Mom dropped in to visit on Wednesday. She is doing a walk in France, and some language classes, so decided she might as well swing around THIS side of the globe, over the pacific, just as well as go around Atlantic style. The funny thing is, she could only get a ticket that made any sense going through Amsterdam, on to China, then BACK to Amsterdam and down to France. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Luckily, when on her wait to the airport Delta called her and asked if she would be willing to re-route through Japan (the route I took) as the volcano was again causing havoc. “Why of course. That’s what I wanted in the first place!”. They gave her some extra flyer miles, and all was good. Unfortunately, the plan that was coming from Japan, that would be used to take her back to Japan and eventually on to Beijing had … ‘problems’. It appeared that on its way to Minneapolis, two men had locked themselves in the bathroom and were not allowing anyone to come in or to leave. Under the fear of terrorism, the plane returned to Japan. So Japan air was hustling to find an alternate flight to ship 700 some passengers form Minneapolis to Tokyo on. It’s unclear whether it actually was terrorism. American news called it that, but then, any mishap these days can win that title now a days. Japanese news called them stow-aways, but how one becomes a stow-away, on a commercial flight, IN the passenger bay is beyond me. That’s more a feet than being able to slip weapons through security if you ask me!
In any case, mom arrived safely in Japan. Unfortunately, (or really, to her favor), by the time the flight arrived, it was too late to be booked on a connecting route to Beijing, so Japan Air booked her, and the rest of the passengers, in very nice hotels near the airport for the night. It added an extra day to travel, but I would have much preferred that on my trip. The last 4 hours on the continent hopper was such a drag for me. She arrived the next morning in Beijing, and I was at the gate, waiting as she walked through. More or less, all on schedule and as planned. Or re-planned. (That was the call I’d been waiting for the other night, late in the office when I was so tired).
The only hiccup was she left her iPod in the hotel in Japan, so we’re hoping it can get through Asian post without any more problems, and arrive here at the institute soon.
I worked Wednesday morning (or tried to. Soooo many little issues trying to set up your environment on the server here, and get what was working great on the us machines working here. Much frustration). Then the 4 of us went to lunch at the Expert Restaurant (a restaurant connected to the guest house where all the visiting researchers stay. One feels rather elitist dining under such a title, but the feeling soon is diminished when it is really just a restaurant on campus, like any other – there is no …. ‘checking of credentials’ to make sure one’s obtained a venerable enough status in the world of science before you’re allowed in ;))
After dining, I caught a taxi (air conditioned!) to the airport. I showed the driver the map with the Chinese writing telling him I where I wanted to go, and it was relatively un-eventful. I got the feeling he straightened up when he realized he was driving a foreigner. A minute into the drive he put on gloves and fastened his seat belt. It is an amazing experience being on the highway in Beijing. Well, being on the roads altogether! 5 years ago there were NO cars, and now, there’s an entire highway, and paved roads, with overpass and all the hoopla. None of the cars are thus more than 5 years old and so it gives everything a very new fresh look. Also it was amazingly sunny and bright, so the welcome mom had to the city was phenomenally biased to the good. As it should be when one enters a foreign land. My own welcome had been much more dreary and depressing. The trees looked greener, and the roads newer. Also, there is not so much traffic. It was 1 when I went to the airport, so not rush hour, but even so, a city of a few million, with a brand new road way – one could expect worse!
The new airport terminal as well is just gorgeous. Sweeping high ceilings, and all fresh and polished. Really quite lovely and impressive. The things they accomplished in such a short period of time is really quite amazing.
I found the gate I thought mom would be exiting from, and waited for my turn at the railing. Then didn’t budge for fear of losing my spot. I am listening to a book on the Napoleonic wars, and having that distraction made my wait tremendously more enjoyable. My feet got a bit tired, but other than that, it was fine – being air conditioned and cool helped as well. I stood and waited and tried to imagine how long it would take her to get through the baggage claim and security. My flight had been the only one left when I arrived, and my bag almost the first one off, so it’d been relatively fast for me. But 45 minutes of waiting made me wonder if I was waiting at the wrong gate. I decided I’d hold off till 3, and if she wasn’t there.
It got to 2:45 – “should I really wait till 3 exactly? Maybe just 2:50”
Got to 2:50 “it could take 45 minutes easy to get through … maybe I should just hold on a couple more”.
Got to 2:55 “almost an hour? She’s probably sitting outside a different gate, for the last 40 minutes, waiting for me….”
2:59 “I should start walking around the arrivals terminal…”
3:00 sharp – mom walks out the gate. What luck. JUST in time!
She was happy to see me, waiting for her. It is nice to have someone there waiting. She’d said not to worry about being there on time. If I had to work later, or couldn’t get on time, she’d just hang out, it was no big deal. But it looked like she really did like having me to pick her up right as she exited.
It’d been really hot on the plane, and it was a warm day, so we decided before rushing back on a taxi ride to iHep, to sit down and enjoy a couple minutes to relax. There was a very nice Starbucks, so, ya I know. I’m in China, but there isn’t ice other places, and there really isn’t coffee to speak of, and as we’ve already discussed, McDonalds doesn’t really hold the bill, so we decided it wouldn’t be too shameful to just enjoy one iced coffee before plummeting ourselves back into the east.
We sat down and enjoyed the cold iciness of it. She told me about her trip and the interesting engineering students from the UofM that were coming back to china for the summer. “We love the U! It’s just wonderful” they all said. Also interesting when she asked them if they remember the changes as they’ve come to China. “Do you remember before there were cars?”
“Are you kidding? I remember when I say my very first Car! It was quite an experience”.
She was interested to hear also what they thought of as China becoming a world power, and their development.
“China has come a long way. We were communist, but we are capitalists now!” (Dan and I both agree that it’s MORE capitalist, but it’s a very unique BRAND of capitalism…. [I call it a Red Capitalism]). “But China has a lot of things yet to learn from the US” they all agreed “until they understand the morality of doing the right thing and acting in accountability to others, we will never catch the US. It has a lot to learn about taking care of the old and not trampling on the poor”.
All very profound things to realize, as an undergraduate. Mom and I both agreed that understanding how to treat the under-classes is something that one acquires on the road to success. When you’re not worried about where YOUR next meal is coming from, and are confident in your survival, then you naturally can look to make sure no one else is in trouble as well. As the flight attendant says “Safely secure your oxygen mask before helping those around you”. It’s not a rule of thumb, but rather an instinctual thing that will come as China becomes more stable (instinctual implies a very unconscious effort – I don’t mean it that, but that it is something that will come as a result of solidified success, as more people become aware of the needs).
Ok. More work to do!!