Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tues Evening

I now have a Chinese name: Shang Guan Xiao - Xiao Xiao to my friends (pronunciation guide - Shan Goo-an Shee-ow). It basically means Princess Laughter... Xiao is laughter and Shang Guan is a rare family name that is reserved for nobility/royalty. Maybe I'll have a kid I name Xiao... or it'll be my Chinese pen name...

I just got back from a party in the downstairs lobby with 3 of H's classes, only girls showed up (there's a dearth of boys in her classes, anyway, most only have 2, and there are 5 boys in one class, but only 4 come with any frequency...), which wasn't a problem. We solved the tree decorating thing by letting the students decorate the tree, then I carefully carried the tree upstairs with the decorations on it, H and I may tweak some of it or just leave it alone. The party was extra special because one of the ladies from H's company came and read a story about the 1st Xmas, which seemed to go over well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saturday and Sunday...

H has minimal Xmas spirit... I never really realized it until this week... (She says it's due to the over-commercialization of Xmas.) I suppose in the past I knew, but I forgot over the rest of the year... Is there anything more depressing than decorating a Christmas tree by yourself or trying to get excited about Christmas around someone who doesn't want to hear Christmas music? Inevitably. But for now I'm enjoying a bitty pity party...

Okay, party's over.

Since I last wrote, plenty has happened. Most of Saturday was spent lazing around in our pajamas (Matching flannel pajamas was my 1st Xmas gift to both of us, I'm definitely glad for them, especially since it is so cold outside, even though it's plenty warm inside...) (one of the company members has an unheated apartment which is larger, it's kinda sad, and I have to admit that I'm glad it's not me/H). Anyway, so we lazed around and watched an adorable Korean movie with a really good-looking lead actor, Daniel Henney, who's a Korean-American Korean actor/celebrity. You can see him on some Bean Pole clothing commercials on YouTube (with Gwyneth Paltrow). We stopped halfway through the movie to meet some of H's students for dinner. We weren't certain when exactly H had agreed to meet them, so we wound up chilling (literally) in the lobby of H's dorm for about 45 mins, and having our ears bent for about half that time by this guy called Cook... he was very bad at taking hints, and he "likes to make friends, especially American friends." Yeah, quite a guy. As we were escaping him to go back to H's room, the students came for us, so we went out after all. We had Mi-son again, and it was quite tasty again, but I had to leave far too many noodles and broth for my preference... then again, they are huge servings... We had fun chatting and getting to know each other. After we ate, we did KTV, aka karaoke. If you've ever read a manga or seen an Asian show with a karaoke scene, you would understand it, but as you likely haven't, I'll explain. Karaoke is a group thing, you and a bunch of friends (sometimes single friends looking for potential bfs/gfs) get a room which is decked out with a comfy couch (here, the room was decorated in orange, and the couch was a big U which took up the back wall and continued halfway along the other two walls... yeah...), table for drinks and snacks (which our group (5 girls) smuggled in), a big TV for the main screen, a smaller touch screen by the couch for choosing and queuing the songs, and some cool lighting effects. We KTVed for about 1 1/2 hrs, H and I found some random/fun English songs, I sang (too low) along with Frank Sinatra as he sang The Lady is a Tramp (one of my favorite Frankie songs). Most of the songs the other girls sang were in Chinese, so I had no clue what they were saying (one of the music videos had a young Jackie Chan), but one English song bothered H and me: G()d is a Girl... yeah, disturbing... very disturbing... and catchy... Thanks to the song, I thought about what that would imply, and I am exceeding and abundantly thankful it's not true... We got back, finished the movie, then meandered toward bed.

