Sunday, July 17, 2016

Adventures in Overseas Traveling

Some trips Have more surprised than others. While the surprises make them worthy of a good story, I prefer the less adventurous trips. Alas, on my last trip uneventfulness was not on the itinerary. For you my dear reader this means an interesting tale to tell..,
On Thursday I was supposed to fly out of Anchorage at 3:25 pm. My paperwork from Condor said I had to check in at the airport 3 hours early (I tried checking in online, but online check-in was not available for flights to or from the U.S.). I really wanted to going swimming and couldn't imagine that I really needed to be at the Anchorage airport THAT early so I arranged for my uncle to pick me up at 1. After waiting in line I checked and then was told two "interesting" pieces of information. 1) The plane was delayed until 5 pm and 2) we were departing out of the north terminal. Now in Anchorage there are two terminals -the north and the south. Generally speaking the north terminal is only used for arriving international flights so there's not much there. As far as the wait, I just went back to Grandma's house. I was however concerned about missing my connection. I asked at the desk and was told when I landed in Frankfurt if I had missed my flight see a Condor agent.
We ended up getting in 2.5 hours late and this is where the adventure began. We exited the plane directly onto the Tarmac and then took a bus to the terminal. We were let off in a seemingly random location with nothing more than a door. There were no Condor agents or even anyone else to ask. I found a departures board and found another flight going to Zurich so I headed in that direction. I reached a place where they were checking boarding passes. Since I didn't have a valid boarding pass, I asked one of the agents what to do. She told me to go to the Lufthansa desk by gate A13. However, I had to go through security first. My backpack got pulled aside to be checked. The man asked me to open my bag (he was speaking English to me) and told me he was checking for explosives. I didn't think anything of that because that's a pretty standard procedure, but after a moment things changed. As I was watching I saw the words "Substanz dektiert" (I may have spelled that wrong) pop up on the machine display. Now I was worried. At first the man didn't say anything to me and I wondered what was going on. He did some things and took off his gloves and then he called someone. After calling someone he told me something had been detected and I replied in German, "yes, I read that." Next thing I knew I was being greeted by a man in a military uniform with a big gun strapped across his chest. In German he told me he was a security personnel and then asked if I spoke German. I replied that I did and he went on to tell me that an explosive material had been detected, but the machine was very sensitive. I don't remember the full order of the conversation because 1) it was in German and I'm writing in English (I find my memories-word wise- are stored by language and really difficult to access in a language other than the one they were made in) and 2) my stress levels at this time were, understandably, quite high. When he asked for my ID I took at my passport and looking back I chuckle at his reaction (I didn't at the time after all I didn't know what was going to happen to me). When he saw my American passport he was visibly shocked, but continued to speak to me in German. They went through my bag, made me turn on my iPad and swipe off of the lock screen, opened my Kindle case, but didn't actually turn that one on (I wonder with the display always on the screen if they thought it was on or if because there's no lock function on that that it was turned on and I just missed it). They also went through everything else in my bag including my extra underwear (I ALWAYS put extra in my carry on, you never know when your bag isn't going to make it). Then came another question that concerned me. They asked for my boarding pass (we'd already established some time before I showed him my passport that I had flown from Alaska and was going to Switzerland-actually that might have contributed to his surprise. He might have chalked my accent up to being Swiss). I took out my boarding pass, but explained that I was on my way to gate A13 to get another one because I had missed my connecting flight. Man let me tell you I was relieved as the man with the gun simply showed me empathy telling me that sucks. The other one said he'd still have to scan it. The security guy left, the original guy scanned my boarding pass and on I continued.
As I kept following the signs I ended up in the middle of a group of Chinese people and in an immigration line. Right as I got to the line, the poor guard at the front was struggling because many of the Chinese people were trying to go to the line for European citizens - and they didn't understand English (or German - he tried once in German and then repeatedly in English). I decided to help him out. I told several of the people (in Chinese) that that line was only for Europeans. They passed the word on and the rest of the Chinese people got in the correct line.
After this I found the customer service center got a number and sat down to wait. As I was waiting I decided I was going to speak to the agent in English. However, events conspired against me. When my number was called this woman went up to my assigned counter. She was speaking German and so I used German to tell her, "Excuse  me, I have number 3515." She saw she had 16, apologized and stepped away. If course after this the agent spoke to me in German. At first it looked like everything was going to be simple. She told me I had already been booked on the next flight at 4:25. I asked for the arrival time and told her great, I could let my sister know. I start messaging my sister while she's working. She tells me to wait just a moment and she'll print out my boarding pass for me.  Then, All of the sudden though I can see she has a problem. She tells me she has to make a quick phone call. As she's speaking on the phone I hear her tell the person on the other end several times that I am standing  right in front of her at gate A13. When she gets off the phone she writes a flight number and gate number on my ticket and tells me to hurry to gate A30 they are waiting for me. I look at my watch and see that it's almost 4. A30 is a long way and I hurry there. I get there just before boarding begins and walk up to the gate agent. I tell her that I am Kristin Cannon. She gives me an already printed boarding pass and tells me she's made a call about my luggage, but isn't sure it'll make it to Zurich. When I get there I should file a missing baggage claim and they'll deliver it to whatever address I would like. I think what happened is it took me so long to get through security and immigration that they declared me as not on the flight and removed my luggage. The good news is when I got to Zurich my suitcase was there and there were no more surprises (except The Swisscom store at the airport was sold out of SIM cards). I arrived at my sister's place just in time for dinner.

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