How made me hate Yoghurt

So as I had posted about a month and a half ago, I was supposed – supposed being the operative phrase here – to be leaving for Mongolia with my erstwhile travel companion this Friday. In a clear example of what my writing professors used to refer to as “foreshadowing” (or perhaps just “spoiling the ending”), let me just state here and now that we are no longer going to Mongolia.

not going to mongolia panda

The closest I’m going to get to Mongolia…

Well, that’s the conclusion to my sad little tale – now let me tell you how we arrived at this lamentable juncture, with a brief detour along the way to share with you some rather fascinating information about the condition of my gastrointestinal tract as of late. (because, my dear readers, I feel you and I are close enough that I can share this with you now)

So last Wednesday I get an e-mail from our travel agency – expedia dot com, if you ever want the name of a business not to patronise – informing us of a change to our flight itinerary. I initially don’t pay it much mind, figuring I’ll look at a couple of days before we have to leave and sort out the final schedule then – but just as I’m closing the e-mail, something catches my eye. Looking closer, I see that the new itinerary leaves us 20 minutes to transfer airplanes in Beijing. Given that we are switching from a Korean carrier to a Mongolian carrier in the middle of one of the busiest, most crowded airports in the world, this transfer is – to put it mildly – impossible.

I call up expedia:

Panda: “Hey so umm, you guys changed our itinerary but there’s a problem – you allotted us insufficient time to make this transfer in Beijing.”

Lady: “Oh yes, I see that. Hold on while I look into it.”

[Wait on hold for 45 minutes]

Lady: “Hi, Mr. Panda?”

Panda: “Yes?”

Lady: “Well, I regret to inform you, we are unable to find any open seats on this airline up to 3 days before and 3 days after your original departure date.”

Panda: “…uhhh….”

Lady: “So I’m afraid we will be refunding your money and canceling this trip.”

Panda: [sputtering] “..whwhwhwhwhwwWHA-!? Um, hold on just a minute here. Come again?”

Lady: “Yes, we’re going to refund your money and cancel this trip.”


What does yoghurt have to do with this story? Read on to find out…

Panda: “Umm, hold on here. You can’t do that – ” (ahhh, naivete, sweet sweet naivete) “- we already paid you for this flight, made all these arrangements! You can’t cancel our flight like this! There must be another way!”

Lady: “Well, we could rebook you on another airline.”

Panda: “Well yes, do that please!

Lady: “…. buuuut it will cost about $5800 USD. That seems to be the cheapest fare I’m showing. Shall I switch you to this flight?”

Panda: [losing it] “$5800 USD!??? What are you talking about?!

Lady: “Well, it is one week before you depart so tickets are going to be expensive…”

Panda:WELL WHO’S FAULT IS THAT!!!!!???????????

Lady: “umm, tell you what, let me switch you to my supervisor.”

Panda: [hyperventilating, wondering if it is possible stab someone in the face through the phone] “yeah, please.”

[supervisor comes on]

Supervisor: “Hi sir. Yes, well, I’ve reviewed this file, but as the agent told you before, I’m afraid there is nothing we can do. The airline has no available seats along this route either three days before or after.”

Panda: “Okay, I get that. But, like what about if we just, you know, fly this original itinerary, and miss the connection in Beijing – then, they have to book us on the next flight, right?”

Supervisor: “No sir, it doesn’t work that way. They won’t even let you get on the plane in Tokyo since this itinerary is clearly impossible.”


I was running out of ideas for photos for this entry…

(I mean seriously- ! If I hadn’t bothered to check the itinerary closely and called them ahead of time, they were just going to let us waltz all the way up to Narita with all our luggage just to turn us back at the last minute because of this stupid itinerary change. What the hell!??)

Supervisor: “Yes, sorry sir, that was definitely an oversight on our part. But as we said, we will be refunding all your money so -”

Panda: “Sir, please, you don’t understand – even if you refund all our money for this ticket, like we’ve spent a fortune on other stuff for this trip already – my friend bought a $1300 USD plane ticket to come from NYC to Tokyo to meet me so we could go on this trip, I spent hundreds on camping gear, camera equipment, immunisations, reservations, tour arrangements – we have spent literally thousands of dollars extra predicated on the idea that you were going to get us where you said you were going to get us when you said you were going to get us there when we paid you $3,500 two months ago!.”