Sunday we woke up and got off to our meeting, we were among the last few to arrive. It was a good meeting, we got to hear from some who visited another city and had good talks with the people there, which was very exciting. The leader talked about several things which really hit home with me. Overall, it was a very good time. The people in H's company are very warm and welcoming, and it is good to spend time with them. After the meeting, we ate with a few friends and I tried some new food, which was a bit heavy on the oil, but tasty. We then browsed at an import store nearby, went to the bookstore, chatted for awhile with a local woman, then left for VnM's (a very hospitable couple who host the company, and allow company members to use their flat for parties) for a summer camp reunion party of H and A's summer camp students. The party was great fun: Chinese youth love laughing and having a good time as much if not more than we do in the US. One of the guys brought a snack of sticky puffed rice, it tasted sweet and smoky, not super unlike rice crispies' 3rd cousin - pretty good stuff. We returned to the bookstore, where we had milk tea and shopped a bit. I got a great clutch purse! It is dark greyblue, it isn't large, but it's a beautiful purse and it holds everything I need to fit in it. Best yet, purchasing it benefits my brothers and sisters in the general area. We got back and wound up squabbling a bit over the Xmas tree... I was tired, and H prolly was, too. I'm tired now, incidentally, but if I went to sleep now, I'd wind up waking well before 6. Maybe I will, regardless.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

China So Far... to sum up...

It's Saturday! (Not morning anymore...)

I've just spent a decent amount of time updating my blog, typing up the diverse and sundry observations I've made in my notebooks, and now that that's out of the way, I'll give you something straight, not belated.

I arrived safely (obviously) Monday night. As I got into the CC baggage claim, I spotted H waiting for me on the other side (in other countries (not just China), people have to wait outside the baggage claim area... I guess it helps to make sure that no one else takes your luggage, 'cause at least here they checked both my baggage claim tickets before letting me walk out to greet H.), it seemed like forever before I got my luggage. Thankfully, though, my luggage was among the first to be unloaded, so it really wasn't too bad... H started to cry when we hugged, so I started talking about kinda funny stuff to get her to stop... it worked... One of H's friends (the one who gave her the snacks for me) came with her to interpret for the van driver. We chattered the whole way to H's school, and thankfully, some friends appeared to help with the luggage (4 flights with 150 lb. is nothing to sneeze at). I met a number of people (remembered fewer than I met...), and we got my stuff into H's room. One of the first things I did was to give her the Paris pics (which she loved! High five on that one, J!). She gladly showed them off to her friends (who, I think by the time I go back, will definitely be my friends as well...), they were properly impressed. I unloaded my carry-ons so that H could appreciate what I had lugged through the airports for her... And in the process, I accidentally gave her some 2nd Xmas presents on 1st Xmas. Oh, well... I got a shower/bath at H's insistence and was kinda frustrated because I wanted to get a shower, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work, so I settled for a bath instead. (The next time, I got it figured out, so now I'm good, hooray!) I was certainly ready to sack out by the time I was done...

Tues morning, I woke up to H's wake-up music, and wound up going to class with her. The students were happy to see me and one of them (a local) gave me her number, so we can hang out some time. I seriously felt like a celebrity (and the feeling has continued through all of H's classes...). After class, we walked to H's favorite hang out, the bookstore, and got something to drink. I had cider. Afterward, H introduced me to Hot Pot, which you've already heard about...

Wal-Mart was fun, I'll definitely be back to shop for myself (stock up on foreign chewing gum, since I'm nearly out of French and Greek...). While we were eating at KFC (which is attached to Wal-Mart) we ran into some of the others in H's company, which was neat, even though I was fairly tuckered out by then. On the way back, some more of H's friends saw us and helped us carry our stuff from Wal-Mart for a bit.

