Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hello from China!

Had to leave the house a 5 in the morning so that I could be at Joe Bratta’s (Director of International Purchasing) house in northern Illinois by 8. Arrive at his house only to find out that our flight has been cancelled. He has been to China 22 times and has never had this happen to him. Yay. We go to O’hare anyways hoping to find another flight to China. We are supposed to fly from O’Hare in Chicago to Shanghai on United Airlines. We ended up getting our tickets transferred to American Airlines. Can they check our bags at the UA counter? No. We have to go to the AA counter, and since this is O’Hare, that means we need to take a tram to a different section. We get there to check our bags and she asks us why we transferred. We mentioned that the UA flight was cancelled and she mentioned a phrase that will chill any traveler to the bone … “Wow that’s weird, because we are overbooked? Shit. But it gets better. The plane is already boarding. But at least the terminal is close, right? Not so much. So we have to haul ass halfway across the airport to make the plane, which we are not even sure is going to have enough seats. Of course, by the time we get there, my fat ass is sweating, but we finally get a little bit of good news. We have seats and can board immediately. Just what you want to sit next to on a 14 hour flight, a fat sweaty guy.

So I settle in and get ready for a marathon flight. We are flying a 777, which is a little bit smaller than the 747, but newer, and includes an individual screen for each passenger. Nice touch. Hopefully I’ll watch a few good movies, sleep a few hours and be there before I know it. After a decent take-off, I take a look at the movie selections and see that they are headlined by Paul Blart – Mall Cop. Yikes. Other movies include The International, The Shopaholic, and Speed Racer. Truly, a group of movies that will be enjoyed for all time. I watched all of them, except Paul Blart, I couldn’t make it through 15 minutes of that one. Fortunately, I had brought along some Unisome. I figure one of those should help propel me to blissful sleep. Not so much. I felt nothing. The best I could do was rest my eyes a few times throughout the flight. Believe me when I say that 14 hours cooped up in a plane is far too long. It’s one of those instances where you take a look at the clock and think, we must be 8 hours into this thing. Only to realize that it has only been 3 hours and you aren’t even over Alaska yet. But overall, I can’t complain about the actual flight. We had clear skies, and I didn’t have anyone annoying sitting next to me.

Finally, we reached Shanghai. I am ready to leave. Then an announcement comes over the PA. The Chinese Board of Health (or whatever they call it) is inspecting all incoming passengers for illness. I guess this whole Swine Flu thing really has them worried. So they make us stay in our seat while they take our temperature with an infrared thermometer they put on our head. So on walk 6 people, all wearing full Ebola-type gear. They have the full body suit, the mask, and the goggles. Slowly they make their way through the cabin taking everyone’s temp. Then, one of the funnier things that has happened so far occurred. This was a rather odd circumstance. It is not often that you get your temperature taken by 6 people in haz-mat suits. So people were taking out their phones and cameras and taking pictures of the people. That’s when a flight attendant comes over the intercom and requests that we please not take pictures of the people in the suits. Are you kidding me? Don’t take pictures? I have to say, if I didn’t want attention, I sure as hell wouldn’t wear a big white suit and goggles. Just ridiculous. Also, another tiny thing I found funny. On the survey they had us fill out, there were a few questions about whether or not we felt any symptoms. One of the symptoms was fatigue. Did they just ask a bunch of people who were on a 14 hours flight if they were fatigued? It looks like everyone is sick. Just dumb.
Finallly, they were done and we were able to get out of the plane and stretch our legs. We didn’t have any problems with customs and were picked up by our contact here in China.

I will write more as the trip progresses. Thank you for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

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