Friday, August 26, 2011

The First Leg and The First Day

Wowza! It's been about a 42 hour traveling adventure and I am finally in my hotel. My journey began at 5 am on Wednesday morning. Forcing myself to stay awake through the first flight (I am trying to foil jetlag) I arrived in Seattle where I met Amy and we went to lunch with Bill and Dorothy during my 5 hour layover. It was Bill's birthday and it was wonderful to see them both in addition to the kids and Aunt Doty. After a wonderful last meal (pancakes and sausage, how American!) Amy returned me to the airport to await the 9 hour flight to Japan. The flight was very long, but I sat next to an older white man who teaches in China, so we had a nice time chatting.

Looking out the plane window over Japan, it strikes me that I have never seen so many different colors of green. From the light checkers of the unplanted fields to the lush green spotted with white dots that I can only assume are sheep, to the deep green of forests with trees that I don't think I've ever seen before in such quantity. I'm pretty sure we flew over the nuclear station (from what I remember seeing in newspapers), and while cleaned up, the effects of the tsunami are still striking. Great rivers flow through here, slowly winding through towns clustered closely together so as to provide more space for farming. I know there are large cities, but they seemed very distant from the green vista that lay before me.
Even Japanese airport food is better than American food!

Proof that I'm definitely in Japan!

While Japan was magical, the plane flights certainly were not. My attempts to trick my inner clock were foiled by two small children two rows up, one unable to talk and the other unable to be reasoned with. The younger one just cried out ever single time was unhappy, while the older one imitated it and in the last 2 hours continued to repeat 'I wanna go'. His mother's explanation that she did too and they would be done soon did nothing to soothe the chile, who continued to cry out every 5 minutes. Never have I wanted to cause so much harm to a child. Sleep becoming elusive, I contented myself by watching 3 movies in a row before closing my eyes from sheer exhaustion for the last 2 hours.

The best part is, my journey isn't over. It may be 3 am my time, but I still have to navigate the airport and catch my final flight from Japan to Shanghai. I pray that the transfer is relatively idiot-proof, because at this point in my sleep deprevation, idiot is a word that complements my brain's ability. More babies on the flight to Shanghai, but I manage to doze until we land. Catching a cab and going to my hotel. Now for a shower and some well-deserved sleep. I hope tomorrow is brighter than today was.

It is! I wake up in a much better mental state than yesterday, grab some breakfast and call Alex, one of the five of us going to Nanjing (along with Catherine, Dennis, and Brandon) who is staying in Shanghai with her best friend. I first decide to walk, then navigate the public transit system. When this fails (miserably, I might add, there are a lot of buses in the main terminal!), I grab a cab after going back to the room to change shoes (flip flops + rain + shiny stone walkways = Maggie getting her knee scraped on her first day) and meet up with Alex. We get lunch (my first Chinese meal!) and then wander around the city a bit. She was here on an internship last summer, and so knows parts of the city pretty well. We decide to meet up tomorrow afternoon (she's still pretty jetlagged), and I go to buy a phone and figure out my way back. We rode the subway for part of the trip, and I think I remembered that the main bus terminal close to my hotel was also the Shanghai Rail Station. This is one of the stops on the subway, so I decide to take the risk and try navigating it. Success! While I end up on the South side of the train station (I came in on the North), and am rather confused, I get my bearings, go through a tunnel (with little shops on either side) and end up right where I need to be. This was a wonderful morale booster, knowing that I can get around on public transit if needed, it is much cheaper than a cab (although cabs in China are VERY inexpensive, unless you get cheated, like me, coming from the airport. Sleep depraved Maggie is not a smart Maggie), and I am giggling and smiling on my way back to the hotel, which only draws more attention to me. I've been covering my tattoos, because I am already white and blonde, which draws enough attention in itself, tattoos might be a bit much.

There was a cute little girl on the subway who, when she saw me, kept saying 外国!外国!(Foreigner) It was very cute, and I made sure to smile and wave at her, making her promptly bury herself in her mother's chest. Now for some dinner and sleep! Tomorrow a bit more exploring and to figure out the train ticket to Nanjing! Love, Maggie

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