DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

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People to People Technical Communications Professional Delegation to China—Day 1

I was up at 3:30, and after showering called Joe at 3:45 to make sure he was up. He arrived at 4:15, and dropped me off at United in Terminal C at 4:30. There was a very edgy woman directing people to the kiosks and helping them check in. She was a little abrasive, but at least she had it going on.

"Bobby" worked at the terminal behind the kiosk, and tried to help me complete my check-in, since my leg from Chicago to Beijing was booked separately by People to People, and I couldn't get access to it. After at least 15 minutes, he let edgy lady try, and she wasn't able to do it either.

This is one example of how her edginess manifested itself:

After taking over from Bobby's dismal failure, every time she pressed something he nodded his head, and said things like, "Yes, that's what I did. Yes. It's not going to let you do that. Yes, I tried that."

She interrupted him and said, "Stop talking out loud while I'm trying things!"

"I'll just pick up my bag in Chicago and check it on that next flight myself. I have a four-hour layover," I said, and that's what we ended up doing.

"I'll put a priority tag on it so it'll be unloaded first for you," she offered. I'd never heard of such a thing.

The 6:00AM Chicago flight was pretty full, and let's see, whose face can I put a look of surprise on that the luggage situation is just out of control now that they're charging to check a bag.

As the last 15 or so people were coming on the plane, the flight attendant from the back said, "Ladies and gentleman all of the luggage space back here is full. Please start looking for somewhere to put your bag at the entrance of the plane as you head back here." Half of them had to plane-side check their bags.

I drifted in and out of sleep all the way to Chicago. I was worried about sounding like I had a cold, as people on planes really don't go for that sort of thing, but the first thing the girl sitting in the middle seat next to me did when she sat down was sniffle.

I had to walk at least a half-mile in the Chicago airport to get to "Baggage Claim Area 3." The first thing I saw when my Chicago to Beijing flight came up on the check-in screen was, "Flight Delayed One Hour." Make that a 5-hour layover.

After that, I stood in a Disneylandesque line for security. It wound back and forth five times, so I got to see a couple of hotties several times in passing.

At the beginning of my layover, I found some booths along the wall with outlets, fired up my laptop, attached my iPod to my laptop to save all of my battery power for the upcoming 13.5-hour flight, and caught up my blog.

I looked for a free wireless connection, and actually saw one that said, "FreePublicWifi," but it wouldn't connect. Bastards.

I checked in with Robert by phone, and caught him just before he got into the shower before heading to work.

As it turned out, the Beijing flight wasn't delayed, and during the three or so hours I had to wait, I had breakfast at McDonald's and rehearsed my presentation, which made me look like a bag lady talking to herself in the terminal. Who cares? I'll never see these people again.

When it got to be within an hour of departure, I headed to gate B16, where I found several other People to People (P2P) people (how redundant), although all of them were with the other P2P groups, and not the other two people traveling from Chicago with my Technical Communication group.

The other two groups were Ground Water folks and nurses, and the nurses had a specialty, which was neurothopy, I think. One nurse was very, very heavy, which is never something one likes to see. There was only one "ground water guy," and he had a very talkative (to the group) wife, and made several comments about her husband as if he weren't sitting right there listening, and I was constantly checking out his reaction to see if he was thinking, "There she goes again," which is certainly what I would have been thinking had it been me. He seemed not at all phased.

An older couple (and you know they were old if they were older than me) sat next to me, and I had a fun exchange with the husband, who was totally into gadgets, especially any kind that you can get free service with, which is exactly how I am. Like me before I saw someone with one, he was not aware of the iPod Touch, and like me, the fact that you use it to access the Internet free without having to pay for a service, such as AT&T with the iPhone, appealed to him immensely. I predict he'll own one within the next few months.

One of the nurses was the super-organizer type, and she interacted with everyone across groups, so pretty much knew all of us. I kept looking for the other two people in my group, both women—Paula and Kathy. I'd seen a picture of Paula online, but I'm horrible about recognizing people from online, so had no luck.

At one point, I got out my list of "Who's Flying From Where," called her cell phone number, but reached her voice mail. There was no cell phone number listed for Kathy. A little while after that, the head nurse (head as "in charge," not head as in "fellatio") met Paula, and when Paula mentioned she was with the Technical Communication group, the nurse said, "He's a technology guy over there; the one with the shirt," and sent her my way.

