Friday, April 29, 2011
Friday is our market day. We get up early (7AM) to head out to the market by 8AM. This morning was somewhat delayed by rain. We go to the market at Jalan Othman in Old town, Petaling Jaya S2. The market is a non-descript three story building with the ground floor containing the wet market (with a separate non-halal section), a vegetable market, and a “food court. Dry goods are sold in the upper levels. We travel by RapidKL local bus T505. Fare is RM 1.00 or $0.33. The ride is about 15 minutes. We pass car dealers, city offices, city police departments, residential areas, and the Campbell Soup factory.
Today we purchased: three tomatoes, two carrots, ginger, green pepper, coriander leaf, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, red hot peppers, small bok choy, a papaya, a pineapple, green beans, and some other small stuff. We spent RM 17.40 ($5.87) with five different vendors.
Breakfast is served:
We ate at the roti canai vendor. Liz had murtabak, which is a stuffed grilled bread made with the same dough as the roti canai and filled with various meat based products. It appears the filling is similar to a frittata. While eating, I noticed a man across from us. He wore a red polo shirt emblazed with “McDelivery” with a phone number. The local McDonalds have a delivery service.
What we avoded:
We avoided the wet market at Liz’s request. Evidently she does not like to see where her meat comes from or how it gets to the small pieces we see in our grocery stores. Liz has a history of this. In Raleigh she did not like the Chinese market fishmonger section where they killed the fish for you. But here is a picture from the food court.
The Bread Search:
As we waited for our return bus, I saw a bake shop called The Baker's Cottage. In our relentless search for good bread, I went to look. They had bread, but it is all “square”, spongy, and wrapped in plastic. In one academic paper I found, a researcher said a big improvement had come to Malaysian bread trade with the licensing of the “Roman Meal” recipe. The last free form loaf (also spongy) had burnt bamboo charcoal included as an ingredient. Chocolate, red bean paste and other ingredients are found in local breads. Maybe I will learn to bake bread in my “toaster oven”. Liz wants bread with 8 to 10 whole grain, seed and nut ingredients.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We started debating the most economic way to do laundry early on. The first apartment (the one we didn't get) had a washer, but no drier. This apartment has neither, but a laundry area is close. It has small washers that can eat up ringgit quickly. Our initial plan was to continue to use a local laundry, which we have patronized for the past two years. It does not offer same day service (or if it does it would surely cost an arm and a leg). We decided that we would take our clothes there and wash our sheets and towels here. (We haven't bought a second set of sheets and towels yet - probably waiting to have a house guest to get motivated.)
The drier got the clothes partially dry and we weren't willing to invest a continuous flow of ringgits. We had a drying umbrella, but our apartment doesn't offer ideal hanging spaces. The dining room lamp was pressed into service. We took several chairs and got them as close to the window as possible. (Doug has since observed that about 10 percent of the windows on our side have drying racks abutting the window.)
Later in the day we picked up our laundry - about a 20 minute walk. As we neared home an impending rainstorm hit and we spent about half hour waiting for it to subside enough to venture out for the 2 minute sprint to our building. (Did I mention that it is rainy season? We carry umbrellas everywhere.) There is a laundry service in the lobby - no walking, no rain and we think that it is cheaper. We'll try it next week.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Before departing Los Angeles Liz dumped a cup of coffee into her “newish” computer. After I drained it (at least no cream or sugar), I decided to put it into its case and let it dry out for the remainder of our air flights. More on this later.
At LAX there is no free internet access in the Bradley International Terminal. This was not repeated in either Incheon or the Kuala Lumpur Airport. Access was readily available, and free terminals were all over the place. Free WiFi is everywhere in Malaysia, or at least in the Klang Valley.
After arriving in Kuala Lumpur, and after an overnight rest, I attempted to boot the Toshiba. Still no luck, but the Asus and the IPAD2 were working great and connected into the hotel network. We were reconnected to the world, reading e-mail, and the New York Times. The hotel network was somewhat flaky, but it was free….and worked better than when last encountered in October 2010.
