Sunday, December 31, 2006

Snow is Beautiful

I commented in a previous post that it was nice to experience my first snowfall. I think I'll take it back. I'm going to have to help shovel today... for the first time. My first time and it's around a foot of snow. So what happens when you get a foot of snow?

People are stuck at home (snowed in)
Buses are delayed
Cars get stuck on the road
My body aches

It doesn't help that I put together a computer table the night before.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

PC Table

So it's time to put together our new PC table. I thought this was going to be easy since I thought all the screws and their corresponding holes would already be in place, and I would just have to put the thing together. At first it seemed that way. Until we ran into some trouble.

I would have to make my own holes for the other parts. I initially thought I had to drill or something. thankfully Tito BG told me that doing that might damage the table. So I had to use my own meager strength to make the holes with just the screw and screwdriver.

Then there were some parts that had to be screwed on but had obstructions for the screwdriver. I had to screw stuff on diagonally. There's probably a tool for this I don't know about.

Then me and my wife decided to do some parts at the same time, then just put it all together. Bad move. There's a particular sequence that needs to be done in order. So there, we had to disassemble the other half to continue.

Despite all that, we got the job done. Again a lot of help and encouragement from my wife.

So there's another example of how I suck at manual labor. I have to get myself up to speed so my future kids won't be so embarrassed about their wimpy dad (or become wimpy themselves).

Winnipeg Tour

Since we had our computer, we now needed a computer table. Thankfully, My-Dinh, Means friend at work, graciously agreed to drive us around. So she picked us around lunch time and off we went.

My hadn't eaten so we looked for a place to eat. She decided to bring us to Cora's. Now I really like eggs. When I was in the Philippines, I really loved eating at this restaurant called Heaven 'n Eggs whose specialty was breakfast and meals with eggs like Omelettes, tapsilog, etc. So that was pretty much what Cora's was all about so I felt at home. And when I'm at home at a restaurant it means I could spend a really long time going over a menu, trying to decide what to eat. I'm not gonna pretend to be a food critic and try to describe to you what I ate, what was good, bad or whatever. Let's just say I'd like to come back and try everything else on the menu. We wanted to pay for My's food since she was already going out of her way to drive us around but she threatened to leave us by the side of the road. Oh well, we'll try to treat her out again when I get a job and earn some money.

So off we go to Future Shop. Future Shop is a large store chain that sells all things techie. Heaven for me if only I had the cash. We picked out a router, wireless card and a USB connector for our printer.

After this, we headed to Staples Business Depot to check out PC tables. My was also looking for a small bookshelf. We didn't get one yet though. A new experience for me is how stores here try their best to beat prices in order to make a sale. You just need to bring a brochure or point out a website where a particular item is cheaper, then the store tries their best to beat it. Anyway, that's how My got her bookshelf here.

We then headed to Wal-Mart, and the PC tables seemed better here. We still didn't get one though My spotted some Friends DVDs on sale so she decided to pick them up (with a bit of prodding from us). This would soon result in us going to each and every Wal Mart we could think of to possibly complete all 10 seasons. I think we were able to find around 4.

We went on a bit of a detour to pick up My's sister and her friend. They seemed quite nice. I also got a nice intro on the background of The Forks. It was also at this point that I notice snow starting to fall. This is the first time for me to witness snowfall so I was pretty amused.

Now here's something about North American culture I'm having a real hard time getting used to. Returns. I mean, in the Philippines, the only time you return something is when it's defective (not even that is guaranteed). Here, you can return something just because you feel like it. So there, My returned the bookshelf she bought earlier to another Staples branch. It's something I'm gonna have to get used to especially since Mean has pretty much embraced this practice.

So on one of our Wal-Mart stops, we decide on getting a table. There were some big ones that were cheap but floor area is limited in our room. We pick a tall one in stead. I'm still satisfied with the selection though.

So there, we had quite a trip around Winnipeg. Unfortunately, I still couldn't remember how to get anywhere. We headed home and took a few pictures. There's quite a bit of snow accumulating on the ground already, and it looks real nice... for now...

Mean and My

The lamest snowball fight ever

Full Photo Album

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Called Dad

After several attempts for the last few days, I was able to contact Dad. I let him know how I was doing here. The usual weather stories of course. Mean was also able to talk to him for a while. Again, it's nice when your spouse gets along great with your parents. We also talk about shipping some of the stuff I had to leave behind thanks to the NAIA incident. Neither Air Canada nor Cathay Pacific replied to my message. I did see a hit from Canada and Hong Kong in my web counter shortly after I sent my message though. Oh well, that was expected.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The PC's Here!

When we got home after card collecting, we were surprised to find the PC boxes at our room's door. Mean wasn't expecting it for maybe a couple or more days. So here it is.

I'm not going to give details, basically it includes:
Compaq (CPU, Keyboard, Mouse, DVD/CD Writer)
Intel D processor
Samsung LCD Monitor
HP Scanner/Printer
Windows XP pre-installed

There's one negative thing I have to say though. The Printer didn't come with a USB connector. I know it can function without a computer, but since it was purchased with a PC, it would just be common sense for it to have a USB connector with it. Oh well, we're gonna have to go out and get one.