I had my Eye-Bee-M shirt on today, and the charge nurse kept referring to me as "the guy with the shirt," which I thought was cute. What I did not think was cute was how she kept calling our group "the technology group," when we clearly said "technical communication" whenever we referred to ourselves. But I digress... a tad bitterly I guess...

Paula and I had a nice chat while we waited to board. She has been working really hard at learning Chinese, and it showed. I'm going to stay in her shadow as much as possible, when it comes to English not being a viable option. I've also decided that I'm going to try and hang out at the end of our delegation whenever we're altogether, so that as we're leaving for instance and everyone is saying goodbye, by the time it gets to me, perhaps I would have heard everyone say something enough that I can just repeat it. Lame. Between that and my point-and-grunt LingoLook, I'm not going to impress anyone in China.

On board, walking toward the back of the plane to my 36D seat, I locked eyes with a woman whose were locked on mine, and we both smiled. "Kathy?"


Evidently the charge nurse had alerted her to my outfit as well.

Speaking of the charge nurse, once in my 36D seat, she stood up about four rows ahead of me in the middle seat, 32E, and yelled to me, "Would you mind switching seats with me, since you're in the middle anyway, and my friend is sitting right next to you?"

I did and moved up four rows and to the right one seat, where I ended up between two American sisters traveling together to the left of me, and a Chinese husband and wife traveling together to the right of me.

We ended up leaving about an hour-and-a-half late, so at around 2:00 instead of 12:30, due to a "mechanical problem" that had something to do with some valve that controls the air-conditioning on the ground, and then is used as back-up power in the air. It got very warm on the plane for just a little while, since they had to turn off the air-conditioning to fix the problem.

A watched a little bit of a Sogourney Weaver movie, the name of which I never caught, but after starting to join in the middle of two other movies that I also didn't know, it was the only one that was compelling enough to keep my interest. And that's mostly because I like Sogourney Weaver, though I couldn't recall her name, but did know "she was that woman from Alien." Eventually I asked the sister sitting next to me what her name was, and that's how I know it was Sogourney Weaver. I want to Google her movies when I have Internet access to get the name of it. The actor that played her son was hot.

"Lunch" was served about two hours after we left, so around 4:00. The flight attendant asked, "Chicken or beef?" and I chose chicken, but as soon as I opened it, I thought, "Glad she asked; I got beef anyway." However, it turned out to actually be chicken, but it was in a dark brown gravy that made it look like beef. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The gravy was soy-based, and the chicken was mixed with noodles and vegetables. It also came with a salad with 1000 Island dressing, which is my dressing of choice, a roll with butter, and a most delicious thick, chocolate fudge brownie for dessert.

After dinner, I tried to run through my presentation again for timing, but I just wasn't into it, so stopped. From the map option on the individual screens on the backs of the seats in front of us:

Distance to Destination: 5125
Distance Traveled: 1513
Ground Speed: 562 MPH
Altitude: 32,000 Feet
Outside Temperature: -72° F
Head Wind (not to be confused with the head nurse): 64 MPH

About halfway (6 hours) through the trip, I was struck by being "betwixt and between":

The map on the video screen on the back of the seat in front of me, showed me between the eastern and western hemispheres.

I was in the very middle seat of the middle section of the plane—AB CDEFG HI.

I was between two "families"—sisters to the left of me, a husband and wife to the right of me.

I was caught between meals——was it cereal or soup. (Turned out to be soup.)

I was between English speakers and Chinese speakers.

What's bad about being in the very middle seat, between people you're not traveling with on either side, is that you always have to bother someone you don't know to get out. I tended to favor the sisters, as they spoke English and were nice, although I did slip out once to the right, when the husband of the couple spilled some water and got up to tend to that.

Later after we finished our soup, I looked over his way to find his upper teeth in his hand, slipped back in shortly after. To be more accurate, I think it was a partial.

I slept, albeit restlessly, for about four hours waking up about an hour before landing, when we were offered "Lasagna or a Turkey Sandwich?"

I chose the turkey sandwich as I didn't feel like messing with hot food, but the sandwich turned out to be hot—covered with melted cheese on a killer kaiser roll. I'm one of the few people I know who likes airline food.

It also came with a small container of Strawberry-Banana yogurt, and a "Raspberry Knot" shortbread cookie. I dislike rasberry, so I ate all around the knot.

Since we've passed the International Date Line, and it's Tuesday, October 21st now, I'm closing today's entry, and will pick up here in tomorrow's entry.
Tags: people-to-people, travel, vacation

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