First stop Saturday morning after arriving was to the mall to purchase SIM cards and load up on our prepaid service (we made the investment in unlocked GSM phones years ago and use them all over the world with local carriers). Here we have always used the DIGI network in Malaysia. We had to wait until after 11:30am for the store to open (Malaysia is a “late” country). Armed with our RM 10.00 we had new phone numbers and RM 8.50 worth of calls on the card (about $3.00). We purchased a bunch more which will last until mid May when we will recharge. Then the messages began to flow….from DIGI. Their business plan includes sending SMS messages to their clients with new offers after making a phone call. No we don’t want to implement MMS, video services, and daily internet services. I do like getting notifications of the amount of RM I have used on phone calls. A typical call to the US is $0.03 to $0.04 per minute, less than the typical charges in the US for a domestic non-roaming call on a prepaid service. And here you pay only for the minutes used when you originate the call. We will not install a landline when we get an apartment. Once free of the tether you never want to be tethered again.
This had to wait until we picked an apartment. The key was the floor of the highrise building. We discovered that above the 5th floor, WiFi broadband service may be limited. Three companies would not guarantee service above the 5th floor, with one company refusing to refund charges if it does not work. Our apartment is on the 12th floor. Armed with this information, its address, etc. we started visiting the booths of the various broadband companies, DIGI, CELCOM, MAXIS, P1, and YES. We ruled out landline based broadband due to cost and lead time for installation. We also opted for a prepaid service because our MM2H visa is still in the future and postpaid plans required hefty deposits for foreigners. We became customers of YES (a service of the YTL company). Advertised as a 4G WiFi service with speeds up to 20Ghz. rivaling the best cables services in the US.
A word about APPLE
We dropped into an APPLE affiliated store in a local mall. An APPLE trained employee listed to our choices: said no to one, was unenthusiastic about three, and said yes to YES. With this recommendation, I went to the YES store at KL Sentrall (the main train station), was able to borrow a WiFi dongle to take home and test. It worked, so back again I went and purchased a “ZOOM” Yes device, a WiFi modem with a router built in: all at “N” standard. It had the added benefit of an RJ45 port (remember Liz's Toshiba: it is now working but the wireless card appears to be fried), and a telephone jack for an analog line. Home again, home again, install the model, boot it and I have a fast internet connection. Only one problem, the ASUS wireless is a “G” standard wireless card and the ZOOM router will broadcast on only the b, g, or n specification. But my IPAD2 connected without a flaw.
A Trip to a Computer Mall:
Befitting a country with a city name Cyberjaya, there are malls which specialize in all things “Digital”. In Petaling Jaya there is the Digital Mall, and some floors of other malls are devoted to computer and phone related stores, kiosks, and booths. I decided to go the LOW YAT Mall in downtown KL.
This mall has 6 floors devoted to all things digital. The first three floors are all phone stuff….ANDROID, NOKIA, SAMSUNG, APPLE, WINDOWS MOBILE, DIGI, MAXIS, CELCOM, P1, YES. Rather amazing. The remaining floors are computer related. COMPUSA would not be able to compete. For those of you who have visited J&R or B&HPhoto in NYC have an idea of what you see at LOW YAT, but they are mild in comparison. The store I visited is stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of stuff, with enough computer nerds present to assist the customer with their questions.
I needed to purchase a printer, scanner, and copier. I could have survived by going to various internet café’s for my printing needs, but I discovered I needed to be able to scan documents and fax them. While in LA, spent over $12 to fax 6 pages of documents to my real estate agent, and the MM2H process requires printing, faxing and scanning of documents. My specifications included the ability to “AirPrint” from my IPAD2, and wireless connection to my ZOOM router. The HP B210A meet all my needs, it was available in the local market and cost less than US $133. The only downside is the cost of inkjet cartridges, but it is colour copier, a scanner, and a network wireless printer. I also purchased two 300 mbps “N” wireless adaptor dongles for my Toshiba, and the ASUS at less than US $20 each.
We now have good internet service in the apartment, three computers, a Kindle, a IPAD2, an ASUS netbook, an ACER Netbox, a Toshiba Laptop, an ITouch, a IPOD, a wireless network printer (which can receive stuff sent via e-mail), and three cell phones (one a loaner for guests). We are now waiting for the cable service decoder box to be installed.