Wednesday, we got up and cleaned some, then we rode the Ching-wey (sp?) (CC's El system which is used to get all kinds of places... like Wal-Mart (here it's called War-Mar)) to the bookstore across town, where we had something to drink, then on to the end of the line, where we got off. A taxi took us to Shin Tien Di (Sp?), a mall with a Carre-four (French supermarket) in the bottom level. However, our first visit was to the 3rd floor... H made me close my eyes on the last level of escalators, and when I opened them, I saw... Venice! Yep, part of the 3rd floor was (fairly accurately) modeled after Venice, complete with a pseudo Piazzo San Marco and a canal with bridges, even steps going into the water... very cool (or here, tai cool). We wandered around, and on the 4th floor (which has a mini amusement park) we ate at a restaurant which promised European cooking... it wasn't great, but one thing I did enjoy was H's appetizer - fries served with creamy wasabi sauce. It was ideal, because you got some flavor of wasabi, but the heat was killed by the starch of the fries. Clay, you might want to work on replicating the sauce... It was about 3 hours after we had arrived in the mall that I realized that my mitten was gone... It was very sad, and even though H and I walked all the way through where we had been on the 3rd and 4th floors (which was a lot of ground!), no sign was found. We stopped in the Carre-four to pick up some ice cream and cheese for H's Secret Santa present, and then we were on our way back. Back in the dorm, we had a Dr Pepper party next door for the other members of H's company. It was quite fun, and the fun-sized candy caused as much excitement as the Dr Pepper. The others enjoyed watching the Bon Qui Qui at King Burger video over YouTube (I realized after I got to China that H had missed that craze, so I figured the others would get a kick out of that, too). Despite our intentions, we wound up going to sleep kind of late, and had to get up early to finish getting my lesson ready.

Thursday morning, we got up around 6:30 and got the last minute things ready for the class I was to teach: Jr Writing. Class went all right, but things certainly needed to be improved upon, so we tweaked afterward. We went to a nearby convenience store to work out H's cell phone issues (her 1s had looked like 2s, so there was a whole fiasco that took awhile to work out... but it was finally solved in the end). At the convenience store, I found 2 things: 1. my first Fahrenheit-endorsed product! (a package of wafer cookies) and 2. fountain pens!!!!!!!!!! (quite exciting...) I'll go back later and probably wind up buying both... We stopped in a little resturant for brunch and had dan chow fan (aka egg fried rice) which was wonderful!!!! I think it was a combination of great flavor and finally being hungry at the right time... I ate half of a heaping plate (seriously, there was a lot of rice there...), and the rest went into a little waxed paper take out box (it was a really nifty box...). We got back and napped, then we were off again to the bookstore for H's Chinese lesson. Her tutor wasn't ready for the lesson, so I wound up chatting most of the time with the tutor (who's a sophomore) and the friend who came in the van. We had to leave after an hour so that H could hold her office hours. I chilled (quite literally) with her and met her office mates, who are quite friendly. After that, we had to hurry to the Ching wei because H and another company member were holding English Club at another university. English Club went quite well, they seemed to like my dramatization of getting out of the window seat in the airplane. Afterward we ate Mi-son (sp?) (which I really enjoyed) at a little restaurant near the university (and their Ching wei station). To get to the restaurant, we had to cross a somewhat busy road (not unlike Drew St), and as we crossed, we talked about how in China, you can jaywalk, and you won't get hit if you give the drivers enough room to slow down, and if you cross when there's space between oncoming traffic. We got across safely and ate. The food was sort of like hot pot, only this time mine wasn't spicy. Basically there was a lot of noodles, some meat, a few greens, and three quail eggs (tasty!) in a large pot of broth, each of us got our own pot, but only the other company member finished his. A, the other company member was fun to talk with. He's a rather quiet guy who is fun to tease and gives as good as he gets. We ate and visited for awhile, then we had to get going. That night, we did go to bed early.