We also still need to get a wireless adapter and router so we can connect to the net. There's nothing much to do other than load my files from the DVDs I brought.

We need a computer table.

Collecting Cards

So now I go out to collect various documents/cards that people recommended I get ASAP. These are the SIN and Manitoba Health Card. I'll also pick up a library card since I'm already downtown. Mean leaves earlier than usual so she could show me where to go. I bring my Passport and the now attached Confirmation of Permanent Residence.

So my wife leads me to the bus stop. It's still freakin cold by the way. Unlike in the Philippines, you can't just stand anywhere in the bus' route and expect to be able to get on. Mean also explains to me how to find out when a bus is scheduled to get to a stop but it's all too much for my brain. So the bus arrives and we get on. Mean bought me some bus tickets before I arrived. She uses a monthly bus pass though. For now, she lets me use her pass and she uses the tickets. The bus is about the same width and height as Philippine buses but probably shorter. Of course, they have heating. In order to get down, you can either pull one of the chords on either side of the bus or buttons near the door. Again, you can only get down in a designated bus stop. I'll post something more informative about the bus system when I absorb everything properly.

Downtown is about 45 minutes away. We get down at blabla street, enter blabla building which happens to be blabla mall. Finally we arrive at blabla building which happens to have Service Canada's office. Yes, that's how it all sounded and looked to me. You can go here to find a Service Canada office near you. Most likely, this is where we went. Service Canada is like is like a one-stop service for you to avail of various services offered by the Canadian (Federal) Government. For my purposes today it would be for applying for a SIN card/number.

So Mean tells me to line up at this counter. Apparently, for whatever service you require, the attendant can point you to the right direction. After a short wait I arrive at the counter and state that I want to get a SIN. She asked me if I had my requirements (I think the Passport and CoPR was enough), gave me a form and sent me to a waiting area. After another short wait, this guy in a turban called me to follow him. Another nice exposure to diversity. So all he did was confirm my information before he entered it into the system. After this, he printed something out and handed it to me. I now have my Social Insurance Number. My card should arrive in a couple of weeks. That all took less than an hour. Maybe even less than 30 minutes. Fast service. That's something I'm not used to.

Next was the health card. Again we passed through blablabla. Health care in Canada is handled by the Provincial government. So here, it was Manitoba Provincial Government. Upon entering, we got a number and waited. A short while later it was our turn at one of the available counters. The lady was very nice and courteous as she did her work. Me and Mean decided to have a joint card (if that's what it's called). Soon, I had my health card. Again, real quick. More information on Manitoba health here. There's also answers to Frequently asked questions here.

The library card was up next. Again, how we got there was bla bla bla. I just know we passed through a lot of buildings through a series of elevated walkways. It's really great given the weather outside. Soon we arrive at the Millenium Library. I hear it was renovated quite recently. I don't know what it looked like before but it's quite a beautiful and modern looking building in it's current form. There's a nice image gallery here. Anyway, we just go to the front desk and request for a card. I fill out a form, wait a bit, and I have my library card. So fast, ho hum. More info on the Winnipeg Public Library system here.

Now it's time for Mean to go to work. Thankfully, we can get to her building again without stepping outside. I really love those walkways. Now I have to kill around 5 hours. I decide to head back to the library to do some job searching on the net. It wasn't hard to get back as the walkways didn't really have too many tough "forks". I decide to check the place out floor by floor without taking the elevator. Actually, the internet terminals were full so I had to keep moving. Eventually, there was a free slot. You have to use your library card and the password they gave to use the computers. You can also remotely reserve computers if I understand correctly. I wasn't able to do much thanks to the time limit. So off I go to find something else to do.

I decide to go back to that mall we passed by. Surprisingly I didn't get lost. I guess my sense of direction isn't so bad after all. So the name of the mall is Portage Place. I kill a few more minutes walking around. The mall is 3 levels high, with the movie houses in the 3rd floor. That's eventually where I ended up. On a bench near the theaters, looking like Forrest Gump. I probably spent over an hour there. Thankfully Mean called and told me she was able to get off work early. I head on back to her building to meet her. When I get there, I meet her friend and officemate Paula. She seems very nice. Me and Mean head back to the library to check out Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press which contains a large Careers section. Nothing for me though. Oh, I also spotted a Philippine Daily Inquirer copy. So we head for the nearest bus stop (that's part of our bus route) and head home.

So that was a pretty productive day. I'm now realizing that it's gonna take quite a while to grow accustomed to the places and the way things are done. I've also witnessed firsthand how quickly things are done here. I really hope the Philippines, especially the government, reaches this level of efficiency in my lifetime. We can dream right?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Called Mom

We were able to call mom up today. I used my leftover Telus phone card credits. I let her know that I've arrived safely and am adjusting to the cold. Mean got to talk to her too. She was probably on the phone longer than me. I'm really glad that my wife gets along great with my parents. It could really be a major headache if that wasn't so.

I wasn't able to contact dad. He was probably "tripping" (Pinoy realty term for touring clients around). I'll try again tomorrow.

