On July 3rd, after 36 or so hours spent buying expensive airport food, constantly stretching our legs, and watching free in-flight movies, Cathay Pacific flight 723 from Hong Kong International Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport bounced down the runway and taxied to a gate. On the plane, there were countless people, all headed to Malaysia for different reasons. Some were returning home, others vacationing, but for the 6 of us YES Abroad’ers stepping off the plane meant stepping forwards into the next year of our life.
On July 1st, we were wrapping up our gateway orientation. The whole day feels like a blur looking back. We ate breakfast, and I remember nervously picking at my food, too excited and jittery with anticipation to eat. Emotions were all over the place. Some were calm, others indifferent; there was the sad but excited feeling of a farewell in the air. The Thailand group left first. I hugged each of the 5 of them, amazed yet again at how close you can feel to a person after only 5 days with them. I saved saying goodbye for Carly last, wished her good luck and headed back to the conference room where the rest of the group was basically chilling out. We drew, played cards, slept and made idle chit-chat. Our readiness to leave was glaringly obvious.
After an hour or so of trying to kill time, the ’11-’12 YES Abroad groups from Indonesia and Malaysia returned! The 6 of us latched onto the 6 of them. Although it felt like we had done nothing but ask questions of Lauren and Gabby, we managed to have tons of questions for them. It was so strange to hear them talk; they all had acquired slight Malaysian accents over the year I guess. Wonder if that will happen to us lah. We got to see what they brought back from the country, everything from saris to durian-filled chocolates. DURIAN=bleech! Allen Evans tried one… and accused us of trying to kill him. Durian is a spiky, stinky fruit very common in Malaysia. It’s illegal to bring on airplanes or into hotels because of the stench. It was great to meet all of them and get their fresh off of exchange feelings. They offered lots of advice to us and helped to pass the time.
Finally, our shuttle bus arrived at the hotel. We took pictures and had 3 generations of YES Abroad Malaysia present! First time in YES Abroad history chyeah. I remember nothing at all about the shuttle ride. I’ll break the rest of this post up by airport/ flight.
Washington Dulles Airport, Flight 75 WDIA to LAX
AFS requirements had us at the airport about 3 hours before our flight would board. After checking in and handing over our boarding passes and passports to Leslie, our flight chaperone, we checked our bags. By some small miracle, we were able to check 2 bags for free and our bags would be taken care of all the way to KL! Guess the TSA was on our side for once. After going through security (Jimmy got stopped because he was wearing two pairs of pants in preparation for a cold plane…), we found our gate and still had a good two and a half hours left. We left our bags with Leslie and explored the airport. Starbucks was consumed, books were purchased and Rachael Jimmy and I ended up walking the entire length of the airport to kill time. Eventually, we headed to our gate and were greeted by the fabulous Lauren! Lauren was our group leader and her flight was leaving around the same time as ours… But she didn’t have to get there 3 hours early. Goodbyes were said once again and with one last group hug, we boarded the plane.
This flight felt incredibly long. I read two books and talked to Teresa and Kaila. We flew over the Grand Canyon, which was pretty cool to see. The high point of this flight was the flight attendant. He saw our AFS shirts and asked us a bunch of questions. He seemed so impressed that 6 teenagers were going somewhere exotic like Malaysia. I gave him the website address for the YES Program and he promised to check it out. Not even 2 hours into our journey, we were already sharing the YES love.
Los Angeles International Airport, Flight 883 LAX to HKIA
Hopped off the plane at LAX, with my dream and a cardigan… Had my own little Myley Cyrus moment in my navy cardigan when I got off the plane J
Finally off the plane, we walked the short distance from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. We checked in, again, and went through security, again. I have to say, this was the weirdest airport I have ever been in. It was around 1 AM, NY time when we were there, so we were all pretty hungry. Strangely, there was only one restaurant in the entire airport.. Of course, we passed a food court before going through security, but wanted to go through security before doing anything else. The restaurant we ate at was Samuel Adam’s. Our delightful meal choices included day old wilted salads, greasy pizzas, or hot dogs. Teresa and I opted for the pizza, Rachael chose the salad and Jimmy bravely ate two hot dogs. Rachael and I again walked around the entire airport, and ended up doing laps. Tucked away in an obsolete corner, we found a store! I stocked up on York’s and Nyquil. The beef jerky there cost $10(!) which was absolutely ridiculous. Exhausted, we sat on the floor by our gate. Everyone was kind of snippy, a result of tiredness and hunger. Props to Leslie for putting up with our bickering and snapping at this point.
Thankfully, the flight to Hong Kong was incredible. We flew Cathay Pacific, I highly recommend it to anyone flying into Asia. The staff was polite and friendly. After takeoff, the flight commenced with dinner! It was really good actually, some sort of pasta, with ice cream and fruit. Following the satisfying meal, I snuggled under the blanket I took from the LA flight and the one Cathay provided, put on Ed Sheeran’s album on the in-flight entertainment system on the seat in front of us and fell asleep. I woke up many hours later. I watched the movie Mean Girls for the first time, a great way to leave the US, I must say. I ended up falling back asleep, watching 3 episodes of The New Girl, reading half of another book and wrote in my journal before breakfast was served. Breakfast consisted of fruit, coffee and kanji, which is kind of like rice porridge. After breakfast I got up to stretch my legs and walked around the plane. The 12 hour trip flew by (hehe punny..) and as we neared Hong Kong, it appeared we were flying into the sunrise.
Hong Kong International Airport, Flight 723 HKIA to KLIA
HKIA was a really nice airport. It was abandoned so early in the morning so we sat around and used the free wifi for about an hour. At that time, shops started opening up and we went on a quest to get Chinese food! Teresa and I ordered shrimp wontons, Kaila and Rachael got some sort of pork dumpling, Ari got something soup like and James had a bit of all of ours. The food was fantastic! It put the Chinese restaurants back home to shame (sorry Peking Garden!) Chinese food in China was such a cool experience.
Eventually we boarded our plane. It was huge, a double decker one. The flight was also operated by Cathay. They served us another meal, but I don’t even remember what it was as I was still full from the Chinese food. I watched more The New Girl, listened to more Ed Sheeran and read more of my book. Time passed quicklyand before we know it, we were looking at the window at our new home.
First stop in KLIA? Restroom. My stall had a squattie potty! (see picture) After that intro to Malaysia, we passed through customs with no difficulties and claimed our luggage. The AFS volunteer, Ben, was easily found in his AFS bright yellow shirt and we were quickly on our way to the hotel, where our year adventure would officially begin.