I flew back in at around 1:00 AM, just after New Year’s. We were supposed to come in around 8:00 PM earlier that night, but a luggage mis-arrangement and snowstorm later, we were still on a plane as the year turned. At least we had a good view of the whole city’s firework.
The flights to China are always interesting. After a 2 1/2 hour jump to Chicago, it’s at least another 11 hours. My strategy is sleep: I don’t sleep the night before, then set my watch to the destination time zone and sleep appropriately on the plane. It’s a jump on jet lag.
Sleeping on a plane is itself something of a challenge. In the air, I never feel quite right. A minor stomachache, not helped by the unpalatable food, makes me slightly uncomfortable. And the butt fatigue from sitting too long builds as the flight goes on. Fortunately, I don’t need to sleep to reduce tiredness. I need to be unconscious.
The waking hours, however, aren’t always bad. I’ve learned strangers can be both nice and interesting when you prompt them. Flying to Shanghai, I met a grad student at Mizzou studying textile management. I found him fascinating, as he was a Chinese guy raised in China and now exposed to western culture. He found the opposite in me, a Chinese kid raised in western culture, but with a nagging ethnicity and only recent look seriously into it. How ironic that perhaps the best perspective I got on China was soaring miles high over the Pacific Ocean.
What I found most interesting was how uninvolved he seemed with China’s political situation, especially having been to the U.S. Nowadays, any discussion of modern-day China brings up the communism that westerners seem to disapprove of and ridicule. I found it ridiculous that I couldn’t access Wikipedia in China behind the “Great Firewall of China.” I couldn’t even read my own blog, or anything in the domain .blogspot.com (though I could reach blogger.com to write).
I guess it’s just what we know, what we’re raised with. I found it quite annoying that the water I drank or even brushed my teeth with had to be boiled first. Cold water at a restaurant was risky. Water machines, not water fountains in public places. Boy am I glad to be home.