Apply Apply Apply

So I'm applying to all Winnipeg Java jobs I can find on the Net. I primarily use these sites.


There's also Winnipeg Free Press' Careers section which comes out on Saturdays.

There are also a lot of other sites which you can come across in various ways. I must leave no stone unturned. I don't want to be useless.

The Shoe Rack

So I have to learn to be handyman. Back in the Philippines, I was never used to working on stuff. Fixing faucets, putting together furniture, etc. In CSA, we had a Work Education class in Grade School where we used hammers, saws, etc. I never did well there either. Oh regret.

So my first target would be the shoe rack. I always thought modern furniture like this didn't need tools and you pretty much just put stuff together and everything fits. I know, I'm naive. I needed a screwdriver with this one. Instructions were easy enough to understand. I didn't have much problems with this one. There was some stuff not in the manual that I had to figure out by myself, but nothing too complicated. Nothing really required me to exert much strength, thankfully. Sadly, I'm not the strongest person in the world. Anyway, here's the finished product.

Don't mind the feet please :) And the uncleaned/unshined shoes. Pretty decent shoe rack. You can adjust the length of the metal bars in case you need more space. You can also stack another shoe rack on top. My only complaint is that the parts that were supposed to cover the holes and screws didn't fit or was to loose. That's probably easily remedied but I didn't bother. I also lost some of those, hehe. Overall, a pretty good start for my handyman practice. We're sure to get a computer table soon, that should be more of a challenge.

Boxing Day

It's my first full day in Canada, and it happens to be Boxing Day. For people like me who don't know much about Canada, it's a holiday where most stores have sales. There's a bit more history to it and conflicts on origin so just read the link if you're interested. Mean's cousin is gonna get an mp3 player so we're gonna tag along.

I go out and I see the how it looks in the daytime. I try to step on the snow but my foot quickly sinks. It's already snowed several inches. Since nobody steps on it (and compacts it), it is very soft. It was a bit embarrassing since I though Mean was behind me but it was her cousin instead.

We get in the car and Mean asks me to fasten my seatbelt. In the Philippines, seatbelts in the rear are pretty much useless. There was quite a bit of traffic similar to moderate days in Manila. I'm told this is the worst it ever gets. Parking is also difficult with some cars standing by, waiting for others to leave. Again like in parking areas in the Philippines. Of course, I'm told once more that this is the worst it could get. I spot someone trying to reserve a parking slot for a car that wasn't at the area yet. In the Philippines, this may lead to an argument or a fight. I'm not sure how it is here.

Best Buy

Best Buy is huge. Actually a lot of stores are huge. Most of the big stores have a warehouse style set-up. While they look at mp3s, me and Mean go to look for a Router and Wireless adapter. She bought a computer by the way, and it should be delivered within the next few days. Mean decides not to buy yet though. We're now going to Polo Park.

Polo Park

Polo Park is one of the bigger malls in Winnipeg. It's probably comparable to Robinsons Galleria in the Philippines, but with less levels. I suppose with the smaller population, malls as big as Megamall would be impractical.

So we entered through SportChek and separated again since we were gonna buy a warmer jacket and rubber shoes for me. We end up with a Columbia Jacket. It's an outer jacket with a removable hood, with a detachable fleece jacket inside. So you can wear both for really cold weather, or pick whichever fits current weather conditions. I also got some Adidas basketball shoes. Here are some pics in case the links die.

From here, we enter the main part of the mall. I still have cough so we head over to Shoppers Drug Mart. This is pretty much like Watsons and Mercury Drugstore i.e. a drugstore + mini-mart. I get myself some Robitussin and some vitamins.

After a bit of window shopping, we meet up with Tito and the kids. We ask if we can go to Superstore to pick up some other stuff.


Superstore or Real Canadian Superstore seems to be a direct competitor of Wal-mart. They sell a large variety of items but I'd say mostly grocery items. And needless to say, it was HUGE. We go off and pick up the shoe rack we needed, a bunch of hangers, food and other stuff. There was also this time when we were looking at towels and this guy who was also there said "They're beautiful towels." It was nice of him to offer his opinion but it's something I'm not used to. So I refer to the towels we bought as "beautiful towels" now.

So that ends boxing day for me. Pretty mild activity for us compared to the normal citizen I guess. I'm still not picking up all the streets and how to get to the above places. It's pretty hard taking everything in but at least I have Mean to help me out and answer my questions. Tomorrow, I'll get my SIN and health card and get a taste of public transportation. Now, it's time to put together our shoe rack.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Winnipeg... bbbrrrrr

So I'm now with my wife. With her were most of her relatives in Canada (Zapanta side). She advises me to put on the winter wear. So I find the nearest washroom to wear my long johns. It's definitely something I have to get used to. So she gives me a hoodie, gloves and a jacket. I also have my sweater on. We now proceed to get my things from the conveyer belt. They are now in terrible shape. There's quite a rip on the side of one box so they note that something might have fallen off. We now exit the airport... That was quite a shock, especially to my face. Baguio ain't got nothing on this weather. Damn. I now also my first close-up glimpse of snow.

