Trip to Nanchang, JiangXi Province - China

Trip to JiangXi – Part 1:Chicago to Beijing and onto JiangXi

Thus starts the first leg of my trip to the JiangXi province for a two week work related visit. I didn’t count the puddle jumper into Chicago’s O’Hare, well, because it is a pretty "ordinary" flight that we always have to take when traveling. Because this is work related, I get to fly Business class – I haven’t even looked into the coach cabin and really feel for the folks back there. But then again, my roundtrip flight cost a whopping $11,000, and I am sure that theirs don’t come even close. And from what I can tell, business class is pretty full on today’s non-stop, 13 hour flight. Heaven knows how normal people can afford the airfare – they must use frequent flier mileage upgrades. Crazy.

I got into O’Hare a little after 9am this morning, and walked over to the United concourse. Another perk of flying business class is the use of the airline’s special "red carpet room", where you can check into your flight without waiting in a long and crowded line. I was able to get online for a bit and log into work – some last minute details for the upcoming week’s activities.
It’s almost 4 hours into the flight, and so far I have had a nice lunch – smoked salmon, sea bass and some cabernet wine. The funny thing about the meal was the silverware – everything is nicely presented, we get ceramic plates and real glasses and two forks and a spoon (no spoon-fork combo here in Business class). But the two knives are plastic – a gray plastic, so it blends in with the rest of the silverware. I guess since 9/11, real knives have been banned. I will have to say, though, those plastic knives really don’t cut through proscuitto, but it was fine with the salmon.

I watched the movie, Seabiscuit, just for Erica. Oh, and maybe I’ll get to catch 8 Below later on (but hopefully I’ll get to sleep here soon). I also finished the Suduko puzzle in the airline magazine – that killed about an hour of time.

Our flight path takes us over the Arctic circle, down through Siberia, through Mongolia and down to Beijing. Over Mongolia, I caught a glimpse of the mountains below – it was a totally clear day, and I could see the vast mountain range, with waterways cutting through the gorges.
Nine long hours later, we are approaching Beijing. I didn’t get much sleep – just dozed on and off. Even the sleeping pill didn’t help much. It is completely cloudy in the Capital city and breaking through the cloud cover revealed my first glimpse of the Chinese landscape – and it looked just like Illinois – flat plots of farmland, basically rectangular. If not for the Chinese characters in the plane hangars, I would have thought I landed back in central Illinois or any other mid-western city.

Once off the plane, we had to maneuver our way through Customs, get luggage, exchange money, etc. I am travelling with a co-worker from the Boston area, Anthony. He at least has been here before, because after not much sleep, with my body clock at 1:00 am, I am not too alert. Then some fun starts – since I am Chinese, and, well, look the part, all of the other Chinese people automatically assume that I understand and speak fluent Mandarin. Granted, I have been trying to brush up on my Chinese, but really, it is basically poor The funniest exchange occurred with one woman at the Airline counter – both Anthony and I approach the desk to ask a question. Anthony is clearly up in front and starts to ask the question. The woman ignores him and starts to address me in Mandarin. I then have to explain that my Chinese isn’t so good (wo de zhong-wen bu tai hao), and muddle through the conversation in my broken Chinese. Ai-yah! I am hoping that things will get a bit better.

In the Beijing airport, there are people everywhere – I thought O’Hare was busy – this place is teaming with people. I guess all this flying is good for the economy. The layover in Beijing was pretty long – 5 hours is a long time anywhere, and we are happy to get on the plane to Nanchang. Our light snack is shrimp dumplings, a pork shao mai and a pork bun. And Almond jelly with fruit. Yum.

In Nanchang, it is a sultry 81 degF and the air is pretty well stagnant. The hotel is very nice – I am on the 17th floor. I tried to call home but no one is answering the phone! OK, it is now 11pm, China time, which is 13 hours ahead of Central Daylight savings time. I have been up for 30 hours straight now, and I am signing out – hope to see you tomorrow!!

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