I had every intention of posting a few blogs while I was in China, but China's Internet restrictions had other plans. I suppose that the Chinese government has realized how influential and powerful I am and has wisely blocked my blog. I can't say as I blame them, my words wield great power. Well, whatever the real reason was I couldn't update my blog over there. Because of that I'm retroactively blogging about the entire experience in a series I'm calling Tales From the Orient.
It was not easy getting to China. We sat on the runway in Louisville for 4 hours! By the time we made it to Atlanta we had already missed our flight to Seattle, which meant we missed our flight to Beijing. So we stayed in Atlanta for the night and then woke up bright and early to fly to Detroit. Well, actually we woke up bright and early to wait on the plane and then fly to Detroit. Then we flew to Beijing. We stayed overnight in Beijing at a Holiday Inn Express (I just think that's funny).
I should take this opportunity to tell you about the flight from Detroit to Beijing. Now, some people might think that I'm being racist or something but I assure you I am not. I've now been on six flights with mostly Chinese people and I can without a doubt say that they are some of the worst travelers I've ever seen (and I've travelled quite a bit). They're not big on following any of the flight attendant instructions whatsoever. The flight attendant could say, "If you don't sit down you will spontaneously combust," and there would be at least one Chinese dude who would get up. And it wasn't a language issue because announcements were made in both English and Chinese. But back to my first flight with the Chinese.
As you might imagine, the flight from Detroit to Beijing is rather lengthy. It's about 13 hours. Nobody can sit for that long, and I understand that. It was a bit easier for me because I was in the emergency exit row (ready to selflessly sacrifice myself for the safety of the rest of the passengers should the situation arise. Not really) so I had extra leg room for my lengthy 5 foot frame. Are you jealous of me being in the exit row? Don't be. I hate the flipping exit row, or at least I do now. And here's why:
- I watched all of these people get up and fumble with the bathroom door. It's like they'd never encountered an airplane bathroom door in their lives. Many would look at me for assistance, as though I were the bathroom attendant. I guess no one had to use the bathroom on their flight from China to America because they had no clue what was going on.
- The stretching. Dear God in Heaven the stretching. As previously stated, I understand that your legs get cramped and sore on lengthy flights. So you do what anyone does: Get up periodically to go to the bathroom (where you know how to operate the door, BTW), maybe shake your legs a little bit, raise up on your toes a couple times, stand by your seat for 2 or 3 minutes. And that's it. Then you sit the eff back down. Let me tell you how Chinese people stretch on a plane. It is full blown calisthenics. You probably think I'm joking, but I'm not. Apparently there is some rumor in China that if you're on a long plane flight and you don't jog up to the galley area (aka right in front of me) and do some major leg lifts, squats, etc. for a good 20 minutes you'll probably die. And hey, since you're all up there getting your workout in why not just chit-chat while you're at it? So I'm trying to be patient, which as you know is not one of my skills. I managed to distract myself with Argo and Doctor Who for awhile but then something happened and I just couldn't take it anymore. This woman has been jazzercising or whatever in front of me when she discovered the jump seat for the flight attendant to sit in. She pulled down the seat, put her hands on it and began doing some sort of squat type of thing on the seat. "OK. That's it. Y'all have got to go! This ain't the gym. Go on. Get out." I literally yelled that at the hoard of Chinese people hanging out in front of my seat. Chinese Jane Fonda looked at me and said, "This is a long flight and people need to stretch their legs." And I said, "I know, but this is insane and I've been watching it for 6 hours. Take it somewhere else." And that's how I got all those people out of my face. Yea, that happened. And given the opportunity, I'd do it again.
- Some people were jealous of my exit row seat. A little while later I decided to get up and use the bathroom. I opened the door (flawlessly I might add) and went inside. I few moments later I emerged and discovered that there was a random Chinese man now occupying the once empty seat in between me and another member of our team. Apparently this man decided he'd hop up to our row for a little nap. I looked at my team member like, "What the heck?" and he shrugged back. So I sat back down in a very confused manner. I mean, I'd already yelled at about a dozen Chinese people...on the one hand you'd think my reputation would've preceded me throughout the plane and this dude would've stayed in his own seat. On the other hand, I didn't exactly want to be that psycho white lady on the plane who yells at all the Chinese people. Luckily a flight attendant came by in about 20 minutes and woke the man up and told him to go back to his seat because you have to speak English to be able to sit in the exit row on a Delta flight. I'd like to tell you that this was the only time that happened. Nope. Towards the end of the flight stuff starts flying over the seat from the row behind us. Some lady decided to upgrade herself by one row. She quickly got the same instructions to move back to her own seat.
So the flight was insane, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express that night. The continental breakfast at the Beijing Holiday Inn Express was quite an experience. First of all, they put out quite a spread. It was impressive! I took a breakfast bar with me because I wasn't sure what I'd be able to eat, here's what I found: eggs (scrambled and hard boiled), "chicken nuggets" (pork and chicken sausage), mini corn on the cob, some sort of green vegetable, porridge, spaghetti, toast, beans, rice, watermelon, juice. I did get to watch a man eat toast with a chopstick...apparently you just stab it. I'm not sure why that works better than your hand, but I guess it does.
Our next flight was from Beijing to Kunming. That flight was about 3 hours long and it did not have personal air vents. Apparently the Chinese people get cold very easily, so the flight was miserably hot. So there I am, sweating like a whore in church and out comes the hot meal. The smell of the meal was overwhelmingly terrible. I'm not sure what shade of white/green my face was but it was probably disturbing. I felt like I was about to vomit. I got up to go to the bathroom and splash water on my face, and guess what came out of the faucet? Freaking hot water. Thankfully I fell asleep for the duration of the flight.
Our final flight was from Kunming to Shangrila and it was only an hour long (and the plane had air vents!). Kozo and Toshiko picked us up at the airport and drove us to The Olive Inn which would be our home for the next two weeks. And that's when we completely passed out!