On the road, everything seems so alien to me. Lots of white stuff all over the place. I notice lots of trucking businesses in this area. There's very few cars on the road. And my first glimpse of driving discipline in Canada. There were absolutely no cars in the intersection, and non approaching. But we still waited at the intersection for the green light. Aside from that, I can't give too many observations since it's already dark outside. My mind's also spinning with the new environment and all.

We finally arrive at what I will call home for at least a few months. Everybody's there since they're expecting some of their stuff. They were visibly disappointed though, since most of it was left behind thanks to the NAIA incident.

We're gonna live in a bungalow type with a basement. There are 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, living and dining room in the main floor. In the basement are 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, I guess a TV/living room (the main area) and laundry room. Additionally they have a covered 2 car garage (remote control door and all). I am now introduced to our room which is in the basement. My wife bought a cabinet in preparation for my arrival. We obviously need a shoe rack though. She also has a new portable heater since it still gets cold despite the central heating (the basement is the coldest place in any house). I also get introduced to the faucets. Here you can turn the levers in many ways to adjust temperature and pressure. Some even have just one knob for all functions. Sure, we have that too in the Philippines but I rarely encounter a properly working one. Although I've been told the water is potable, they still use a water purifier and dispenser here.

So there, the (literally) longest day in my life is coming to an end. 38 hours if my math is right. Close to 16 of which was spent in the air. Over 15 in airports. I left and arrived both on December 25. And after all that I realize that I didn't take a single picture. Crap. Oh well, what matters most is the picture below.

To Winnipeg

Upon entering the boarding area, I go through the usual security checks. I find my flight's area and take a seat. Not much to do here but wait.

There are some overheads monitors and I see an ad for UFC 66. Just when I leave the Philippines, they decide to show the damn thing for free. Oh well, good for Mixed Martial Arts fans at home. It can only do good things for the sport's popularity in the country.

It's time to board. The plane's much smaller, it doesn't have seats at the center. I try to put my bag in the compartment, and as I feared, it won't fit. There are no center compartments to save me this time. I always had a feeling that bag was kinda big. I guess I'm lucky the airlines never measured it. "Uhm, I don't think it's gonna fit" says another passenger, seemingly amused. I just say: "Yeah, you're right..." I then try to fit it under my seat. Doesn't work. I have to settle with placing it at my feet. A tall, white guy in a business suit was seated beside me. Seemed nice enough, as he offered me some mints. We never talked again after. Once again, I get the window seat; and once again, I have a big fat wing obstructing my view. Though, I still was able to get a good view of Vancouver from the air.

The crew was a younger mix than the international Air Canada flight. Same good, courteous service as usual. No in-flight meals here though. All I would get is water and juice. Each seat had a monitor this time. They mentioned a list of movies we could watch but I didn't listen. It was unlikely I would finish one anyway. I was also asleep for most of the flight. I do remember seeing Miami Vice and Invincible in other monitors.

Between naps, I would peek out the window and all I would see was land and what looked like lakes. I was thinking "Gee, is this all Canada's got?" Of course I knew that wasn't true. Soon it would get dark, and I couldn't see much anymore. More sleep then.

The pilot announced that there would be light turbulence near Winnipeg. I would assume it would be more obvious with a smaller aircraft like this. And it did get a bit rough (probably just for me).

Soon, I would see the lights of what could only be Winnipeg. Other than that I couldn't see much. I just noticed the plane was banking, lining up for the landing. I can't really remember if it was a good landing. I just saw the big "Winnipeg" spelled out on the building. Or was it "Manitoba"? In any case, we had arrived. So I do my usual "let everyone out first" thing then head on out. It wasn't a long walk I recall. I just saw the escalator everybody was going getting on. As I approached the escalator, I spotted my wife, Meanmean, in the flesh. The last time I saw her in person was when she came home for our wedding in March 2006. And now there she was again. She was holding 2 jackets and a pair of gloves for me. Finally I got off the escalator and... no mush remember? :p Let's just say we were both extremely happy. A new phase in our lives had just begun. And we're going to go through it the way it's supposed to be - together as a family.

Is anyone throwing up out there?:)

Vancouver International Airport

I got a small taste of the cold weather as I crossed the bridge. There were people checking our passports immediately upon exiting the plane. After this was what seemed like a long walk to the immigration area. I just stood around for quite a while, wondering where I should go or what I should do, this being my first time to have to pass through immigration as an adult. I noticed everyone heading for some counters so I followed. Again, lines were nearly non-existent, presumably because it was Christmas. So I approached this counter and the lady asked for my documents. I asked her if I should get my check-in baggage first. Probably because she realized this was my point of entry, she told me to go on through, get my things, and go into the enclosed new immigrants area. I found my 2 boxes in our flight's assigned conveyor belt and their condition seemed to be worsening. I was hesitant to just leave them outside the new immigrants area knowing how it is in the Philippines, but I did anyway.

