Thursday, September 07, 2006

Arrival

The journey started at the airport in Chicago. My previous flight to Hong Kong was a very pleasant experience. We flew out on New Years Day, so the plane was almost empty. Cat and I were able to spread out over 4 seats, and only had one 60 minute layover. So this time, I was really looking forward to flying again.

Unfortunately, I can't say my experience was nearly as pleasant. I decided to bring a friend's acoustic guitar, so that counted as one of my pieces of checked luggage. My other bag was filled only with clothes and was exactly at the maximum. That meant that I had 12 books, 3 pairs of shoes, and my computer that had to be carried-on in my pack. This made my 6 hours worth of layovers quite a chore.

One quite strange note: In one of the airports in China that I had a layover in, while I waited for my flight I noticed a free magazine for passengers. If I recall, there was a scantily clad woman on the front. I thought this was a little odd, such a risque cover on a free magazine here in China. Nevertheless, I decided to see what of the magazine I could read. It looked like any other general purpose type free magazine. And like other magazines of this type, there were many scantily clad women throughout the magazine. But what was even more surprising than this, were the 5 or 6 women that were nonchalantly wearing no shirt at all! It was presented in a way like it was no big deal. I couldn't believe it! I was in a public place, reading a free magazine that the airport gives to all passengers, in an extremely sexually conservative country. I was, and still remain baffled by this. I put the magazine back on the rack and got on the plane.

One of the teachers was at the airport to meet me. On the hour and a half long taxi ride, I was pretty distracted looking at the amazing scenery. I really did try to have a conversation with him, but this place was blowing my mind. The pictures cannot even come close to doing this place justice. You really just have to see it to believe it. The mountains are not just one place, they're everywhere for a 100 mile radius. Going through the towns were incredibly interesting too. There was more happening, so it was even more distracting than the mountains. It looked like the places and shanty towns we saw in Thailand from the train, but were never able to get close to.

At this point, I feel like I should have been dead, but I was actually pretty awake. The plane left at what would be 7:00pm Indiana time. I had 20 hours on a plane, 6 hours of layovers, and a 2 hour taxi ride. I figured I had been awake for almost 40 hours. Luckily, it was only 11:00 am at that time in China and I had at least another 9 hours to go before I could let myself go to bed.

I met the rest of the team here later that day. They're all really great people. This was already quite a huge relief for me. Not getting along with the team here was my biggest worry about coming. I've had so many bad experiences with people who are like-minded in this regard, but I could tell within just a few hours with the team that this would not be a problem. It was such a load off my back.

One new dynamic that I guess I knew ahead of time, but it never really sunk in, was the fact that there are kids coming out of every orifice here. Between two of the families, there are a total of six kids. I guess, I was warned before by others, "I hope you like kids...". I remember hearing them tell me this, but I think I totally forgot. I guess I figured I'd be pretty removed from them and could handle the kids in small doses. I didn't realize they would be pretty much everywhere all of the time. But I don't think any of this is a bad thing. Truth be told, I've never really experienced being around kids before. I don't even know if I like kids! I've never had the chance. I think this will be quite good for me.

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