Friday was quite fun. I made omlets for breakfast in the morning, but didn't have time to eat mine, as H had to get to class. We had Freshman Oral English at 8, with Bright and Day (and the rest of the class), Day was late, so he sang Do a Deer (evidently he's seen Sound of Music a few times...), as per H's classroom rules (if you're late, you sing a song). While we were in class, it began to snow, (as you've already heard) it came down heavily all through class. During the 5 min break, I got to chat with some of the girls in the class, which was fun. Jr Writing in the next class went well, quite a bit more smoothly than last time, and probably the last 2 Jr Writing classes will go even more smoothly. At the end of class, we had time to learn 1 Christmas carol, and after H and I sang a verse each of Joy to the World, some other one, and Deck the Halls, they voted nearly unanimously to learn Deck the Halls. As we left to return to H's apartment, I made a snowball, and threw it against a wall, to my satisfaction. I finally ate my breakfast, and we watched an asian movie, Secrets, from crunchyroll, it was pretty neat. We got naps, and at some point, the power went out... dum dum dummm... As the sun was going down around 4:00, H sent me to the bookstore for candles. I purchased 3, and stopped at another store to buy a lighter (I like this lighter, it's not child safe, so there's no wheel to spin and burn your thumb on, just a clicker to push down...). So, my first independent venture was successful! As I was leaving for the bookstore, though, I was disappointed to see that the snow had taken on a beige-tan tint from being blown together with dirt in the wind. It was very sad. I did a second independent trip to buy drinks for a party while H finished in the kitchen (she's been making a chicken soup, which we'll enjoy for a late lunch today). The second trip did not go as well - I couldn't find the green-label grape soda, so I bought an apple soda instead... come to find out, I was looking for a green-labeled bottle of white grape juice, which explains why there was nothing purple with a green label... The apple soda, btw, was pretty bad... By the time I got back, it was time to go to the party. We also brought along the mini candy canes, which were thoroughly enjoyed since everyone there was part of H's company and were also ex-pats. (Seriously, sometimes I feel like I should have a red and white hat and a white beard, these people enjoy the candy, etc so much...) It was a very enjoyable party, and there was a Secret Santa exchange, which was exciting to watch. I didn't expect anything, but H's present was for both me and H, so before I leave, we're going to a spa!!! (Nice!!!).

Other random things: Since getting here, I have learned: A. Chopsticks are called quai-tzah (spelled phonetically) B. Paul Kim is a funny guy (He's a Korean-American comedian...) C. WongFu Productions makes some neat YouTube movies (J, you should check out their Together At Last video, it has some neat photog ideas... D. China is a pretty neat place... even though it is acceptable to hawk and spit anywhere... (eww...)

So there you have it! China so far...

Bright and Day (Fri Morning)

I am currently sitting in H's 8 AM Friday Fresh. Oral English class.

There are two boys in the class (which happen to be sitting next to me), Bright and Day. To borrow from Frank Sinatra - Bright and Day, Day and Bright... According to H, they are very close friends, but very different. Bright is studious, Day is a slacker. Day flirts, Bright doesn't... Day smokes, Bright doesn't. Kind of nice guys, though...

Snow!!! (Fri morning)


What a terrible day to have forgotten my gloves...

It's coming down pretty heavily.

Yay! Snowballs, snowmen, sledding!!! Can you tell I love snow?

We may have a white Christmas, after all! Until now, we've only had leftover snow in dirty mounds on the ground. It's been cold, though. The first day wasn't too cold, but it lied about the real weather. Today I am wearing my Aero long janes from Mum (it's the first time since getting here that I've worn leggings, tho I should've yesterday) they are keeping me nice and toasty! Ah, loverly snow... Soon everything will have a white dusting/blanket... Dafydd ap Gwydm (sp?), an old Welsh poet described it well in his poem Snow... Look it up!

Chinese radio (Thurs)

So far, my only exposure to Chinese radio has been in taxis and 3-wheeled tutus (sp?) (little, cheaper versions of taxis, not unlike the British Mr Bean's Reliant Robin). Chinese radio seems much like US radio - there are call-in shows, music stations, and once there was a atation that sounded like someone was exhorting others... much like US radio...

Lament for a Mitten (Wed evening)

Our time together was all too brief
I huddled my hand in your furry warmth.
When I realized you were gone,
I was distraught.

You fell from my pocket
In the otherwise splendid mall.
Somewhere between the 1st floor and Venice,
Or maybe in the taxi.

I searched and I searched,
Wherever I had been.
I dragged H along, too.
But you were gone. For good.

Yes, J, I lost my mitten. I repent in sackcloth and ashes. I'm sorry for us both - You because I lost your thoughtful gift, me because I will no longer have its warmth. I will find another pair, perhaps one that is "cute," but not one as dear.

