Hello everyone, I’m back! Forgive me for not posting while I was away; my site was blocked in China (as was facebook and youtube).
The plan is now to post daily to update the whole trip. I’d like to put everything in one post, but I just can’t figure out how to do that without making it crazy long. So sit back, relax, and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and experience my time in China 🙂
Leaving for the airport was hectic, as is our family tradition. My flight was leaving at 9:20, meaning I had to be at the airport by 7:30, but we of course managed to make it there by 8:15. I was able to check in two bags (had to take some weight out of one of them) before quickly saying goodbye to my family and rushing to the gate. The carry on that I had with me quickly became really heavy, and I resolved to be much smarter about my packing in the future (I say this every time).
My first flight went to Chicago, and it was an uneventful flight, aside from my watch deciding to die on me (how will I know the time?!?!?!). I had about 45 minutes until my flight to Shanghai, so I quickly grabbed some breakfast (including the best hot chocolate of my LIFE; milk makes all the difference in the world) and settled into my 13.5 hour flight to Tokyo. I’ve always been lucky in having at least one interesting seat mate: a Bulgarian woman teaching Japanese Studies at a university in Chicago invited to Japan to give a lecture on her research. She was fascinating, but unfortunately kept wanting to talk every time I tried to read. The movies on this flight were lousy.. I really have no desire to watch Selena Gomez in anything, but when the huge TV is right in front of my face, I can’t help but watch. Sigh.
I wonder why everyone kept looking at me strangely when I got up to stretch? It was a long flight and I didn’t want to be stuck in my seat the entire time! They fed us quite often, and I didn’t feel any hunger or thirst (but my skin felt SO dry.. thanks mom for the tiny moisturizer you packed in my bag). Arriving in Japan was tiring, as I’d tried to sleep the last few hours of the flight. The airport was pristine, and people were all waiting in lines calmly and quietly. I garnered a bit of attention at the airport, but I didn’t really pay any attention to people staring.
While waiting to get rechecked and rescanned before entering the plane, a lady came through security and directed us to another line. We were then told that our carry-ons had to be less than 30lbs (previously 40) and that no liquids were permitted at all. I had some contact lens solution, but they let me take it on board. In the terminal, I found a little free wifi corner with about 100 people clumped together. I sat in a chair I found and emailed my family to update them on my status,a s well as Shuyan to let her know I was merely hours away. Once on the 3.5 hour flight to Shanghai, I sat next to super hyper college girls who were excited to be going home for vacation. I slept through most of this flight, waking up only for food. Now I’m not too much of a picky eater, but this food freaked me out a bit as I couldn’t identify most of it. I found I was eating the noodles incorrectly when I noticed everyone else had poured their sauce on top and were mixing it with the vegetables; I’d been eating it plain. The additions made it taste a lot better 🙂 The cutest part was the dessert: two mini pancakes sandwiched around a bit of chocolate mousse. I wish I’d remembered to pack my camera in my carry-on; it was so cute!
After arriving in Shanghai, I went through immigration quite easily. I got my bags and as soon as I walked out of baggage claim, heard my name shouted. I saw Shuyan and her father already waiting, and we ran and hugged each other in the middle of the airport (this was a spectacle as the Chinese are a generally calm people). We chatted a million miles a minute as we waited for her uncle’s flight to arrive, and I went and did my currency exchange. We left and drove the 2.5 hours to Huzhou before arriving at the hotel and going up to sleep.
It was a hugely eventful trip, and I’m so glad everything worked out well! I was certain that my bags would be lost, but luckily everything was 100% intact. Until tomorrow.. my first day in China awaits 🙂