Saturday, March 31, 2001

China 2001 - Trouble

After meeting with L.’s uncle we found out that L.’s brother had not arrived at the airport. Worse yet Northwest did not have any flights that were flying from San Francisco that night. After waiting for a while we realized that if he were not there, he wouldn't be there so we went home sans T.. After the “normal” wild ride home we fired up the computer to find what it said about his flight. Expedia where we bought the ticket from showed that he should be here. The problem was that the northwest site showed that the flight number he had was going to Shanghai. So one of 3 things happened. Northwest's computer was wrong and the flight had arrived at a gate we didn't know about and he was waiting wondering where we were in Beijing. He could have gotten to Shanghai thinking he was in Beijing wondering where we were. Or someone caught the error and he was stuck at San Francisco airport thinking that I bought him a bad ticket. We found numbers for Expedia.com, Northwest, San Francisco, and Shanghai airports and started making a lot of international calls and waiting on hold. The phone works sporadically for international calls, about every third try. Ringing sounds like a busy signal, busy sounds like ringing, and the dial tone reminds me of when my phone was broken. After typing in all the numbers you wait for a few minutes hearing clicking and recorded Chinese voices thanking you while the call is switching through. We found out that there was a flight from Shanghai to Beijing that was the same kind of plane as the one flying from SFO to Shanghai. We figured that he got on some plane since we would have gotten email or call from someone otherwise, so L. and her aunt headed back to the airport while we tried to find someone who had a passenger manifest. Expedia.com’s computers were down and they didn't really like to hear that it was their fault for losing someone in China and they didn't have a non-800 number for Northwest. Needless to say I will never use expedia.com again. L. finally found him at Beijing airport. He had convinced the people in Shanghai that he did belong in Beijing and they had given him a connecting flight. I finally made it to bed at 2am. Only 85 hours with 6 hours sleep.

Friday, March 30, 2001

China 2001 - Leaving

We got to the airport early and it paid off. We were in and out of the x-ray and check in lines in no time and left behind a half hour line that arrived while getting our tickets. I don't know why but for some reason they gave us an upgrade to business class. I had heard somewhere that if you ordered the kosher meal it was always better tasting. So when they upgraded our tickets they seemed to be going through a huge hassle to make sure I got that kosher meal. I told them it was not important but I think that they did not want it to go to waste more then respecting my wishes. I do think that if we had been in the seats that we paid for I would have come out ahead.
The flight turned out to be more interesting then I thought. Even though it was a direct flight the plane did not make a direct line to Beijing. Instead it followed the coastline up California to Canada over Alaska and down the coast of Russia. Whether this was because of the jet stream, for safety of always having land in sight or if the pilot didn't want to get lost, I don't know. It really helped having my own screen though because it could display a map as we traveled. Otherwise I would have gotten really confused when we flew over the frozen ocean of the Bering straight. While passing over the International Date Line I realized that I had just lost 24 hours all at one time. It is made up for by the fact that I received 28 hours of sunlight in one day. I Had childhood flash-backs flying over Russia because my mother had always said Siberia is where people got sent when they didn't do what they where told implying that was she would send us for not doing our chores. Her description was pretty accurate though as it was a whole lot of nothing and snow. While flying they handed us some slips of paper asking of if we had AIDS or mental dementia or such. We landed, followed the crowd though a deserted airport, handed over the quarantine cards we had filled out, had our passports stamped, and walked right past customs to L.’s uncle waiting with a sign saying " welcome all ye foreigners from other lands." all without saying one word. The entire process from the tires hitting the ground took around 20 minutes, with it taking the most time to get off the plane since we were on the upper deck.