Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ugh, Frankfurt is the worst

Welcome back!

The ATKs are back in Asia! Central this time, not South. But still... So now I've lived in East Asia (Korea) and South Asia (India) and Central Asia (Bishkek). I guess that just leaves North Asia (is that Siberia?) and West Asia (I think that's called the Middle East.) So we've got a couple of boxes to check off there, though not sure how excited I am to live in Siberia. (Of course, I think Siberia is really just the term for all of Russia west of the Urals, so it's not exactly the Dr. Zhivago-esque freezing hellscape that I picture in my head. Still, I think it's cold there.)

So, I know you are all curious to know about the ins and out of Bishkek. Since I've only been here for less than 24 hours, I can't really give you that. But I can give you my first impressions... in a different post. In this post I am going to bitch about the Frankfurt airport.

Oh. my. god. I didn't think it was possible for a country to have more onerous airport security than America, but, congratulations, Germany, you have succeeded admirably. Many have flown through Frankfurt, so perhaps you all know this, but when you arrive you need to re-do security and go through passport control, even though you aren't leaving the airport! That's right. I have two stamps in my passport from Frankfurt--one for arrival and one for departure. Even though I never left the airport. I'm pretty sure I went through customs, too. Again, nothing to declare because I am not staying here! The passport stuff wasn't that bad, to be honest. The lines were quick and no one gave us a hard time, it's just that it is really bizarre. I've never gone through passport control unless I was leaving the airport and so I kept getting confused and being all, "Are we accidentally leaving the airport? Are we going to end up at the baggage claim?"

The security stuff, though, ugh. They don't have the fancy 3D, hands-up x-ray machine, just the old-fashioned one. And while you don't have to take off your shoes, you get a very thorough pat down. That's right. Every. single. person. gets a wanded pat down. They are feeling underwires in bras and putting their fingers in your waistband and checking for muffin top (or bombs. One of the two.) They even wand the bottoms of your feet. It's fine. Like, I get it. Nobody wants to be on a plane that blows up because of a terrorist, but these are people that already went through security in order to get on the flight to get to Frankfurt. This happened when I flew home from India, too, but I thought maybe the India security protocol wasn't up to snuff and that's why I had to go through security again. I did think it was weird, though. Then there are no signs at the conveyer belt telling you what needs to be taken out. After so much travel you would think I'd have it down, but the truth is countries have different requirements. In the U.S. I get barked at for taking my iPad out, but in Germany when I left it in my bag, I got yelled at because "it's a computer." In my head I'm like, "Apparently, it's not in America."

The first time I went through this double security was when I was flying back to the U.S. from India. When I tried to ask one the security people if I needed to take off my shoes (because there is no sign telling me what exactly needed to be taken off, or taken out) the guy was like, "Just a minute, lady! It's not your turn!" Like, I know it's not my turn, but I was next up and was trying to get everything ready instead having to disrobe and unpack at the belt and hold everyone up. It's not like he was talking to someone else. But since every person to go through the metal detector gets a five minute pat down, you really have plenty of time to unpack and undress. No need to hurry, I suppose. The guy called me "lady" three times kinda like a rude Jerry Lewis. I suppose he probably thought he was being polite (I mean "lady" is a nice way to refer to someone, usually) but barking it with his delightful German accent really had the opposite effect.

The trip to Bishkek was long and exhausting, with stopovers in Frankfurt and Istanbul. There was some snafu with the ticketing agency in which we were supposed to have paper tickets (the itinerary was not enough) for the second and third legs of the trip. This resulted in a giant clusterf*** at Dulles where we tried to check in at the "self check-in" just to stand there for 20 minutes as the one guy helped everyone around us, before coming to us, looking at our stuff, telling us we needed paper tickets, and that we should talk to Lisa, who seemed quite busy with a line of her own. So we waited some more and then another United guy came and asked if we were helped. We told him we were told to talk to Lisa, who we pointed to, and mentioned that Lisa has been pretty busy. He asked who had "helped" us. I was thinking, Dude, I don't know. He was old. When we were unable identify the previous helper, the new guy sent us over to the "special help" line. You know, the old-fashioned, non self check-in lines. So anyways the lady there was like, "You don't have any tickets for the Frankfurt-Istanbul-Bishkek part of the trip." Turns out the itinerary we had didn't have some ticket confirmation numbers on it, so Mr. ATK had to break out the computer and look up the email (thankfully, there was free WiFi at Dulles.) The point of this story? Because of the mix up, Mr. ATK and I were not seated together on two-thirds of our flights, which was a bummer. What made it worse is that neither flight was full. I had empty seats next to me on both flights.

But all's well that ends well and we made it to Bishkek together.  Next time, I'll actually write about life in Bishkek. Er, that is, life at the Hyatt Regency in Bishkek.

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