The YES service works great. The only problem is an occasional drop out during the afternoon thunderstorms. I cannot get my NETFLIX subscription to work. NETFLIX blocks international access. Amazon will deliver books to my Kindle but my account needed to be established prior to leaving the US. I have ordered books and they are delivered flawlessly. I may investigate a VPN service to a US center to give myself a US internet presence. This may resolve the NETFLIX issue, but I think the moguls of Hollywood will prevail.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
- is a misleading statement since in addition to our flat in Petaling Jaya, we have a condo in Indianapolis, and an unsold house in Raleigh. Legally we will be in this apartment for 6 months, although we anticipate extending the lease until the end of the year or when we head to the US for holiday (in which case we will store our stuff and start this process again).
Here is time line of our moving in: arrived in Malaysia (late 8 April), started viewing units (9 April), made an initial offer (13 April), had it fall through (14 April), viewed more apartments and make another offer (16 April), had offer accepted (16 April), made security deposit (17 April), moved in (19 April), and finished the paperwork and make final payments (21 April). In the process we dealt with three real estate agents. The first agent, found on the web - a person who listed properties in buildings we were interested in, did not instill much confidence. We met him in the apartment lobby - Doug had describe himself as a tall man with a white beard and wearing a red shirt. Although the lobby was virtually empty the agent seemed clueless. We looked at one plus apartments - one bedroom plus a small room. One of the plus rooms was so tiny that a baby would get claustrophobia.
Our second agent, recommended by the owner of Shah's Village, was friendly and helpful, but the time lapse between showings made us anxious. We got to VJ via a circuitous route. Nine months ago I read Fulbrighter's blog that included a comment that she had found housing with the help of her "fabulous agent" - I immediately asked for his name. I recovered her e-mail response, and sent him an e-mail. His agency (Cityscape Properties) responded that he was on leave and passed our message on to VJ(Kher Yow Jian). By the time we contacted VJ we had decided that AMCORP was the best location to start with. He showed us several units including a 2 bedroom on the 23rd floor. We decided to make an offer and sat down with VJ to work out the details. We offered RM3200 per month (the quoted rent was RM3500). The next day VJ called to say that the landlord now thought the unit should be rented for RM3800! A little stunned we started over again. We quickly settled on another two bedroom unit, made an offer (including requests for more furniture and cooking equipment), and it was accepted.
VJ is pictured above in the hotel lobby after Doug gave him our security deposit. We were eager to move ASAP - not only because a hotel room had us living on top of each other, but also the hotel was sold out for Monday night (nevertheless they give me an extension) and I felt that my day by day extensions weren't fair to a relatively small business. On Monday we went to Jusco and Carrefours to check prices for bedding and kitchen supplies. On Tuesday we went on a shopping spree at JUSCO helped by excellent sale prices and an engaged helpful staff. (Someday we will write "The World is filled with Aprils" to testify how many retail clerks throughout the world are similar to the character on Parks and Recreation.)
VJ loaded all our things into his car and we walked to AMCORP. We started by verifying that requested items were included, taking pictures, noting defects and needed repairs. All that was left was review the inventory and pay the additional moneys (one months rent, a deposit for utilities and a stamp fee). The memorable moment - the bathroom door locked and we couldn't get in! Eventually a member of the landlord's family came down and made a temporary fix - a permanent fix is still in the offing.
Today VJ, the agent for the landlord, Raymond who handles the landlord's business, a technician all showed up. The technician worked on the repairs; Doug reviewed the inventory; Doug, VJ, and Raymond signed the tenancy agreement. Then we paid Raymond our stash of RM50's.
So now that we have a two bedroom apartment we look forward to your visit. Here is the view from the guest room window.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
This is our bank. Now I am not one who usually likes or praises financial institutions but this one stands out.
In 2010 as we began to plan our relocation overseas, we began to search for a banking partner. Our credit union was out. One too many times they had failed us on the simple things. placing the appropriate notification on our records to allow us to use the ATM card in banks overseas. You do not know the helpless and angry feeling when you arrive after 36 hours of air travel only to find that your ATM card is not functional in local ATM's. Then after a long distance call you rectify the problem because some clerk did not enter the appropriate information on his/her computer when requested.
So we narrowed our search to Citibank and HSBC. Both had a major presence in the US, so we could easily have our accounts moved to the bank, have pensions and other inome automatically deposited into the accounts. But HSBC stood out. Transfers between HSBC branches in different countries appeared to be back office transactions, not international wire transfers (a cumbersome, lengthy and expensive process).