[deep breath]

“Not only that, but my friend is missing her boyfriend’s birthday for this, I had to fight tooth and nail to get 10 days off from work – have you ever tried getting 10 days off of work from a Japanese company before!? – all of these things have been set in motion because we thought we were going to Mongolia and now you’re just going to cancel it all on us at the last minute? I mean it’s one week before we’re supposed to leave! We can’t even book another flight anywhere else – it’s the peak travel season in Japan, everything’s full and expensive!!!”

Supervisor: “Sir, I sympathise. I really do. But at this point, the only thing we can really do is just pray. Just pray for a miracle from God that a seat opens ups on a flight between now and your departure day.”

stab phone

I’m going to become rich when I invent a machine that will let me stab people in the face over the phone…

At this point, gentle readers, I would like to interject a couple of things. One has to do with a tremendous pet peeve of mine when it comes to my fellow Americans, and that is their tendency to name check The Lord at the drop of a hat. Seriously, for a people who purport (or whose leader purports) to be at war with a bunch of terrorist cum religious fanatics, we rock the religious oligarchy tip like there’s no tomorrow.

Take our young supervisor friend here: “Just pray sir. Just pray for a miracle, that a seat opens up”.

One – if I may be so bold as to make a blanket statement – does not pray that “a seat opens up” on a booked flight. One prays that little Timmy, for example, doesn’t have cancer anymore. One prays that there will finally be peace in the middle east. One does not “pray” that The Lamb of Hosts comes down heralded by His Divine Prophets And Personally Sorts Out One’s Travel Plans To Mongolia. The scales falling from Lazarus’s eyes? That was a miracle. getting us the flight we paid them to do get us? That is just called a “business transaction”. Although apparently, it might well be classed a miracle at this point.

And that brings me to my second point which is this:

“Just Pray. Pray for a miracle” does not strike me as a particularly solid business strategy for a company which purports to be involved in the travel business. The fact that the manager who is supposed to be fixing their colossal screw up apparently does not share this belief leaves me somewhat less than re-assured.

Now that I’ve explained these two points to you, I hope that they help illuminate my state of mind – panicked, frazzled, peeved off and firmly convinced of my travel agent’s incompetence – so you can understand why I momentarily forgot to filter the words coming out of my mouth and accidentally said what I said next:

Panda: “Pray!? Just pray!?? Are you crazy!? You don’t understand – I’VE BEEN SHITTING OUT YOGHURT POOP FOR A WEEK AND A HALF SOLID HERE!!!” (pun, rather hilarious in retrospect, completely unintended)

Supervisor: “…………….. I.. uh… yogh… poop… you… I uhh, I beg your pardon sir?”

Me: [incredibly awkward clearing of the throat]

Indulge me while I interrupt the narrative flow once again to provide a bit of a back-story to what just happened. You see, I was reading in my Mongolia guidebook about a month back that wherever you go in Mongolia, you are offered this curdled, sour mares milk and various assorted curdled yoghurt beverages, and it is rude to refuse to drink them. In the same paragraph, it noted that these products will do horrible, terrible things to your gastrointestinal tract, especially if you are unused to curdled dairy products. Now I realise I have spent a significant amount of time in Wisconsin, but over the last 4 years in Japan, my dairy consumption – especially that of curdled, sour dairy – has dropped to practically zero.

Given that I am what can be termed “a comfort pooper” – meaning I like to take my time and not be interrupted while doing my business – the prospect of horrible gastrointestinal distress while mounted astride a horse in the middle of the Gobi desert surrounded by a trek group of people I don’t know and have no desire to poop directly in front of (not exactly a lot of privacy out in the treeless steppes, you know?) – struck me as somewhat less than appealing.

kc driving

My erstwhile travel companion trying to drive…

Thus, to avoid this potentially disastrous situation, I have been, for the last week and a half, downing the most awful, disgusting, sour looking yoghurts and mysterious dairy products I could find in the grocery stores, to try and acclimate my system to rancid dairy and prepare it for the impending Showdown With Doom.

Well as one might expect, my system has not taken kindly to this forced induction of near-spoiled bovine udder byproduct and as such I have been wracked with the most abdomen cramping, gut wrenching, gastrointestinal distress you can imagine.