Inside the new area, I didn't know where to go. Thankfully, this man at a counter signaled me to come over. He looked over my papers and gave me a number. There were probably around 5 groups before me, mostly families. A lot of them were obviously Filipino. There was even this one group who numbered about 10. There was currently one lady handling everyone. She looked to be from India, but probably grew up in or has spent many years in Canada. I suppose this was my first exposure to the diversity in Canada, having non-Caucasian individuals handling such a position. She was soon joined by a male Caucasian co-worker. What they seemed to be doing was checking the Confirmation of Permanent Residence form and Passport, then asking various questions confirming the information they have. The lady even scolded a couple because the husband seemed to be coaching his wife in giving answers. I don't know how long it took for my number to be called, but I didn't really feel bored for some reason.

So now, it was my turn. I ended up with the lady immigration official. I was a bit nervous now because I remember her scolding the couple, while the other official was joking around with people he was handling. To be fair, she was quite friendly with everyone else except that couple. So she started asking questions like, what my name is, my wife's name, if I've attempted to enter Canada before, mailing address. She then asked me to sign on a paper, then stapled my finished CPR unto my passport, telling me that this would be my ID while I wait for my Permanent Resident Card. She also gave me a list of Immigrant serving organizations and an article on job-hunting. She saw the list of items I brought and just told me to hand it over if an immigration official asked for it. And I was done. I headed out, got my things (They were still there, cool), and came upon Air Canada's counter where I could check-in my boxes. I exited through a door but decided to go back to find the flight schedules. I wasn't allowed to go back though. Anyway, I was pointed to where I should go for the schedules. I guess I'm officially in Canada.

I looked around a bit but went straight for the money changing area. The guy at the counter even advised me to exchange more since banks would be closed the next day or something. Anyway I felt I might need the money. I went up the escalator, passed by a few shops and found the schedules. I noticed they were for international flights and I remembered that I was going on a domestic flight next. Thankfully I noticed signs that pointed the way to the domestic area. I decided to go there immediately since I had to kill time anyway. I could just go back if there was nothing to do there. After another seemingly long walk, I was at the domestic area.

I look around and I find that there are still lots of shops and restaurants here. I wander around for a bit just so I'll know my way around. I notice some self-service machines where travelers can check-in or something. Not really sure though. I spot some Telus payphones then realize that I need to find myself a phone card. I ask a lady at information where I could get one and she tells me there are dispensers around the place but wasn't sure where exactly. Thankfully I found one and got myself a $20 card.

So I call my wife Mean again. It was around early afternoon in Winnipeg. I tell her about the flight and my stay in Vancouver so far. There was some mush, of course, but you won't see it here. We talked for a long time and I realize that the $20 card was a bit overkill since I barely made a dent on it. I now realized that my initial thoughts of my being sad upon leaving the Philippines and getting happier as I got closer to Winnipeg was indeed true. In a few hours, the period of our lives where Yahoo messenger and Skype were our main modes of communication will totally end.

I now look for another money changer since Mean advised me to change my Hong Kong dollars. So I find one with a Chinese looking teller. I ask for all my Hong Kong dollars to be changed. After handing me the Canadian dollars, she asked me something in Chinese. I smiled and said I didn't understand. So another person mistakes me for a Chinese. I could assume that it's because I changed Hong Kong dollars though.

Now I look for somewhere to eat. It was a food court so I checked if there were free tables. There weren't any at the moment. So I check out the restos one-by-one. I remember a Starbucks, Subway, a coffee shop called Tim Horton's (line was long in this one) and A&W. There were also a couple of Asian restaurants. I pick A&W. Fortunately a seat at their area freed up. It's quite interesting that they don't have root beer float. That was probably A&W Philippines' main selling point. I got myself a Mozza burger meal with onion rings. The onion rings were huge but I got sick of it after a while. Probably because I didn't use ketchup. Burger was ok, and the drink was big as expected.

There's a little more than an hour before boarding time. Time to head to the boarding area. Very soon now...

Vancouver International Airport:
Official site
from Wikipedia

City of Vancouver
from Wikipedia

To Vancouver

So I proceed to the boarding area for my Vancouver flight via Air Canada. Comfy as usual as is the standard for Hong Kong International Airport. Folks at the counter start announcing stuff in English. I have to listen real hard to understand what they're saying. I admire the effort though. Boarding begins and I'm on another airplane.

So this time I get a window chair. A middle aged lady is already seated. So as I start to lift my bag, I notice that there are already several packs of what appear to be candy or food in the compartment. It's not a lot but it's occupied the entire floor area of the space. So the steward tells me that I can put my stuff in a compartment further back. Another passenger seemed to start complaining on my behalf that the way the lady placed her things wasn't very efficient. Perhaps to diffuse the situation, the steward just says that the plane isn't full anyway so it's ok. No problem with me too since I didn't want to be bothered by someone I'll be sitting beside for the next 11 hours. As I load my stuff, the steward notes that it's quite a big bag. Anyway, it fits into the large center compartments without much problems.

So for this plane, the crew is mostly composed of Caucasian people who I assume to be senior members. Then, there were a couple of probably Chinese crew members, one of which seemed to be being mentored by the others. They seemed very friendly and very eager to serve. They also joke around with passengers on occasion. Though to be fair to the Cathay Pacific crew, it's probably harder to seem enthusiastic if you're not using your first language.