Changchun Driving (Wed afternoon)

Driving in China is not quite as harrowing as I thought it might be. Now, if I were driving, or if the speed was 10-20 mph higher, I would be more alarmed.

The lane markers are definitely optional, and as long as there is room for one oncoming lane of traffic, so are the yellow lines.

The undented bumpers are a testament to good breaks, quick reflexes, and frequently-used horns.

Merging is hit or miss, travel routes must be flexible - you might not be able to turn (that is - cut in front of the lane of traffic and other turning traffic to go right).

All in all, though, it's not too bad.

Wednesday morning...

It seems that H is most in need of shelves. She has very high ceilings and spacious cabinets, but to maximize the space, she'll need shelves to divide the 2'-1 1/2' height in her cabinets - it would also reduce crowding on the main surfaces. I'll use some of my money for it because a. she's saving for an Asian Tour shortly after I leave, and b. they're cheap. (and a beneficial investment for her)

I experienced a new aspect of jet lag this morning - I woke up around 6, and couldn't go back to sleep. Tonight, I think I'll use the Calm before I go to sleep so I stay asleep.

My lips are taking the worst of the chill/dry air. Yesterday, H let me use some lip balm that cost 1 yuan. It was strawberry flavored.

One of H's friends (Chinese) gave her some snacks for me. I'm trying one now. It's a bit greasy and chewy - kinda like biting into soft caramel or a Starburst. Good thing I don't have braces! All in all, it's not too bad, just an unaccustomed (very Chinese) flavor. Maybe by the time I finish the 2 packages of 6, I'll be hooked on them... or maybe I'll take a package home...

Tues Evening

It is now about 11:30 PM, C-time Tues.

H is chatting on Skype with Mom.

I did hold out in the airport - the last 30 mins I played Jonas Brothers at an abnormally loud (for me) volume... aahhh, the soundtrack of last summer...

I am tired again, and unpacked (!).

Today I sat in on H's Freshman Oral English class. It was quite fun.

We had hot pot for lunch - basically you have a pot over a little sterno lamp with broth and spices, and you get skewers and pieces of whatever you pick (meat, greens, potatoes), you then add it to the boiling/simmering broth to cook. H got a lot of stuff for me to try, and it didn't taste bad, but my stomach was feeling unsettled (jet lag, I think) and I was tired, so I didn't enjoy it to its potential.

We got naps after lunch, and roused ourselves to go to Wal-Mart in pursuit of an Xmas tree.

We had KFC for supper, but again I wasn't feeling top notch, and I was still full from lunch, so it wasn't outstanding.

I unpacked while H got a bath (so I could separate 1st and 2nd Xmas presents).

H and I are quite back to being sisters - a little touchy, etc. ... I blame jet lag, it's handy...

Oh! As I unpacked, I found the seeds and soil! Yay! Now to find things to plant them in...

Blah. I'm tired. I'm going to get ready for bed!

Beijing airport - Part II

I am pleased to assure you that the bathrooms are neat and clean.

Instead of returning to my previous spot to be hypnotized again by tv, I have found a good spot to sit, write, and people watch.

It is quarter after 5, and the sky is quickly growing darker.

There are red lines on the back of my hand from my skin cracking... it looks like someone clawed me... Maybe I stuck my hand in the wrong place somewhere...

My lips are dry again - I had an overabundance of facial moisturizer (It seems altitude does strange things to thin creams in squeeze bottles which are still very full.) so I applied some to my lips, which helped, but now they're feeling dry again...

There was a moment at security (which is every bit as fun as US airport security) when I was afraid the hot chocolate powder wouldn't go through, but thankfully, it did.

Oh crud! I just realized that we forgot to pack H's French books! That's really annoying! There was no space for them, anyway, but maybe we could have switched something or other out...

I'm going to stop for now and apply some dry skin relief.

