Friday, February 11, 2005

Flying to China

[This was written on the 9th but I've only just now been able to post it--Eliot]

We have made it to Beijing with a minimum of trouble. The logistics for the trip were a little complicated because we were all starting from different cities and on different airlines. We were all flying on the same United flight from San Francisco to Beijing but only Julie and I were starting on United. Bill was coming from Seattle on Alaska, Judy was already in San Fran, and Peggy was coming from Houston on a Continental flight she had booked herself. We were a little worried about Peggy because her flight was not scheduled to land until 11:30 and our flight to China left at 1:30. For the U.S-to-China leg we all had paper tickets, which I had in my possesion. So nobody could check in for the China flight until they had hooked up with me and received their paper tickets.

Julie and I arrived in San Francisco first, as scheduled, and quickly met up with Judy and our long-time family friends George and Nancy, with whom Judy had been staying. We collected Bill a little later, after some confusion about where he would be coming out of security. It was still an hour before Peggy's flight was scheduled to land, so we went over to the international terminal to wait for Peggy and get in line to check in, if necessary.

We had a nice visit with George and Nancy, grabbed some lunch, and then got Judy and Bill checked in. We had a bad moment when I couldn't find Bill's ticket for the U.S.-to-China leg, only for the return. We knew he was booked because he had been able to check his back all the way through from Seattle. Finally we discovered that when Julie and I had checked in the Austin, the agent had stappled Bill's ticket to my boarding pass--on the tickets our names only differed by one letter, "KIMBER WILLIAM ELI" vs "KIMBER WILLIAM ELL". Whew.

Now we just had to wait for Peggy. By now it was about 11:15 or so.

We got a call from Peggy around 11:30 saying that she was on the ground but that she had been forced to check her back in Houston (she had planned to carry it on) and would have to collect it from baggage claim before she could meet us. Doh!

We were starting to worry just a little bit when we hadn't seen Peggy by about 12:20, so we called her to discover that she was just coming into the international hall. I met her and walked down the long corridor to the check-in desk, blithely cut ahead of all the people checking in for some other flight (by now there was no dedicated check-in desk for our flight), got Peggy checked in, and started herding us all through security. I got stopped in security because there was a pair of blunt baby nail scissors in the baby medical kit we had bought, so they had to take everything out of the duffle I was carrying that had all the baby stuff and some of my electronics. That was a little nerve wracking because the TSA lady had absolutely no sense of urgency but eventually we made it through security (at the loss of the strap for the video camera bag, as we later discovered) and down to our gate, just as they were starting boarding. Whew. Looks like we might actually make it.

Our flight was largely uneventful, following an initial delay for some maintenance snafu or other. We landed in Beijing at 7:30 pm, about an hour late, collected our bags, and met our Great Wall China Adoption guide, Amy, who had arranged a van to take us to the hotel. We all piled in and got to the hotel in short order (our hotel, the Sino-Swiss Beijing Airport, is in fact right at the airport). We got checked in no problem.

We had been told that because we were going to be in Beijing the week of New Years, there would be no guides available, but Amy said she was happy to be our guide and proceeded to plan excursions for us for the next day. We were pleasantly surprised and put ourselves in her hands.

It was New Year's eve, which is marked with fireworks celebrations. We didn't think too much about it when we arrived--we were all certainly too tired to consider going out anywhere to participate. By the time we went to bed there was a smattering of fireworks going up in the neighborhoods surrounding the hotel but nothing that would keep us from sleeping.

However, just before midnight our neighborhood turned into something of a war zone. We are up on the 8th floor and have a clear view out over the neighborhoods. Suddenly they errupted in fireworks in all directions, reminding us particularly of the bombing of Bagdag, with the tracer fire going up. It was really spectacular. Julie and I stood at our window and watched for about an hour. At one point, at a launch site right across the main road from our hotel, a shell burst right on the ground, setting off other bursts and starting some small fires on the ground. It was a little startling but the fires eventually went out. It's surprising there weren't any house fires considering, although the houses all have tile roofs (maybe for this very reason, I don't know--after all the Chinese did invent gun powder and fireworks...).

Finally, about 1:00 we were able to get back to sleep, more or less....


Post a Comment

<< Home