So I was seated by the window but there was this huge thing called a wing that obstructed my view. It was ok since I still got a good view of the city while we were in the air. Hong Kong looks quite nice and hopefully I'll get the chance to go there again in my lifetime. I also remember seeing another city or town a while after seeing the edge of Hong Kong. However for most of the flight, all I would see is ocean, ocean, ocean, clouds, clouds, clouds. It would also be nighttime soon so I would see nothing, nothing, nothing.

One thing I would call superior with Cathay Pacific's plane would be the video monitors. Cathay had a screen for each seat, while Air Canada's would have a main screen up front with another overhead screen at the center. They would show several movies and shows during the flight. I remember "My Super Ex-Girlfriend", "The Devil Wears Prada" and a Hong Kong comedy I can't really remember. They also had a feature on Canadian rock band Nickelback. I don't really remember much about what was shown because I started sleeping when I got sick of the view (or when there was no view). I've heard Meryl Streep was great in Devil Wears Prada but Super Ex-Girlfriend seemed like a train wreck from what I saw.

Food was so-so. First, they served this junk food, can't remember the name. I just remember the packaging was about airplanes. Art seemed to be 50's/60's style. I also got another taste of "Chicken or Beef". I answered this time. I picked beef. It was beef with noodles. Chicken came with rice. It wasn't bad, but also not good. Sidings usually included some fruits, salad. I remember having Häagen-Dazs as dessert. They also served Nissin Cup Noodles between meals. I had to use the chopsticks which I was never good at. Thankfully I did fine and was mess-free. Finally they served breakfast which was Eggs or congee. I picked eggs of course. Again, it was unremarkable. I now noticed that airplane food is somewhat themed after the country departed from. Presumably because that's where it is prepared.

Now back to my "flight-mate". She seemed nice enough. She probably thought I was from Hong Kong as she first talked to me in Chinese (Sorry, I don't know if it was Mandarin, Cantonese, Fookien or whatever. I'll just call it Chinese.) I think she was asking me if I wanted to read the newspaper (Chinese language). We never talked afterwards. Later on, the Chinese stewardess was talking to her in Chinese. She then asked me something in Chinese too. I'm thinking, I never got this in the Philippines. I'll just assume it's because the flight was from Hong Kong so it's easier for them to assume I'm from there.

Now, for the new flyer in me, I don't know what's normal or bad turbulence. So I wasn't very amused with it. The plane was shaking quite a bit and the crew was calm of course. And the seatbelt lights occasionally switch on after some of the bigger shakes. This became more frequent as we first entered Vancouver. As I looked out the window, I started imagining extreme things like the wing suddenly flying off the plane. Thankfully this was just paranoia on my part.

So we finally crossed the Canadian coastline. Before this, I noticed the ocean had lots of white spots on it. I can only assume it was icy? I finally caught glimpse of land. Especially memorable was my first sighting of actual snow scattered amongst the trees and hills. It was quite a nice view most of the time. The rest of the time, I'm imagining looking down and our plane's wreckage is scattered all over the place.

Finally we landed. Not so many thuds so I guess it was a good landing. Again, I allowed most of the other passengers to leave before I got my things. Off the bridge and I am now in Vancouver International Airport.

Official web site

To Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Flight

So I boarded the plane just in time after my ordeal in NAIA. Being the air travel noob that I am, I thought I could sit just anywhere. It's a good thing a was going over my ticket at the time and I realized that I had a seat number. Fortunately, I was able to transfer to my designated seat before any real embarrassment could occur. I was seated in the aisle so I wouldn't get any good views. No one was seated beside me though so I guess that's good. I was a bit worried as it took some work to get my bag to fit into the side compartments. No problem in the bigger middle compartments though. The cabin crew was a mix of races/cultures. I spotted, as expected, some Chinese/Hong Kong folks. In addition there was a Pinay, probably an Indian and Caucasian. The pilot meanwhile had a distinct British accent. The steward serving my aisle was probably from Hong Kong and English wasn't his first language. I don't consider that a bad thing though as long as I could understand him. For some reason, one thing I was looking forward to was the airline food. Especially the Hong Kong to Vancouver flight which will take around 11 hours. However, I wasn't so into the food here. It was some kind of sandwich with some fruits on the side. Service was decent, the crew was courteous with "your welcome" after every "thank you".

Although I was recovering from my baggage mishap, my mood was going back to depressed as I had some short views of the ground as the plane took off. Good thing I was able to compose myself. I also distracted myself looking at the in-flight displays of our current location, elevation, time remaining, etc. I was able to take some short naps during the 2 hour flight. Not once did I think of using the washroom.

Finally Hong Kong came into view. As the plane landed, I could see that the runway was just beside the Sea. Seemed to be a rough landing though as I remember 2 or 3 thuds. After a few minutes, the plane came to a stop. I let most of the other passengers out before I started getting my bag. I stepped off the plane and realized that for the first time in 20 years, I find myself in another country.

Hong Kong International Airport

So I find myself in what seems to be the immigration area. The airport doesn't seem so busy being that it's Christmas day. I see lots of seats, where some people are even sleeping. I spot a Starbucks and a Watsons which remind me of home. I also see this long hallway that doesn't seem to end. This is one big ass airport.

