It is 7 in the morning in Seoul, which makes it 5 p.m. in Houston. I know this because my laptop still has the Houston time and not because I am really apt to my current surroundings. I promised to blog while I was on my trip, and so here is my first blog post.
Day one began with a 1 a.m. flight out of Houston to Beijing. TSA was up to their typical uproarious, non-committal selves, yelling stuff like, “Everything in boxes”, “The only thing in your pockets should be air”, and “We ain’t gonna do it for you.” But then again, if you’re working at 1 a.m., doing the same thing with merely the possible threat of finding a bottle of antibacterial in someone’s carry-on, I guess there’s plenty of reason to not really be that enthusiastic about anything.
I finally made it through TSA, which as a credit to them, didn’t take very long. I walked to my gate, where nearly every seat was taken, except for seats right next to people. People of any culture seem to not find it difficult to sit within a group as long as they aren’t close to each other. Anyway, I sat down in front of a man from Nanching who soon began making conversation. Rather delightful person. He made some jokes, as did I, and we left it at that. Finally we began to board the plan. I have never understood why people love to be first in that line to get on a plane. After all, we are all headed to the same place: a plane. I don’t mind being late in those lines. As Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first.” So in my case, I guess I was first.
The line was still pretty long behind me when I gave the crewmember my ticket. Of course, the line went dead after trying to scan my ticket and we had to wait a minute. They said something about having to delete some information to which I quickly responded, “Just make sure you don’t delete my ticket.” The moment quickly passed and I was walking toward the plane.
We were flying Air China on a Boeing 777. I’ve never been on a plane this large and it seemed to go forever, especially since I was close to that end. 54A. Yeesh. I asked the flight attendant if there were any seats in the back where I was going and she laughed and said, “Maybe not.” I anticipated make some boxes or milk crates, but there was my seat, next to the window, with two people already seated.
I was in luck. The person I sat right next to was a young girl, Ying Pan by name, from Hunan, and was currently a researcher for the University of Houston. She was going home for two weeks to be with family. She was very nice and very funny.
Fourteen hours later, after reading some of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a book purchased by my good friend, Stephanie Renfro, watching “The Magnificent Seven” (Yule Brenner version), sleeping uncomfortably, chatting with Ying, and staring into nothing, we landed.
The friendship I made on the plane with Ying was very helpful. She made sure I got to the correct train so I could find the Airport Express out of Beijing Airport and into Beijing. Sure, I nearly got my hands cut off by the first train when the door closed without response to my hands and foot, but I eventually made it to the Airport Express.
It was about 5 a.m. in Beijing when I sat waiting for the express. I noticed a girl with a backpack that stood about as tall as she did. She meandered around waiting for the express. Finally it showed up. I wondered if I would talk to her or let an opportunity to chat it up with a pretty Asian girl pass me by. Did I or didn’t I? I guess you’ll find out in my next blog post.