From the Beijing airport... waiting for my next flight

The Beijing airport (Terminal 3) reminds me very much of the Madrid airport - sans the color progression. Thankfully, there are little luggage handcarts available free of charge around the airport. My back and shoulders thank them. I got a skycap to help me when I arrived at Terminal 3 (I flew into Terminal... 2? which is about a 10 min ride from Terminal 3. (There's a complimentary shuttle to get you to and fro.)). 5 dollars seemed a decent price for someone else pushing my luggage, checking me in (for my next flight), and making sure I knew where to go for the right gate. I'm not sure if I stiffed him or if he's gleeful at the generous American (probably the latter...). They let my quart bag of liquids go through security, even though you are evidently not to take liquids on domestic carry-ons. I am quite tired, but this will be like school - muscle yourself awake until you get a chance to nap - the flight to Chanchun (which, my redcap informed me, is pronounced "Chan-chuan") Thanks, H, for correcting us over Skype (NOT :)).

I feel like watching crunchyroll, probably because it feels like I'm living in an asian show.

The mountains around Beijing are stunning from the air. On the ground, though, the air is browned and hazy.

I am currently watching world news in Chinese.

When we landed, the flight attendant was going through the standard "Thank you for choosing Continental" when she interrupted herself by saying, "Sir, please sit down and do not try to open the luggage compartment ... Sir, please sit down." Then she resumed her spiel. (I think she was laughing a little when she started again...)

I am very tired... I still have 1 1/2 hrs to go... waah! I think I'll take a walk, find the restroom, get some more water (fyi, they have nifty little packets next to the drinking fountain to fill and drink from, they're a tad flimsier than cone paper cups, but more space efficient...)

Oh, H's chiropractor, I love you already!

It's hard to grasp that in less than 4 hrs, I'll see H! Lw, of course. But firse, I'm sleeping the entire flight!

Okay, moving... ... after I tear myself from the tv... okay, now!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

From the Air II

It is somewhat later now. C-time is 10 'til 10, EST 10 'til 9. We are now over Russia. We traveled North by Northeast over Greenland, and we are inland of the Laptev Sea (which separates Russia from what is generally regarded as the Arctic). With this route, we circumvented the International Date Line. The plane is due to land in about 5 hours, and they mean to feed us once more before we disembark.

The food has been pretty good. I chose the beef entree for lunch/dinner, and, since Jack is allergic to nuts, I got his brownie in addition to mine. I'm saving it for later... We were also served a salad with shrimp and a hot roll with butter. I got a fortune cookie which spoke of not staying out of the rough spots of life, but figuring a way out when you get in one. Profound, I assure you (with my tongue in my cheek...). Just a few minutes ago, we were served a hot chicken sandwich on a multi-grain bun and a half-cup serving of vanilla Haagen-Dazs. I'm trying to stay hydrated and healthy, so I get a glass of water and a glass of juice when they are offered.

My nose has been running off and on some, but it's nothing too bad. I got about 2 hrs of rest earlier, and I'll try for more shortly. I'm a tad annoyed that I forgot ChapStick, but I think I can somehow survive... The flight has been fairly smooth, with some rough pockets, like the one we're in now. Aaaand now it's over... No dramatic drops or anything, though. Other than the Chapstick, the other thing I believe I forgot was the packet of seeds and soil pellets Mom got for H. Pity, too, I was looking forward to starting those seeds... Ah, well, nappy time again... (Can you believe I was able to stop watching FOTR (Fellowship of the Ring for you uninitiated) to write this... and now go to sleep again?!? This is truly shocking for some... lol.) More later!

From the Air... (aaand posted awhile later...)

Hello Everyone!

When I post this, it will be sometime much later than now, but right now it's 6:24 PM EST and 7:24 AM C-Time. We are flying somewhere above the Arctic Circle, but the plane is still pretty warm as it's packed with several hundred people. But let me begin at the beginning: Tampa!

I got to my originating flight on time, the plane was loading and I was one of the last few travellers to embark. Economy class was half full and so instead of proceeding to my assigned seat, I simply plopped myself, bag and baggage, into an empty row. I wound up curled on the seat in a nice dream with a mound of coat, sweatshirt, and scarf to pillow my head. That flight was uneventful, and I got to see NYC (Love that city!) from the sky... Which isn't exactly surprising, since I was flying into Newark, and, as I later discovered, you can actually get a decent view of the city from inside the airport.

