heading home (tbt)

I’ve been back in the United States for about six months now, and although I find myself reminiscing about China, I have no regrets about leaving. Sure I’ll complain about how expensive things are in New York and how I’m much busier with work here, but it is so nice to feel like you’re at home.

For me, being back in the US means feeling like I belong, like I’m not an outsider. Not having to alter my speech into that dreaded Chinglish or hide my accent so people could understand me easier. It also means having access to great healthcare, and not worrying so much about food safety, or product safety, or water safety. It means being able to establish a routine, and not having to continually make friends. In Shanghai it was actually much easier to make friends, but only because people were constantly coming and going, so everyone was more open to meeting new people. But it got tedious. No one really lasts in Shanghai. Heck the city itself is in a state of constant flux/evolution.

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I was recounting to a friend how I love flying, because I generally just fall asleep, so long hauls usually aren’t a big deal. But remember that one time I flew to Shanghai and got sick? I think that was mostly because of nerves. Because I was so terrified that I had just made a huge mistake by moving to China, and since I was already on the plane headed to China, it was too late and I was screwing myself over. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a good thing I ended up going to China. I learned a lot about myself, and I feel like I grew up a lot as well. I gained valuable work experience, made great friends, traveled to amazing places, and learned what I really wanted out of life. So even though I was pretty much convinced that moving to China was the wrong decision, I don’t regret any of it.

On my flight back to the US (or rather to Vancouver first, then the US), I slept like a baby. Well, I slept like a baby after the turbulence died down and they moved me from a squished window seat to a free row, but I probably would’ve slept like a baby regardless. No nerves or mini freak-outs whatsoever. Moving back to the US? Definitely the right decision. No questions about it.

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airline food for new year’s eve

Happy New Year’s Eve! Yeah, I know, you thought I died or something, right? Well, I’ve been … busy. And lazy. It’s cold! My apartment has crap insulation and when it’s so cold and I’m all snuggled up in my blanket next to the heater, I want nothing more than to watch Miss Marple and drift off to sleep.

But today I’m out and about! Although I’ve spent the last two hours sitting and waiting for my delayed flight to Korea. I wonder, what is it about waiting for flights to Korea that inspires me to post?

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Anyhow, because the flight was delayed, they handed out meal boxes consisting of rice, tofu, vegetarian chicken (a tofu patty), and lion’s head (pork meatballs). It was on the level of cafeteria food, meaning not good. But hey, it’s more than a US airline would do!

Have a happy 2015, everyone!

adventures in a missed flight

Today I had an exciting new experience: I missed a flight. Oh my gracious goodness. First time for everything, right? And I’m normally so responsible! So here’s a photo essay to document the experience. Because I have lots of time to kill before my rescheduled flight.

My flight was scheduled for 8:25 AM, and lately I’ve been too busy to prepare, so I decided to stay up to pack and grab a taxi at 5ish. I closed my eyes for a second and the next thing I know, it’s 7 AM. Whups. Threw stuff in my suitcase, ran out the door, and hailed a taxi. It’s about an hour’s drive, so it was obvious I wasn’t going to make it, but in case there was another morning flight, I thought getting to the airport ASAP was priority.

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In the cab I called the travel agent, and when I was told there were no flights until the afternoon, I had the taxi stop at Twosome Coffee instead, because coffee makes everything better. Newly opened on Taixing Road, between West Nanjing Road and Wujiang Road, it’s located in a great location next door to Cachet Boutique, which is a nice boutique hotel I’ve been working with. The coffee was pretty good, I had an Americano … because I’m patriotic like that.

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Was waiting for the agent to call back with availability, and decided to once again head to the airport, this time taking the Line 2 metro, which is slower than a cab but cheaper. On the train they called and I booked a new ticket leaving at 3 PM.

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I was already way far out in Pudong at that point, so it would’ve ridiculous to go home to wait just to come back an hour later. I arrived at the Pudong International Airport at about 10:30 AM.

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Check in wouldn’t start until 12:30, so I chilled. Wandered around the few snack shops and bookstores.

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Ended up at Burger King even though I had BK for dinner last night … not many options for food outside security. Tried their chili cheese fries, aka Cheese and Spicy Beef Sauce French Fries. There wasn’t enough sauce for the amount of fries and the sauce was too sweet, but they were decent enough and today’s a day for new experiences.

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The check-in process was easy enough, but since I only have a carry-on with me, I much would’ve preferred to use a kiosk, but alas, China Southern Airlines isn’t that technologically advanced.

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Then there was customs, which I breezed through like a boss. I’m so glad they’ve gotten over the whole taking off your shoes part of the screening process! I’m by no means a frequent flier, but I’ve flown enough to know how to get through without getting stopped, having anything confiscated, or beeping in metal detectors – lessons that were hard learned (ah, my favorite embroidery scissors … I’m sorry I had to abandon you in Xi’an!).

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After the security check I still had over an hour, so I browsed the duty free shops.

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And the other duty free shops.

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And the others too. Might as well, right?

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And wandered up and down the terminal. What did I find? More gates – yawn.

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Finally I sat down at my assigned gate, took a deep breath, and opened my suitcase. Wow that was a mess. When I say I threw things in this morning, I wasn’t kidding. And yep, I forgot my toiletries bag. Sigh.

