Fifteen hours and seventeen minutes is a very long time to spend in a very small space hurling through a very big space at 560 miles per hour. Our flight route took us over Alaska. At an altitude of 38,106 feet it's -63 degrees Fahrenheit. That's almost 100 degrees below freezing! I'm wearing my Northface jacket. It's cold in here.
They always tell you to be at the airport two hours before take off on an International flight, and we were. But it really wasn't enough time. When we arrived at gate E11 the area was empty. I thought they might have moved the boarding gate but in fact, everyone else had already boarded. The time was 9:45 with a scheduled departure of 9:55. We ran to the gate but he directed us to the desk where they reissued new boarding tickets after asking for our passports and VISAs for the third time. (I actually counted four times we were asked to show our passports and IDs.) We ran back over to the gate, got sniffed by dogs standing by three military men and
boarded the plane. They closed the door behind us at 9:50.
I was concerned that our seating had been changed because we were late to the gate. I ask the flight attendant if it were possible to find two seats together. As I said this I turned the corner only to find the plane was half empty. We got a row of three seats for the both of us. But that was just the start of great things.
As I was putting away our stuff in the overhead I apologized to the flight attendant for holding up the plane. "We were at the airport two hours before." I defensively said, looking for a pardon. "We promise we will be really good and we won't make any trouble for you on the flight."
"Listen, I raised two boys, you couldn't be any more of a challenge then they were."
Then she handed me a "For the Long Haul" bag. What's in this? It contained:
toothbrush and toothpaste
red eye shades
Yuzu bergamot moisturizer
I love gagets. In front of each seat was our own personal entertainment device. I counted 26 movies, 31 HBO shows, 50 TV channels, 12 games, and I stopped counting at 100 music channels with selections in classical, country, jazz, rock, and urban soul. From this mini TV screen I could be entertained for hours. Oh yeah, that's right, we'd need to as we would be sitting here for hours. All of it was complementary for International flights. I can watch anything anytime, pause, fast forward, and get subtitles in four to eight languages.
At 10:10 we pushed off from the gate and at 10:47 we took off.
We arrived in Shanghai, passed through customs with passports and VISA without a problem. We found the taxi line and got a guy that used to race in NASCAR. He weaved through traffic at speeds of 70 while everyone else was doing 50. When someone braked, he sped up, shot in front of one of the cars on the left or right and weaved back in. At one point we had to stop. A bobtail slammed into a van and overturned it. It was minutes before we got there. I told him we ought to go slower but he wouldn't listen.
We found Tim and Maite waiting for us at the Magnificient Hotel lobby. What a welcome sight. So strange to see our Atlanta friends in this foreign place.
We ran upstairs dumped our luggage and went to look at the insect market next door. This is a place where they sell lots of crickets. Chinese keep them as pets for their soothing night-time sound. They also use them for gambling. We saw several guys hunkered down around a table with two fighting inside a plastic ring.
One of the guys selling the crickets suggested a restaurant to try. He wrote out the address and even drew a map we could show our taxi driver. The pig belly, beef, and steamed vegetables were fantastic. We washed it down with Qingdao beer. Then we walked back three miles to the hotel.
It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to have to paint it. -- Steven Wright