection. Poor Shamini and Shin Hwei, they have to go through a special screening security check ( a much stricter procedure) for reasons unknown. Shin Hwei said she had a full body check with her items sterilized, huhu!
After all things were done, we made our way into the departure hall at about 12:00pm. Thank God, the flight was delayed to 12:22pm and we were able to board the airplane by then. Before we boarded the plane, we bid farewell to Kak Ani who has been assisting us throughout our journey in LA and there we go for a 4 hours ride in an American Airline Boeing.
In the airplane, Los Angeles - Dallas.
Travel time: 4 hours 20 minutes
At first, I expected something better from American airlines but duh, MAS was better! They just simply serve drinks (soft drinks, juice, milks, coffee, and plain waters) instead of full meals like MAS. I was really hungry by then and thanks to Victor who gave me some biscuits and chocolates to fill my stomach along the way. In the flight, Victor and I had some conversation regarding religion and beliefs. Other than that, I was sleeping and gazing throughout the window: wondering the wonderful Lake Tanesse and rocky passes and creeks as we flew over the continent of America.
At about 6:00pm, we arrived at Dallas airport, Texas.
In Dallas airport...
It was blazing hot in Dallas! I guess the temperature at the time was 48 - 50 centigrades (no wonder people died out of heat strokes every year in The US). I could feel the heat once I exited the plane and to the arrival hall. Thank God, the arrival hall was air-conditioned so I did not feel the blazing heat that long. After the flight, we have to take the train (as in KLIA) from the arrival terminal to the other terminal for the next flight. During the 1 hour 30 minutes lapse, we had our 'dinner' and yup, I had a garden salad as a meal for my dinner, huhu! (Aiseyh, sekarang baru aku tahu betapa nikmatnya berada di Malaysia, boleh makan ayam dan daging, huhuhuhuhu.....)
Regarding Teda's ticket issue...
It was not until the final minutes of the flight when Teda's ticket issues were resolved. Thank God again, for His mercy, Teda was able to get her way in with the airline ticket usher's assistance. They way she got in was quite funny though... There was one passenger who haven't arrive for the flight after his name was being called for a few times. Then after the last call, the ticket usher told Teda, "go quickly into the plane before the man arrives!" Huhuhuhuhu, such a blessings for us innocent Malaysian youngsters! If not, somebody have to stay with Teda up until the next day for a flight to Champaign.
In the airplane, Dallas - Champaign
Travel Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
This time, we boarded a small Brazillian EBM airplane (The plane was slightly larger than Fokker with aft torque engines as that of Boeing engines). Not much to say, except I met a new freshman graduate guy from Vietnam, his name is Varig, also on his way to UIUC like me to study! Yay, finally i've made a new friend!
In Champaign airport...
Time: About 9:30pm
As soon as the plane touched down, I was really thankful to God for the safe and sound journey. Finally, here I am, in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the airport, we were greeted by the seniors and MSD representatives and we had a free dinner sponsored by them. Huhu, then we checked in into ISR temporary residence hall for five days and here i am in the room up until now!
As far as to say, indeed the journey from KLIA to Illinois was indeed memorable and enlightening. All the security checks, arrest at the airports, polite and friendly Americans has indeed reflected the impressions of where I'm going to grow up as a person for the next four years. I pray may this journey will be beneficial to me to be a better Muslim, a better Malaysian, a better son, a better student and a better human being, in this transient course of life seeking the way to truth. And I hope to my ATU friends who are going go fly out there, all the best and may you learn something from this essay I have written. And for the rest, thanks for reading this essay and may you gain something as well!
Thank you :D