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A gate change brought me to the lower level … which is the same area I waited in on my way to Hong Kong and to Tokyo. Huh.

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Boarding! Ciao! And only six and a half hours behind schedule. It’s been fun (not really)!

craziest flight of my life

I’ve experienced long delays and heavy turbulence and air sickness before – those are fairly typical annoyances that make me miserable. But my flight from Hong Kong back to Shanghai a few weeks back was downright nuts.

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Everything started off ideally. I got to the airport early (as usual) and had no problem checking in. We even boarded on time! The experience went downhill from there. First of all, before takeoff two girls got into a crazy catfight regarding overhead bin space. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! I get that tensions run high when traveling, but how does a minor disagreement regarding bin space escalate that fast into a full-on hair-pulling, Mandarin-shouting melee? A couple of flight attendants had to pull them apart and in less than a minute solved the problem by *gasp* moving luggage to a nearby empty bin! Crazy. But hey, we took off on time. And promptly encountered lots of turbulence.

Then came the major this-is-just-whack event, maybe half an hour or so into the flight. I woke up to an announcement asking for a doctor. Huh? You only hear that in the movies! Apparently one of the passengers was unconscious in the back of the plane (later got a text message from the airline saying he had symptoms of pneumonia) and we had to turn back to Hong Kong. The announcements were in Mandarin with very terse English translations, so it was a bit confusing for me (I find it hard to process foreign languages when sleep-deprived). Back in Hong Kong paramedics boarded and took the man off the flight, then police boarded and questioned people near the passenger. We eventually landed in Shanghai without incident around 4 AM.

I’ve heard of these kinds of things happening before, but I’ve flown a fair amount and never had such a ridiculous flight. Still never had a flight canceled or a bad landing or worse, so I’ll count my blessings. I never did hear more about that passenger. I hope he made it okay.

the beginning of the visa run

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I’m off to Hong Kong! And … my trip begins with a delay. Darn you smog!

I’m flying out of Pudong International Airport (PVG), which is quite a ways away from where I live. I was afraid I was going to be late (I always think I’m going to be late yet always end up arriving far too early) so I shilled out for a taxi instead of taking the subway. Stupid move. I could’ve saved about 30 bucks and still had plenty of time. Sheesh.

worst long-haul flight ever

I was really excited about coming to China, and it really could be an amazing experience. But that voice in my head that’s saying “You’re an idiot” just keeps getting louder. I’m not extremely superstitious, but I am somewhat. So when I got sick on my flight from the States to China, I took that as a bad omen of things to come. And now I’m really hoping I haven’t made a huge mistake.

For perspective, my stomach is practically made of steel. I rarely throw up. I never got food poisoning in China. Or India. I’ve done long-hauls before. When I came to China a few years ago, it was my first solo long-haul and I had a middle seat. I survived that. But this time … not good. This time was also my first long-haul with American Airlines. Never again. Between the crappy food (worse than even United’s meager offerings), extremely lackluster film selection (seriously, they had maybe three watchable films on the smallest of screens), my own nerves, and the sheer uncomfortableness of the seats … I could barely sleep. And so, feeling absolutely miserable and exhausted, I got sick. So sick, I actually started crying. It was that bad. One of the other passengers I passed on the way to the back of the plane was really concerned and really freaked out.

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One redeeming quality of AA? Mini bottles of wine. At the back of the plane, I stopped by and asked the flight attendants for some wine. With me looking like absolute hell, they handed me two bottles and one commented that she was surprised more people weren’t drinking, because “It’s the only way to get through these flights.” Sigh.

Moral of the story: Avoid American Airlines. But if you must fly AA for a long-haul, take advantage of the wine.

smallest airport ever – flagstaff, az

The Flagstaff airport is pitiful. I spent the weekend at the Grand Canyon (woohoo! more on that in a later post) and I flew home out of the Flagstaff airport. Oh goodness. It’s one of those miniscule airports where it takes a minute to walk from one end to the other and security is closed until half an hour before the flight takes off and its flights are only to or from Phoenix. And yet … it appears they have a Calder mobile. Wait, what?

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I almost didn’t notice it at first because it’s not placed very well and the black metal gets lost among the wooden trusses. Ugh. When I first saw the mobiles, I thought they were pretty cool. And they still are pretty cool, but they’re EVERYWHERE. And that makes seeing them more annoying than enjoyable now. Calder ran a good thing into the ground.

Oh, and the plane was so tiny (befitting of the tiny airport) and the ride was short but bumpy … I’ve never been so scared flying. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be visiting that airport again any time soon.

ionic blooms

I haven’t posted in a good long while. Ugh, who knew graduate school could entail so much work? Well, here’s a drawing I did a good long while ago.

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According to my sketchbook, I drew this June 10, 2010. I remember drawing it on the plane ride from the US to China and some of the Chinese people nearby were watching me do all these drawings and kept asking me about what I was drawing. My Chinese was pretty lacking at the time so the only way I could explain it was to say “flowers” but I don’t think they quite understood. Ha. The plane ride itself was pretty horrible (middle seat for a REALLY long flight) so I was really glad to be able to talk to someone to break up the boredom.

Eventually I’ll get around to turning it into an Illustrator file, but right now I just don’t have that kind of time. Sigh. Off to do more homework now.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]