You should know that I have about 150 lb total of luggage. Thankfully, about 103 of that is checked, but I'm bearing a good 50 on my back and shoulders between flights. All for you, H! All for you... ahh the sacrifice... (I hope H knows a good chiropractor when I get there...)

So I got out of the plane and checked the monitors: Beijing C89, etc. Silly me, I didn't read further... I trudged down to the other end of the concourse (a good half mile, I think, I am thankful for moving walkways...), and am alarmed to read as I get close (finally) to the gates in the 80s and 90s that Newark Airport has no gate 89 in its Continental wing. Very troubling (especially, as you remember, I'm lugging 50 lb!!!!). I wound up asking some helpful person whose job was to encourage Continental OnePass members to get 25,000 extra miles by getting a Chase card. With his help, I realized that C89 was the flight number, not the gate. It turns out that I was leaving from gate 121, back where I had come from. The Chase man encouraged me to pick up one of golf carts decked out to carry passengers. I had seen three or four going the opposite direction when I was trekking to the far side... Congratulations to me, there were none going my way when I went back... more fun... (Note from the Beijing flight: Bring tissues when you travel (at least in the winter)! My nose just started to drip a bit... Ah, for a little packet of tissues....)

I should insert here that toward the end of the flight to Newark, I discovered something rather alarming: one of my dear, beloved fountain pens somehow had excreted a decent-sized amount of ink... A secours! (Which of course you must cry, if ever you're in need of help in France - Ludwig Bemmelmens (sp?) loosely quoted from Madeline and the Bad Hat) Once I finally found the gate, my first order of business was to work on the ink splotches caused in my little travel bag made by my dear mommy-o. Interestingly enough, the ink did not get on anything other than the pens, the fabric (on the inside pocket, so it doesn't show on the outside), and my fingers (when I first discovered the spots). I worked for awhile on the spots, and when I determined that naught else was to come from the stains, I sought breakfast.

I wound up getting a delicious breakfast sandwich of egg, steak, and mushroom from Steak Escape. It was served on a hoagie roll and was hot and filling. (much more so than the muffin served on the way up from Tampa)

I returned to my gate, got my documents (aka visa and passport) verified, and sat down with my laptop to charge my mp3 players, just in case. We began boarding at 11:30, and I was among the first seats called. (I'm sitting in the back back of the plane... and yes, the seat does recline...) My seatmate is a fellow named Jack from Boston. I'll write more on that later, as he is sitting next to me, and being a screenwatcher myself (I've been watching bits from the movies he's played (Get Smart, Wall-E)), I suspect others of the same... Terrible, isn't it?

To everyone I told that my big flight would be 19 hrs, I apologize and repent. It is only 13. Yes. Only 13. (I was kinda disappointed, to tell the truth... I've done a 13 hr flight before. (Madrid to Miami))

The 777s are totally tricked out!!! There are movies, tv shows, music, and games on demand... the downside is that I didn't try to find the two-prong plug for my/J's headphones, so I would have to use the chintzy ones provided in the little packet of headphones, blanket, and pillow for the trip. (Not nearly as nice as the Delta Air overnight flight packet... which had toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs, a sleep mask, moisturizer and more... but that just makes me thankful that I packed a toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry-on, just in case... I'm sure my seat mate is also thankful... :)) Pere, even if I had brought the other ones you recommended, I still would have experienced a loss in sound quality, I'm sure.

According to my pretty new watch, which is set to China time, (actually, I think it never got changed from Daylight Savings, so I just left it, since during Daylight Savings, our AM is their PM and vice versa) it is 8:00 (AM, there). So I believe I shall stop typing and resume watching FOTR on my laptop, which I haven't seen in years (despite the LOTR crazed stage I went through not that many years ago...). I also may try to get more rest, but I'll be sure to allow myself "an afternoon nap" around their 12... (which incidentally lines up around my usual bedtime... how handy...) More later!