So I start off just walking around aimlessly. My flight schedule isn't even on the screen yet since it's too early. So I just sit down and waste a few minutes. I see a couple taking pictures. Now I'm hesitant to take pictures because of how things are in the Philippines (Security guards stop you from taking pictures). And my friend Mike's story about how a soldier nearly confiscated his camera in an airport in China. So I ask at the Airport authority desk and they say it's allowed but not in the immigration area. I guess they're pretty lax today. I decided to get some of my money changed to Hong Kong dollars in case I wanted to eat or something.

I finally muster the courage to walk down the long hallway. I also do it because the Air Canada counter wasn't in that area. I hear some people actually take a bus or something to get around the place. I also see these small vehicles zipping about. One also had Santa Clause on it.

Anyway, I found Air Canada's counter. It's closed. So I look around and wonder what I could do to kill time (I have about 6 hours to kill by the way). I see restaurants on the upper levels but have no idea how to get there. I'm checking out all the elevators and escalators but none seem to lead to that place. So I just sit down again and kill more time doing nothing. I probably dozed off a few times.

Oh yeah, I spotted German Pool great "The Kaiser" Ralf Souquet. A little over a month ago, he made it into the finals of the 2006 WPA World Pool Championships (9 ball) that were held in Manila, Philippines. Although he lost in the finals to hometown hero Ronnie Alcano, he won the respect of the Filipino fans who even chanted his name after his emotional post match speech. He was seated with someone, presumably waiting for his flight. I was headed to the washroom at the time, and I thought I'd muster the courage to get his autograph when I come back out. Unfortunately, he was gone when I came back and I never saw him again.

Finally, Air Canada's counter opened. The lady at the counter handed me the boarding pass and I noticed that she also gave the one for Vancouver-Winnipeg. After this, I sit down somewhere else and doze off a few more times. Exciting stuff. It was nice observing people though. This was my first time in an international setting. And it was quite refreshing to hear a few Tagalog words every now and then.

I also decide to call up my wife Meanmean. It was nighttime in Winnipeg and still approaching Christmas. I didn't have a lot of coins so we wouldn't be able to talk long. I update her that I'm in Hong Kong. I also ask her how I can contact her from Vancouver. I won't divulge any more info since I don't feel like putting mush on my blog :)

Finally my 6 hours were nearly up. I decide to go to the boarding area. So I go through the usual inspections. Up the escalator, and... damn. So that's how you get to those restaurants. There's also a bunch of shops. Oh well. Someday I'll come back here and take advantage of all this. Gotta get ready for an 11 hour flight now.

Hong Kong International Airport info:
Official site
from Wikipedia

Hong Kong:
from Wikipedia

Ralf Souquet info:
Official Site bio
from Wikipedia

Airport blues

So I'm hoping something happens that helps pick up my mood so I could get out of big crybaby mode. Well something did happen that would snap me out of it. But my mood didn't pick up either. It just changed...

So as an intro let's go through my itinerary and baggage allowance. So my flights are Cathay to Hong Kong (from Manila), Air Canada to Vancouver, then Air Canada again to Winnipeg. So normally, Cathay would take care of transferring my 2 balikbayan boxes (check-in baggage) to Air Canada in Hong Kong. I would have to get them in Vancouver for Immigration though.

Now here are the weight limits per airline:
note: I've omitted the size limits

Cathay Pacific
1 item, 7kg (not sure if they followed this)
1 personal item (laptop, briefcase, purse, etc), weights vary

2 items, 32kg each

Air Canada
1 item, 10kg
1 personal item, 10kg

2 items, 23kg each

So I had my carry-on baggage where I took the lower limit. Then as a personal item, I had my laptop bag (with no laptop) to hold important documents. Now, I had a lot of stuff to put in my check-in baggage/balikbayan boxes, and was sure to go over the Air Canada limit. So I decided to call the Air Canada office to find out by how much I can go over. I found out I could go up to 32kg each box, and just pay a certain amount. I also called Cathay to confirm their limits, and it came out as those listed above. So I assumed that I could check-in my baggage at Cathay with no problems since they have the higher 32kg limit, then I could just pay Air Canada since I'll go over with their limit (but I'm still within their over-baggage limit). Wrong, wrong, wrong...

The lady at the check-in counter tells me that I've gone over Air Canada's 23kg limit (even though I'm boarding a Cathay Pacific flight, and their limit is 32kg), and I have to re-pack a 3rd box, and pay $165 for that excess (this is significantly higher than the excess baggage fee I knew about). So I gave her the reasoning I mentioned above, so she said she'd have to confirm with her supervisor. She comes back, and they still maintain that I have to pack a 3rd box. And on top of that, she said that I can't bring my laptop bag as a personal item, since it doesn't contain a laptop! If only I remembered that I could bring a briefcase, I could have reasoned that my laptop bag was lighter and smaller than a briefcase. But I didn't remember that, so there.

