I had to wake up at 4 to be at the airport in time. We got there nice and early because of the new screening system – the line was long but I moved through quickly and was not groped. Victory!
The plane to LA was very full. Apparently Wisconsin is playing TCU in the Rose Bowl (which, apparently, is in California. Who knew??) so the plane was a sea of red. I slept the entire time, which was 4 hours but felt like 40.
I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan (well, fleece jacket). It is my personal opinion that any dreams you have when landing at LAX are immediately killed by the oppressive grayness of the place. I exited the gray building and walked through the gray drizzle into another gray building, where I got my next boarding passes and found my travel buddies!
The travel team is 7 people, and we converged on LAX from 4 different airports on 5 different flights. It was a miracle, but we all hooked up according to plan! Besides me, we have:
- Kim, a freshman ME poo girl
- Rick, a sophomore EE
- Michelle, our graduate student mentor
- Garret, Michelle’s husband and a EE grad student
- David, a pastor in Tulsa who is our contact with the new project site
- John, a pastor in Tulsa who is traveling with our group on his own sort of assessment trip
[Side story: I texted everyone “Hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan” upon landing. Michelle, who is old and was traveling with the other oldsters, told me that she was totally confused by this. Kim, who is young and hip, responded correctly with the next line of the song – as did three other friends. Even my dad replied with “Welcome to the land of fame excess, am I gonna fit in?” although I’m pretty sure he had to Google it.]
I got some food in the airport – breakfast, because LA insisted that it was still morning. It was definitely afternoon where I had come from, but it was the middle of the night where I was headed so I just ate what they gave me.
The trans-Pacific flight was really empty – I had the emergency exit row to myself, so I basically had enough room to grow crops. I am generally a huge critic of in-flight movies; you watch them because they’re there, not because they’re good. But they actually had really good selection on this flight! I think I watched 5 movies on the way over there – The Social Network, Wall Street Where Money Never Sleeps, Despicable Me, The Switch, and Step Up 3. Okay, the last two were airplane-quality movies but Despicable Me was amazing!
I slept the last two hours before we landed in Seoul. We had a really short connection, so we literally ran through the airport and on to our next flight. That one was much more crowded. It was also the longest leg that I’ve ever flown within Asia – over 5 hours!
We landed in Phnom Penh around 11 p.m. local time. It was really humid there, which was a shock after seeing snow on the ground in Seoul! I was really impressed with the airport – it was bright and pretty and easy to navigate with good [English] signage.
Cambodia issues visas on invitation, so we filled out forms, handed over our passports, and then waited in line to pay and pick up our passports with visas. There were about 8 workers sitting behind the visa desk, so it went pretty quickly. John said that there would only be one guy working in the US, and I responded that in China there would be 8 guys but only one would be working. What a pleasant welcome to Cambodia!
Mades, our Cambodian contact, guide, and translator, met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel. My first impressions so far:
- It’s very clean – there is trash on the road but it’s all in very neat piles so I think it’s waiting to be picked up.
- The street food looks so tempting. Why can’t I eat it?!?
- Approximately 1/3 of the signs are in Chinese, but most of those are in English as well.
- Cambodians are quite dark skinned. I love that they appear to be embracing that, as opposed to the irrational efforts that Chinese and Americans sometimes make to change the natural and logical color of their skin.