So accounts were opened in NYC, brokerage accounts were opened, funds were transferred, stocks were moved and we were set up.
Now 9 months later the test began. Armed with our Premier card we walked into an HSBC branch in Malaysia. We took our number, presented our card to the banker, and were escorted upstairs into another area of the bank.. A "relationship advisor" listened to our needs and we set up an appointment for later in the week. New accounts were set up, ATM cards issued, checks printed, and credit cards were applied for.
We then linked accounts with those in the US and I watched in amazement as funds were debited from one account, converted from US dollars to MYR and deposited into accounts in Malaysia. All in the matter of minutes. No longer did I need to have travelers checks issued, or money belts around my waste as I transported cash across borders.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
On Friday we opened up our Malaysian HSBC account. Doug said that opening an HSBC Premier account in NYC last summer was the smartest thing we did. He plans to write an entry "Ode to HSBC" with more details.
Our meeting with the MM2H agent was a success. Although we were less sure when we arrived. Her office is in a shop house with padlocked doors - scarcely reassuring. Since we plan to work with her we will supply pictures later. We have made arrangements to get all the documents and can probably submit our application by 1 May. None of the documents were very hard to get and HSBC directed us to a local notary to certify our passport copies and a few other documents. We were told that he charges RM2 (about 67 cents) per page. We plan to buy a color printer that allows us to scan. Easily obtained paperwork does not translate into not very much paper work.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
On MM2H one doesn’t need an agent, but I can't imagine applying without one. Our biggest fear is spending hours (and $) getting the documents, trudging to various offices, and then being turned down. We are meeting with an agent tomorrow. She sent a list of what documents we need. Among our "missing" documents are 3 years of tax returns. We called the IRS last night to get a tax transcript. We hope works otherwise we will lean on Brendan to download it from a file on a computer in Indy. The bottom line is that we will buy a color printer that prints and scans as soon as we get settled.
On to the apartment – On Sunday we meet with an agent to look at apartments in a nearby building. To say that the agent was spacey was an understatement – we wondered if he was a licensed real estate broker or simply someone’s second cousin. On this our first outing we learned that leases of less than a year are more expensive and harder to come by – 6 months is the typical minimum (read panic when we have a 90 day social visit visa). Yesterday we went to a building very close to an LRT (metro station) – good facilities and security. We saw a 2 bedroom which had a great tropical view. The price was a bit more than what we wanted to pay, but definitely possible. We were told that we could get a discount, but if we turned it down someone else was ready to take the unit. My reply – “that’s life.” Doug found other listings for the same building – each apartment seems to have its own agent. So we are doing a lot of sitting around and waiting. Tomorrow an agent will take us to see three units. Only one is a 2 bedroom. We probably will rent a 2 bedroom – so anyone who said that they were planning to visit better show up.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Two hours to land go through immigration and take a taxi to our hotel. With luck our heavy luggage and its logistic challenges (paying for a premium taxi and tipping everyone who lifted them) are behind us. I have now reduced their weight by removing the books, files, vitamins, power cords, and personal care products (ones that are pricey here).
As usual we stayed at Shah's Village Hotel in Petaling Jaya. Since our last stay in October the hotel has installed new carpeting throughout and apparently a new cook. Breakfast was first rate - not only better than breakfasts we remembered from previous visits, but better than hotel breakfasts we have had recently.
Our first stop was to Amcorp Center, a close by mall. We found a new bookstore, Books Xcess - source for books that cost less than Kindle copies. We stopped at Han's Art Gallery (sadly no web page)to say hello to the owner and to view the paintings - the ones we liked best are big. In any case no buying until we have walls in Malaysia. (Doug has the measurements for the walls in the condo.) We are working on having a collection as chaotic as the Barnes, but with value only to us. The last stop was to DiGi to get prepaid phone cards.
Our big project was to start to find housing - nothing is easy or cheap. We had planned to rent a service apartment, which we assumed meant we could rent for a few months with few added costs - apparently an erroneous assumption on our A 6 month lease with all the usual upfront costs, e.g., paying two months advanced rent, is most likely. We have a 90 day visa; it should be easy to get another 90 days but it is a risk. Not much that we can do on a Sunday - tomorrow we are meeting with another realtor and beginning the process of applying for Malaysia My 2nd Home visa. The bottom line - we maintain our flexibility at a cost.
