The Journey West (via the North East)

I woke early Thursday morning to finish last minute packing and get to the airport for my 9 a.m. DLN-PKK flight.

The packing went smoothly (and until now I’ve only noticed one thing I forgot), and Mags and I got to the airport without any trouble. We planned it so that we’d have a lot of time to relax at the airport and have a long goodbye (something we missed out on the last time I left her).

The fates had other plans and we promptly learned that all morning flights had been cancelled due to fog (this was in stark contrast to the bright sun shining just through the airports automatic doors).

Though this seemed to expand our goodbye (a good thing), taking the offered 11:40 am plane (arr. 12:40) didn’t leave me much time to run screaming “wait wait” through the Beijing airport for my 1 pm flight to New York.

We asked the China Southern airlines customer service booth what to do, and they shooed us to the China Southern airlines ticket booth… who in turn shooed us back to the customer service booth and repeat…

After freaking out a bit we finally stopped to ask the Dalian Airport Ticket agent where to find the China Airlines booth to see if they’d hold the plane for me in Beijing (haha, I know). However, like a ray of sunshine through the absent fog, the woman listened to Maggie, took my ticket, put a sticker on it and said “ni you san fen zhou” (you have 3 minutes).

With a China Airlines bording pass in hand, I again had to do the quick-like-a-bandaid goodbye. Perhaps it’s for the best as no one likes a chubby Canadian getting all weepy… it just looks silly.

I got to Beijing with no problems, and was on my way to the US before I knew it. I got seated by two brothers (?) who had been misinformed about what they could bring into the country and made it their goal to consume an entire box of these delicious strawberry-like fruits during the flight. I helped.

The flight was long. Like really long. All said, the PKK-JFK leg was 13.5 hours and felt every minute of it – not least of all because their only offering for inflight entertainment was 1) King Kong, 2) Big Mamma’s House 2 and 3) counting how many times the guy in front of me had to take his whiney kid for a trot around the cabin.

JFK and customs went much better than expected, and no mention was made of the several bottles of baijiu nor the DVDs I had in my luggage. In fact, the customs agent basically looked at my Canadian passport, looked at me, smiled and said “Have a nice day…” This often seems to be the attitude of the American customs agents – pleasant folks them.

The airport is well set up and to catch my connecting flight to Buffalo I only needed to hop on the free AirTrain to the JetBlue terminal.

I learned two things from JetBlue. #1) If I had an airline, this is how I’d run it and #2) They think I’m a terrorist.

The first is because the airline is just awesome. Cheap, CHEAP flights (JFK-BUF $66 if booked two weeks prior), comfortable and semi-spacious leather seats in new airplanes that feature 32 channels of DirectTV in a personal monitor. Plus they give you a big chocolate chip cookie (screw the China Air peanuts!).

The second I learned after confessing to the check-in lady (the staff were just amazingly friendly) that I was so glad that my travel was nearing an end. She smiled, looked down at her monitor, and looked up at me with a pained expression. “You’re on The Watch List.” I could only stammer a rather weak, “Umm… like, you think I’m a terrorist-type watch list?” She nodded, took my passport and disappeared for 5 minutes.

Upon returning she said I was in luck, as I wasn’t actually a terrorist. I was grateful for the news, as I hear the training camps are rough. Apparently someone with the same name as me is on the list… but fortunately we do not share the same birthday.

Anyway, I arrived home. My sister, Dana, and her husband, Brad, picked me up and delivered my unshowered, rather wrinkled and tired self to my childhood home.

The last day has been a blur of re-orientation to Western culture… but as this is already overly long, I’ll go into more details about that next time.

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