Yes my friends, I have been suffering from a 12 day case of The Yoghurt Poops.

Now if you don’t know what Yoghurt Poop is like, I’ll not turn your stomach by describing it in its fully distressing detail, because I’m not sure you’ll ever return to read this blog again. But just think about yoghurt – curdled, sour yoghurt – then think about poop, and then imagine what effect the former would have on the latter if you consumed it non stop for 12 days straight.

Given this particular set of circumstances I have been labouring under for the past week and a half, I am sure you can understand my irritation – nay, my anger! at this evil little harpy of a man, harbinger of doom, nettlesome naysayer, herald of bad news, telling me that, basically, I’ve been agonisingly suffering the distressing effects of 12 day Yoghurt Poop ALL FOR NAUGHT!

I wanted to stab him! I wanted to murder him in the face! That bastard! That evil little troll of a man! DAMN YOU!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!! A HELL OF A THOUSAND YEARS OF YOGHURT POOPS!!!!!!!


(don’t you feel so much closer to me now, lovely readers?)

So yeah. Long story short, that’s how it stands. They cancelled our trip, totally screwed us over less than a week before we were supposed to go, and basically ruined our summer vacations. Nonetheless, we’re going to try and make the best of it – since she couldn’t get a refund, my friend is still coming this Thursday and we’re thinking of just renting a car and driving cross country, causing mayhem and trouble wherever we go. And of course, we’ll document it all for your enjoyment. :)

Now listening to: “Jay-Z & R-Kelly – Best of Both World”

We mastered this, don’t you know
I eat +Ether+ and breathe acid, weak bastards
We copped and we crash it
Then we cop again cause we are classic
Let me speak for ya R we “Scarface” re-enacted
“The Godfather” trilogy re-casted
But it’s real like we grievin for Aaliyah with the masses
But I hope my boy Dash get to see it when he passes
I feel her soul when the Lee passes
When the wind blows, it’s almost like I see her in the Hamptons
Even more reason to be up in them mansions
Laid back, feet up in the hammock, I’ma live for ya
Big too, ’til they put me in the grave
I’ma floss ’til they toss me a Bed-Stuy parade
‘Til Chi-Town make a ni**** Mayor for a day

In the memory of Joanne Kelly, let us pray

30 Reactions

  1. Anonymous

    Such a cute pic of your little Pakupakupanda buddy happily sitting atop of your backpack, so sorry about your trip being cancelled! Try and have a good time in Japan instead – road trip maybe?
    I feel your yoghurt pains, my friend, being lactose intolerant and actually scared of milk products….
    Try and visit Berlin while I’m still living here (you never know, I might just move to Felix Austria soon….), and bring your NYC-friend along!

  2. andrew

    Wow sorry to hear about your trip falling apart.
    I have never used Expedia, mostly because Microsoft is the company’s founder. Anything from M$ in my mind is inherently worthless garbage.
    I did look up online about Expedia, and did find the following:
    **Customer complaints include lost reservations, erroneous hotel accommodations, poor customer service, bad pricing policy, and failure to post negative reviews online at**
    I am for the most part a pretty high tech kind of guy. I am after all my company’s IT manager. However I have never tried booking tickets online. I guess I am old fashioned when it comes to spending 1000s of $$. I want to deal with a real human being face to face.
    Sorry about your trip. But thanks for the info on Expedia..will be sure to pass it on.

  3. Veronica

    I’m with Andrew. I’ve never used Expedia and I loathe Microsoft.
    Panda I am so sorry. I’m not necessarily a litigious person, but I would have to think you can recover some of the costs you’re out if you wanted to try. I realize Expedia probably had some kind of out-clause, but I’ve spent a great deal of my work in contract law and I believe their neglect goes against the spirit of the contract. (If their word or deed had been revealed prior to your entering into the contract, and with this information you would have not entered into the contract, then their out-clause is basically garbage and technically illegal.)
    It’s just like when some idiot on Ebay puts in their seller’s policy that they are not responsible for items once they are shipped.
    And Panda, you know how many times I’ve gone to court and won over that. Fucking idiots.
    Anyway, I’m sure you have a case if you want to put your energy into it.
    I’m thinking about you and I feel just terrible about your trip. You were soooo looking forward to this. Grrrr.