The picture of Doug captures our first days' activities. He is at his IPad looing for vacant apartments, realtors, and Malaysia My 2nd Home information and agents.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Our stop over LA gave us a chance to catch up our breathe so we would start our trek over the Pacific well rested. After we arrived we ate at the hotel - we impressed that they would add chicken to any salad for an additional $12 - the next night we saw a similar offer priced at $2.50. The next day we gave into our miserly instincts and had breakfast at Subway and then we took a bus to Santa Monica - $1.00 ($.50 senior fare) - and noted the $4.39 plus gas prices. We were meeting Qing, a friend from his days as a graduate student at NC State. We were a little early so we wandered surrounded by very hip businesses, e.g., MTV, Yahoo, and a Universal Music Studio. I threatened to try to get a picture of the first man we sawing wearing a tie -even men in solid white and blue shirts didn't have times.
After lunch we visited Qing's office, Edmunds. Check out the company office tour, which they send to potential employees. Now there is a place I would have liked to work - a kitchenette on every floor, white walls all over the place for writing whatever seems relevant, a game room, an area were employees could duck in for a nap, a ping pong table, and a massive snack bar. All in all the office communicated a collaborative interactive environment. Employees are pretty much in charge of their work schedule - getting the task done over working specific hours. If Qing is representative, and I suspect he is, it is a good place to work, to feel valued, and to be productive.
Later we went Santa Monica pier. It felt like Coney Island (or Atlanta City of an earlier generation), but slightly less tacky and no salt water taffy.
Here is Doug on a street corner in Indianapolis waiting for Brendan to take us to the airport. Our 4 suitcases each weigh 49 pounds –right from the beginning we knew that we wouldn’t shrug off offers of red caps and bellmen. We carried a stash of $1s and $5s for tips.
Monday we took the license off the car; cancelled our Y membership; changed our phone service; disconnected our cable/internet service; covered oil paintings with cloths; turned off the water and the refrigerator; unplugged the lights. Doug experienced an unexpected drama. The insurance company not only cancelled our car insurance (which we requested), she also cancelled our home owners on our Raleigh house (which we did not request). Doug only found out by accident later in the day when he called to clarify something about the homeowners policy. An urgent call to our real estate agent solved the problem - the realty company has an agent who could arrange a policy. (So here’s a shout out to Danny Taylor and Allen Tate Realty – now if he could only sell the house as quickly.) Our original plan was to rent the condo, but we didn’t really warm up to the idea of being a long distance landlord. After a year of packing and unpacking we weren’t eager to add packing up the condo to our to-do-list.
We gained a new appreciation for our friends who left their home countries to come to the US to study or work. We figure that when we come back in a year, except for a layer of dust, things in the condo will be pretty much the same. Of course Indianapolis won’t be, but we haven’t lived there very long so I might not even notice.
Monday, April 4, 2011
We seem to fumble in our plans, weather wise. We left Indianapolis when it hit 73 and arrived in Albany at 59. During our several days in Upstate NY and Western Mass we managed to end up with 3-6 inches of snow.
The flights were good and TSA was not an issue. We carried all our luggage for a week on board. Two small carry on cases...soft sided. Maybe this was the beginning of our preparation for Asia where we are taking a years supply of stuff in our checked luggage (2 50lb bags each). The heaviest part of our luggage is the vitamins, minerals, fish oil, baby aspirin and the like. It weight a ton. To that we have added hair dye for liz, some skin conditioner, spf 55 sun lotion, computers, and the like. I have given up on taking my boat. I cannot see a way to get it there. I guess if I get involved I will purchase whatever they use in Kuala Lumpur.
We started our trip in Albany, met with an old friend Arvind (we had visited his wife two weeks earlier in Racine). It was good to connect again.
Since we were not expected in Rochester until late afternoon, the next morning we decided to visit the NY State Capitol. The government plaza in Albany is impressive, although we were under the plaza as the day was chilly. We made arrangements for the tour and then visited the State museum. One exhibit was a wall of photos sent in by NY residents. We then visited an archeological exhibit regarding the City of Albany. I learned the meaning of KillDevil (it relates to rum) which made me wonder about Kill Devil Hills on the outerbanks of North Carolina. We then visited an extensive exhibit on the mountains of New York, the logging industry of the 19th and 20th century. In one exhibit we learned that loggers would eat a dozen fried eggs, a loaf of bread and a half pound of rasher. Even with this diet the logger would end the winter season 20 to 50 lbs lighter.
