Thursday, November 02, 2006

Unwind Yourself Now

We made it! I am writing to you on FREE internet access from the Blenz coffee shop on Shamian Island, Guangzhou, China. What a trip over we had! The events thus far: Thanks to our friend David for driving us up to the Amerisuites Chantilly where we stayed the night before our early flight out of Washington-Dulles Airport. JieJie was surprisingly okay when we left. After weeks of hypervigilant behavior that culminated in a week of checking our room at 3am to make sure we were still there, she didn't even cry when we hugged her goodbye and put her in her grandparents' arms. She saw our suitcases, looked at us questioningly, and I said "it's time for Mommy and Daddy to go get MeiMei." We packed the little yellow cat that JieJie is giving to MeiMei into the suitcase, kissed and hugged, and left, and Mom said last time we talked that it's going fine. What a relief! Because JieJie would have been in a tiny little straitjacket by now if she'd experienced the last 36 hours with us. Read on.

Flight from Dulles to Detroit left a bit late, otherwise smooth sailing. Layover at Detroit, lunch. Left on Northwest Airlines Detroit-Tokyo a bit late. Huge plane - 747-400, two aisles, 3-4-3 seating. Coach is tight!! I quickly realized I was not going to get any sleep on the 12+ hour flight. John catnapped here and there, probably got 2 hours total. Movies were "Raising Helen"(skip it), "Spiderman 2" (eye candy and noise) and "The Notebook"(see it soon w/a huge box of tissues at the ready--SO good and heartwarming!) Funny - last trip one of the movies was "Spiderman 1". About "The Notebook" - this was one of the times John was sleeping. At the end of the movie, I was totally bawling and I looked over at the elderly Korean man next to John, and he was wiping his eyes about once a minute for the whole end of the movie.

Layover at Tokyo-Narita was SHORT - just enough time to take a bus to the terminal, go through security and run to our gate for the next flight. Got on the next plane for the 4+ hour flight to Guangzhou, and just as we were beginning to taxi toward the runway, a man signaled that his (father?) seatmate was sick, that he had high blood pressure. Hard to know what happened, whether the man passed out or what, but soon there were flight attendants with oxygen tanks helping the man come to, and then he used several airsick bags (eww). We were glad he was ok but the flight crew chief called an ambulance and wanted to get the man some medical attention.

While we were waiting for that ambulance to arrive, people were quiet and patient. All of a sudden in the row right behind us, it sounded like these people were arguing or something. Then they started getting louder and more frantic. I turned around and thought I saw a man pushing his wife. It took me a moment to realize that he had collapsed against her and was having what looked to be a heart attack or a stroke. His eyes were rolling back into his head, his lips and fingernails were turning blue, and he was drooling and bleeding from his mouth. The whole right side of his face was straining back toward his right ear. His wife was crying and screaming. We immediately signaled to the flight crew for help -they seemed confused but soon more oxygen masks arrived and the man started coming around thank goodness. There was a doctor on the flight, I think she was Japanese, and she took the man's blood pressure. Both John and I had thought we were going to witness the worst. The man's son came back from his seat at the front of the plane and dropped to his knees at the sight of his father in trouble. It took forever for the ambulance to get there, and while the flight crew saved the man's life with their quick thinking, the paramedics might as well have been the Keystone Kops. They started this extensive conversation with the doctor and the flight crew instead of getting the poor passengers off the plane and to the hospital. 45 minutes later the captain came back and said "we need to get these people off the plane now so they can get help and we can go." The paramedics were (understandably) confused that there were two different people in need of help, and they had a long conversation about which one should get off the plane first. It started to become almost comical (or perhaps we just needed something to release the adrenaline) to the point that when the sick passengers were finally off the plane, there was scattered laughter all over the plane. I wouldn't swear to it but I thought I detected some Chinese-speaking passengers making jokes about the Japanese ambulance workers and there was much laughter all around the plane. John wanted me to put in the message that the paramedics' lack of decisiveness was like "watching two monkeys try to f*** a football". I added a new phrase to my Chinese vocabulary: ke ren, or sick person [actually "guest"].

So two hours after our scheduled departure time (hoping and prayingthat both sick passengers would be ok) we took off for GZ. Both of us got about two hours' sleep on that flight. Got to the airport, sped through customs and quarantine (you have to promise, among other things, that you are not psychotic) and a Mercedes Benz from the White Swan Hotel was waiting for us, with three smartly dressed porters to handle our two small carry-on bags. The airport at Guangzhou is brand new and absolutely beautiful, a cathedral of glass and girders. How different from the old airport, which was like several interconnected train or bus depots. The highway from the airport to central GZ is brand new too, signs in Chinese and English. Got to the White Swan Hotel, checked into our room, ate the chocolates they leave by the bed, and were soon sleeping horizontally for the first time in about 30 hours. Woke up on our own this morning at 7am, tired but NO JET LAG - what a miracle! Had a nice buffet breakfast of fruit, yogurt, steamed pork buns, steamed shrimp buns, smoked salmon, noodles, french toast...there's so much good food on that buffet, you just have to use JieJie's phrase "I have this one tomodow" which is what she says whenever she wants something but can't have it right away.

It was so peaceful sitting there by the Pearl River, watching boats go by, watching a few people swimming in the river for morning exercise. After breakfast, I headed out to find cheap internet access and John went to get a neck and head massage at the hotel fitness center. On the way to the fitness center is a sign for the hotel's lounge/game room that says "Unwind Yourself Now." I am only too happy to oblige, after all the racing around we've done for the past two months to get ready for this trip! Of course, this being the White Swan, there are families with babies everywhere and it's making us pretty excited for Monday. In the meantime however, it's like a second honeymoon for us. We are going to enjoy having a few days all to ourselves. We check out of White Swan in about 45 minutes, take the shuttle out to the airport and get on a 2pm flight to Chongqing, henceforth to be referred to as CQ.

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