So I moved out of line, then thought for quite a while for what I had to do. This guy approached me (are they called porters?), and offered to find me another box. So I said ok, and off he went. I eventually decided that I'll just leave the excess baggage. So I called up Dad and asked him to come back so I can give him the discarded stuff. So the guy returns with 2 boxes, and I frantically pick out items to discard (I'm pretty much in danger of missing my flight here). Heavy items were first on the list. Unfortunately, most of the heavy items are stuff that Mean's relatives want sent to Canada. So that's probably minus points for me with them. Also a victim of this are my beloved Lord of the Rings Extended DVDs. I also had to get rid of some of my carry-on baggage since I had to get rid of my laptop bag. I also had to occasionally peek out the doors to see if Dad had arrived. So eventually, everything was set. I leave the excess with Dad. Give a generous tip (in my opinion) to the "porter". Thankfully, the lady at the counter didn't give me any more problems. To immigration I go.

Upon arriving at immigration, it's long lines everywhere, so I just pick one. I also spot Senator Mar Roxas or "Mr. Palengke" chatting up a kid in his line. So here I am waiting in line, time is ticking away, and I notice that I, the lucky bastard that I am, have picked the slowest line. I didn't transfer lines anymore since I was almost halfway there. There were also a lot of people cutting in, going straight to the window. I think these are people who were sent away, and just came back with some requirements. I also heard the woman at immigration lecturing someone "In the spirit of Christmas, I'm letting you through, but next time...bla bla". So I was getting anxious, computing in my head how long each person in front of me had to spend at the window for me to make it. I think I came to a number around 5 minutes. Thankfully the pace picked up. I got to the window, then to the security check. Shoes, belts, and metal objects off. I'm pretty much frantically putting all of that back on. I probably had less than 5 minutes left when I left the security area. When I arrived at the boarding area, the passengers were already lined up. So there I made it.

Now, it's really my fault for not inquiring with Air Canada and Cathay Pacific again to know if my plans were valid. Perhaps, there were some problems that would occur during the transfer of the baggage which is why they couldn't accept my baggage at that state. But in my opinion, this is something they should be able to accommodate since it really just makes sense. Maybe I should send a link to this blog entry to both airlines. Yeah, I think I'll do that...

Baggage information for both airlines:
Cathay Pacific
Air Canada

Information on Ninoy Aquino International Airport:
from Wikipedia

Information on Mar Roxas:
Official Site
Philippine Senate Bio
from Wikipedia


So, everything's set. We load everything into the Starex Dad borrowed from Tito Pio, and off we go to the airport. There's not a lot of traffic since it's only around 3:30 a.m. So we arrive in NAIA's departure area, look for a cart and unload my things from the Starex. Time to say goodbye. So there, I didn't cry. No way, not me. I'm a man, I don't cry. Yup, that's right.

I've always thought that I would be extremely sad when I left. But I also thought my mood would pick up gradually until I become extremely happy when I'm finally reunited with my wife in Winnipeg.

So there, I probably looked like what Pinoys call "Bondying". I'm not good with goodbyes and airports, just ask Meanmean.

Well that's that, I hope the "mood picking up" part starts real soon, I don't want to look like Bondying for the whole flight...

The Big Day begins

December 25 is here. I'm not gonna remember this day for being Christmas though. This is the day I leave the Philippines, my home for 28 years. This is the day I join my wife Meanmean in Canada.

I'm not even done packing yet. Thank God for my Dad, who seems to be very good at fitting stuff into a 20x20x20 balikbayan box. I guess it's also due to years and years of packing some of my useless stuff into the trunk during trips to Baguio. And the fact that when we head back to Manila, there's usually 50+% more stuff to bring home.

Anyway, here's my itinerary.
Times displayed are in the format Local Time/Philippine Time/Winnipeg Time. I also put in what day it is (Dec 24, 25 or 26) They're also in 24 hour format (to save space, not because I'm a geek).

Departure Arrival
To Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) Manila
Hong Kong
To Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Air Canada) Hong Kong
To Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (Air Canada) Vancouver

So basically, I'll be spending around 6 hours in both Hong Kong and Vancouver. No problem in Vancouver since this is where I'll have to go through immigration. I planned to buy a book for when I'm bored but I wasn't able to find anything that interested me. Actually, I don't really read much in the first place. Oh well, they say the airport in Hong Kong is huge, so I'll think of something I guess. I'm also quite good at spending long hours doing nothing (maybe I'll explain this in another entry someday).

This will also be the first time I'll ride an airplane since 1986 when we vacationed in Singapore. I was 7 years old though, so I hardly remember that. Oh but I do remember an incident with a stewardess. She was serving food at the time, asking passengers to choose between chicken and beef. So eventually I heard it:
"Chicken or beef?"
"Chicken or beef?"
"Chicken or beef?"
"Chicken or beef?"
"Chicken or beef?"
For some reason I never answered. I just looked at her with a blank expression. Needless to say she was quite annoyed. She sort of dropped the plate on my tray with an angry sigh. I'm not sure why I did that. Probably since I was abnormally shy at the time, not knowing how to react to strangers. Or maybe due to the fact that the only types of meat I ate (well, willingly) at the time were either processed or grounded. Hopefully I don't piss off any stewards/stewardesses this time.

So there, this should be a pretty interesting day. Not to mention a long one. Good luck to me.