  4. melissa

    team comfort pooper!
    i’ve used expedia before, although only for hotel bookings. what terrible service you received! have you made a complaint to company hq? you should get a voucher or something…the is also one place to voice your anger. public shaming! public shaming!
    maybe you two should go to hokkaido. they have a lot of dairy products there and it is like wisconsin, but with more japanese people and more mountains.
    or you could use the refund money to buy really nice omiyage for your nice co-workers, and for the ones who implied that you imbibe too many calories, give them something horrid and say “well, you were watching your figure, yeah?” while their colleagues are eating melon flavored melon corn snacks or something tasty.
    anyway, i will down some water from the company cooler in anticipation of your road trip. ROAD TRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!!!!

  5. felix

    Oh noooooooooooOOOOO!!!
    I’m sure my disappointment of not being able to live vicariously through you is small compared to your disappointment of not going to Mongolia. Nevertheless, I’m totally sad and bummed out for you.
    I have only used expedia ONCE for a hotel reservation, and they royally messed up my vacation. Never mind that I reconfirmed every day the week before, going insofar as reconfirming the reservation the day of – but when I got to the hotel, they told me there was “no room” and that they were going to put us in another “comparable” hotel – NOT.
    Have a great road trip – we’re looking forward to random vacation pictures from you!

  6. lizb

    ohhhh i am so mad!!! seriously do something about this. that’s fucking ridiculous.

  7. Sabine

    Something similar to this happened to us with Expedia. So I am not using them anymore.
    I AM SOo sorry about your trip! That would kill me as I love to travel.
    But I guess things could be worse and for me, though I would love to see Mongolia, I would love to cause Mahem across Japan’s countryside (ok maybe not too much maheM)
    When you invent the stab knife, I want to be first in line!

  8. Sabine

    NO Ben and Jerry’s in Japan? though, I love the Moshi. We can get it at our local Trader Joe’s (do they have that in Wisconsin-trader Joes).
    I CANNOT WAIT TO see all the photos! And yes COW TIPPING! Okay you are right. That is mean. POOR Cows. Do take at least one photo of a Japanese cow and what they eat. I wonder if they are happier then Swiss cows (the California cows claim they are happy, but have you seen what they eat?)
    It has been my dream to go to Japan ONE DAY!! For now, I will live through your photos!

  9. mcelroy

    I need to stage an intervention and get you back to the US of A stat. You seem to have forgotten that yogurt does not actually have an H in it.
    My friend had a similar problem with Travelocity. I helped her tag team them, and screamed at them for over 2 hours until they caved, that’s the key- wear them out.

  10. Shay

    Damn that’s beyond mad wack stupid. Well, I hope you make the best out of your “alternative” plans, really. Your account of your disaster makes me anxious and worrying about my own future plans — they can do that? seriously! It seems many people have had this problem so at least your not alone in trip cancellation hell-o-rama-ville. :) Double good luck

  11. Sabine

    Quick question? have you gotten your refund from expedia yet? I was telling my husband about your issue and he reminded me that it took expedia 2 months to refund us!
    I thought of you yesterday, I read a book by Eric Carl to my daughter called Panda Bear Panda Bear (what do you see?)

  12. monique

    hey you! how about you email me so i could have your email address. punk!

  13. Paracetamol

    Man, what a shitty deal. I’m sure expedia could turn their whole faith based booking system into a plus. Expedia: You haven’t got a prayer.
    Man, I totally should have gotten into marketing.

  14. Sabine

    I love it, EXPEDIA; YOu haven’t got a prayer! ;-)
    Micheal hope you are enjoying your break.
    Looks like I might be able to make a trip out to Tokyo (and surroundings) during December.
    I would love a few pointers on what I could do and SEE!?!?! Can you email me?

  15. moritheil

    That is terrible, Expedia is full of B.S., and I am sorry to hear that your grand plans for a Mongolian trip didn’t go through.
    Your pet peeve is quite understandable.
    On another note, that’s quite an ingenious – and horrific – prep plan.

  16. chris

    I understand ur pain and I will never use expedia as you have told me how sh** they are.thanx expedia…

  17. josz

    I work for we never change schedules, the airline does.!!!!