The Great Wall, a billon people, inventors of paper and writing and god knows what else, rice fields, communism, atheism, Tibet, Tiananmen Square: China conjures up so many pictures in my mind and yet here I am, living in it.
My wife and I moved to Shanghai, China about two weeks ago. The reasons for this move are multi-faceted but basically come down both of us being unemployed and my sister landing jobs for us in Shanghai.
I plan for this to be a weekly posting whereupon I will describe my adventures in the Far East. I’m a little behind as we’ve been here two weeks and I haven’t written a word, but we just now got Internet, so I’ll play catch-up for a bit.
The day before we left we attended church services with my wife’s parents and mine. My mother-in-law was already a wreck with nerves and tears, but she held her composure throughout the service. She has a deep faith in God and she was putting all of it in Him to keep us safe.
My parents have been attending this congregation since I was a baby and it is full of the types of old ladies who like to approach me now and tell me how cute and little I once was. Towards the end of the service the preacher asked me and the wife to come forward so he could pray for us. It was an odd experience made even odder by the fact that he called us missionaries going forth unto a very dangerous country.
We are not missionaries and Shanghai is not all that dangerous, but none of this kept my mother-in-law from crying, weeping, and sighing.
Our flight pattern was Tulsa to Chicago to Shanghai. We had to be at the airport at 5 in the A.M. We had a two-hour layover in Chicago and it was a 14-hour trip straight through from there, making it about 20 hours total travel.
As we were flying west and crossed the International Date Line, we never once saw the sun set, even though we spent nearly an entire day in the air.
Fourteen hours is a long time to be in a plane no matter how you cut it. The movies were of the sort that the only time I would consider watching them is when I am trapped on a large jet tube flying thirty some thousand feet above Alaska and strapped into a small seat. There was something about Nicolas Cage being a waiter to Keri Russell and being able to see two minutes into the future. So he always got her order right, even before she ordered it. Or something.
I had planned for bad in-flight movies and had pre-loaded a few flicks on my iPod. Whipping out that little miracle device I plugged in This Film Is Not Yet Rated and began to actually enjoy myself.
Unfortunately a couple of kids on the plane befriended each other and began enjoying their own selves – this by playing in the aisle, mainly right beside me. Beside the loudness of their giggles, I quickly realized that my little documentary, while maybe not rated, was full of all kinds of inappropriateness. It is a documentary on the movie ratings system in the United States and shows plenty of things that had to be cut to avoid a NC-17 rating, mainly undulating naked bodies. The last thing I wanted on this very long flight was to get a lecture from a new mommy over me watching pornography around children. For a bit I cradled the pod in my hands to keep little eyes away, but then I gave up and went back to Nicolas Cage.
About this time the child behind me decided to start kicking my chair repeatedly and for the rest of the flight. Periodically I tried to sleep, but the child one row over and by the window decided to be the only person on the plan to raise his blinds. Then lower them. Then raise them again. Each rise giving my tired eyes a gigantic burst of heavenly light.
After what seemed like a lifetime the plane finally landed and we were in China! Our overhead bags unloaded and we lazily wandered off the plane and into the inert mess they call customs. We declared nothing but still there was a long line to get through. Or I should say many long lines.
The lines were divided into Chinese nationals and foreigners. Of course the foreigner lines were longer and we chose one at random. We chose poorly as the family in front had apparently forgotten to fill out any of their forms and were now attempting to do so, while we stood and waited.
It must have been shift change time as new officers formed new lines as older ones packed up their things and left. This caused great amounts of confusion and chaos and we all shuffled to get closer to the front. We quickly jumped into a new line that looked like it would move quickly.
Again, we chose poorly for there was some other problem. More shuffling and waiting and finally we got our passports stamped and all was well. My sister and her husband met us at the baggage claim, where we easily found our luggage as I had plastered long pieces of brightly covered tape upon their backs.
We crawled into the company van and plowed through this strange giant city. Though it was two in the morning our time, it was but three in the afternoon China time. Knowing we’d do better if we stayed up until evening we hung out with the sister and husband a bit. They took us to a little American diner where we feasted on hamburgers and Coca Colas .
Finally evening came and we checked ourselves into the company hotel. We were exhausted, ragged, dirty and bewildered, but we were finally there. Or here. Or home. For now.Powered by Sidelines