We were then off to the State Capitol for our tour. The building is huge. We were met by a docent (a retired ny history teacher) who knew much about the building, and a lot about President Lincoln and his burial. Did you know there was a plot to hold is body for ransom to force the release of a master forger. For that reason, is now buried under 12 ft of concrete.
The State Senate Chamber is a magnificent room. Leather chairs, piles of paper (15,000 bills are introduced each session). No electronic voting here. Gold foil adorns the leather covered walls. Although there are microphones at each desk, they are not needed. We visited the lobbyist waiting room (just off the chamber). There are over 5000 registered lobbyists in NY. We then walked down the million dollar stairway (Since the building would cost over 1.2 billion to replace almost any staircase could cost a million. 77 figures are carved into the facade of the staircase, and over 1000 more unnamed figures were added by the stone carvers.
The house chamber is much more functional, smaller desks to seat the greeted number of delegates. It is not as ornate. Electronic voting is allowed and used.
We then went into the executive part of the building. This required us to pass through another set of metal detectors and was run by a different set of security officers (I think the state police). The walls in this section of the bulding are lined with the official portraits of past governors (Switzer, Patterson, and another have not been made or or not displayed. The press room currently has the portrait of Al Smith. The room also has a hidden door built to allow FDR access without showing his wheelchair to the public.
Our time in Albany was coming to a close. We needed to be off to Rochester (a four hour drive on the NY Thruway). This reinforced to me the huge size of the State of New York. Upstate is a long distance from "the city". Our Visit to Rochester The purpose of this visit was to see Colin and Jenny (our son and daughter-in-law). We got there late Friday afternoon, and met them for dinner at a nice Italian themed restaurant.
The next morning after breakfast we explored some areas outside of Rochester, visiting a Maple Sugar and Alpaca farm. It was sugaring season and we saw a demonstration of the making of maple sugar. The sap starts at 1% sugar and is reduced to 75% sugar. I was not aware that the different grades of maple sugar (color based) are due to the presence of bacteria in the sap prior to its reduction to maple sugar. The later in the season the darker the sugar. It is hard hot work. It appears people stitch together a number of jobs.
We then went to “walk” Lucy, Colin and Jenny’s lab. She take long walks twice a day, and is a very friendly playful beast. After hanging around the house, we went to dinner at a German bar, pub, restaurant in west Rochester, followed by desert at a wine and chocolate pairing restaurant.
The next morning it was a bagel breakfast before we departed for Amherst (to visit Val and Andy). On to Amherst Mass. It was a 5 hour drive to Amherst, MA, back through Albany and into Mass. It was a beautiful drive across the Berkshire Mountains (with snow still on the ground), arriving in Amherst late in the afternoon.
Andy and Val hosted Peter and Valerie(jenny’s grandparents) and Liz and I for a wonderful dinner and conversation. Fresh salmon, salad, winter squash and a delightful cheesecake (an old family recipe) were served.
On Monday we visited Northampton, the home of Calvin Cooledge’s presidential library. This presidential library is in keeping with “Silent Cal’s” minimalist world view. It consists of one room on the second floor of the town library. Unfortunately we were unable to enter (only open after 3PM on weekdays) but viewed the exhibit through the windows. One item was the American High Plains Indian headdress in a glass case.
Going Home We made detour to the Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA. We previously visited this museum and were astounded by the collection of Renoir’s. Unfortunately, the exhibit was on loan to a Spanish art museum, but we did see an excellent exhibit of portraits.
After several hours viewing the exhibits it was on to Albany airport to return to Indianapolis.
In the Indianapolis parking lot we discovered we had lost our parking ticket. I expected the routine to be similar to Raleigh-Durham airport where the drive the lots with an automated camera system. If you lose your ticket, the licence plate number is all you need, and they can calculate your bill. In Indianapolis, the ticket agent needs to see your airline itinerary, fills out a form, and has you sign it. Total time, about 10 minutes.