We are 31 days away from departure for our RTW trip, and the to-do list is still quite long. Today’s tasks included calling the airlines that aren’t connected to Delta for our seat assignments. Fortunately, I only had to call China Airlines and Aeroflot. In addition, I would be asking for gluten-free meals on international flights.

I am finding that the calls always last longer than I expect because our ticketing is very complicated. Although our entire RTW tickets were purchased and booked through Delta, when the reservation shows up on the other airlines’ systems, our confirmation numbers (called Record Locators) aren’t the same. Alas, the agent must look up our flights by our last names.  Fortunately, “Goodfriend” is an easy name to look up.

But let’s examine “Englert.” My last name has the two letters that Asian languages have trouble with, “L” and “R.” I know a little about Korean and Mandarin, and neither have the English sounding L and R in them. L and R sound the same. So words like Fried Rice sound like Flied Lice. Imagine Englert. I must say, though, that the customer-facing China Airline Reps are quite good. After a few repetitions and the use of the airline phonetic alphabet, we made progress. With seat assignments in hand and requests for vegetarian and gluten-free meals, we are all set.

Then I called Aeroflot. It was the same exercise on the names, flights and record locators. But then I asked if we could have vegetarian and gluten-free meals. The Rep asked why I would want a vegetarian meal when the meat is so good coming from Russia. We giggled a bit, and he accommodated me. But then when I asked about gluten-free, he simply couldn’t understand. I even checked the google dictionary for a translation, and that didn’t go anywhere. Finally, I mentioned wheat. And he asked, “Why don’t you eat bread?” I know it’s curiosity, not rudeness, but I really did start to think about the hilariousness of the whole thing. I’m sure I fit into the crazy American stereotype today. Oh well, live a little!

Despite my best attempt in asking for gluten-free meals on international flights, I won’t have gluten-free meals, but I’ll have our seats. That’s the most important thing.

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Chris Englert, the Walking Traveler, has visited over 60 countries and all 50 states. Usually traveling with her husband, yet sometimes by herself as a solo traveler, she uncovers neighborhood walks, urban hikes, and vegan/vegetarian eats that other guide books miss.

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