Friday, August 26, 2005

Flying to Narita Airport

I started in Chicago today. My mother, my father, and Andrew took me to O’Hare Airport for a 12pm flight to Detroit. When I got to the ticket counter, though, the agent offered me an earlier flight. My layover in Detroit with my scheduled ticket was only going to be fifty minutes, which wouldn’t have left much time for delays, gate changes, and other problems that may have arisen. I opted for the earlier flight. It cut my time down with my parents and Andrew, but I think it probably worked out for the best.

On my now early flight to Detroit, I sat in seat 6E. When I saw it on my boarding pass, I thought that might be a pretty good place to sit. When I got in the plane, that suspicion was confirmed. There wasn’t a seat in front of me, and I was on the aisle. Mine was the first row to have three seats. Let’s talk about legroom. I knew I wasn’t going to be treated nearly so nicely on the long flight, so I enjoyed it thoroughly by falling asleep before take-off and awakening only 15 minutes before landing.

When I got into Detroit and sat in my waiting area, the clock read ten until one. The flight to Tokyo wasn’t scheduled to leave until 3.20pm. I’ve never minded layovers when I’ve traveled with other people. Alone, however, I was a little bored. I watched CNN for the first time in a long while. I don’t like television, and I was reminded why by watching the same seven stories loop with slight variation for about half an hour. I couldn’t take anymore of the doping allegations against Lance Armstrong and Tropical Storm Katrina, so I finally got up and sought some food.

I was happy to find the Mediterranean Grill near gate A51, only 21 away from where I needed to be. I had a pita filled with hummus and tabouli. The tabouli was surprisingly good. Seriously, I think it may be some of the best I’ve ever had, and that’s strange considering that it came from an airport. It was very fresh tasting. That’s enough about the tabouli, though. It was a mess to eat.

I boarded NW flight 11 a little before 3pm. While I was standing in line, the thought crossed my mind that I was going to be sitting by a baby. I dismissed the thought, but knew that the universe may be holding that trick in its bag. Of course, it was. I don’t know what I did to the universe lately. I had been trying to be so good. I want this trip to go well.

I walked down the aisle to find seat 24J. On the aisle seat was a Chinese woman with her crying, screaming, very unhappy baby. She was completely blocking my way in to the row, too. I moved into row 25 to wait for some people to pass, and then politely told her in Chinese that my seat was the middle one. I figured I must have done something really awful to the universe to get a baby on my left and a middle seat.

Oddly enough, though, the baby stopped crying. I thought the flight was going to be a harsh, “Welcome to China. Prepare to have your space invaded with this crash course,” kind of situation, but the baby was just hungry. I even managed to sleep for a little while. When I awakened, I asked the woman where they were flying today, and had a short conversation in Chinese. I was excited to know that she understood me.

Later, her friend, or father – I’m not sure what his relationship to her is – switched seats with her so she could take advantage of the empty seat next to his wife. I talked to this man for a while. We started the conversation in Chinese. He asked, “Are you Japanese?” I found this to be humorous for several reasons. “No, no. I’m American.” We talked about school and my scholarship. He studies in the United States, and he is going to be in Beijing for one month doing research. He said that he would give me his card before we got off the plane in case I had any problems.

Every Chinese person older than me that I have ever met has been so helpful in every way imaginable. What a nice cultural practice. I wish people could pick up on that in the United States. Fortunately, I get to participate in this lovely practice for a year. Maybe I can teach it to people when I return to the states.

My return is going to be such a long time from now. I’m having trouble realizing that I will be there to live, and not for a two week vacation. Two weeks is the longest I’ve ever been out of the country. A year will be quite a difference for me.


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