Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hey everyone....

Wow, it sure has been a while since we've written a post here, I was thinking that I'd apologize for the lack of posts but that wouldn't be fair since I can't promise that it won't happen again. We've been busy, and for some strange reason being back in the States doesn't lend itself as easily to writing a quick post every day, or I suppose even once a week, or month…

We've done a lot, from trips to Canada, New Orleans for Jazzfest, Philadelphia, Boston, Tina's first trip to our cabin in upstate New York, and a trip to San Diego and Tijuana. And that's not including that both of us traveling a bit for work, and in-between thoroughly filling all our time in Chicago with baseball, concerts, and the fun of just hanging out and catching up with old friends. It's been a busy time since we've been back.

So why post now? Well I've been on a trip back to China for almost two weeks for work, and something about the middle kingdom just pulls blog posts out of me. Of course the same blocks to Blogger and all that still exist, so now I'm sitting at the airport, my last hour or so before boarding, and I figured I'd write up one or two stories that I could quickly post when I land back in Chicago before we head out for our Labor day weekend.

Initially it's interesting to see the little things that you forget from being away, between the things that one finds annoying to the items that you wonder why we haven't embraced that technology. But all I really want to talk about is my trip to the new Hongqaio airport terminal in Shanghai last week for my flight down to Xiamen.

First off, one of those genius items that I can't figure out why everybody doesn't do it. When you are going into the airport they hold people in groups before they enter in little corral areas. Each person gets swiped with that explosion checking pad that we see occasionally used on random people in the US. Then if the group passes they are all let in, if not then they are pulled aside for individual checking. They have two bays, so while one is waiting then the next bay is being filled up, by the time the second is filled you have been cleared and are on your way into the airport… We only see these checks after you have already passed all the way through security, which seems just a bit backwards – "You don't have a bomb with you now, but it appears that you were in recent contact with one…"

Then quickly through ticketing and security and you're into the wonders of the new terminal 2. It's huge, and apparently is used for all of the internal China flights with all of the International flights, that aren't out of Pudong, being relegated to the older terminal 1.

At this time it's almost 16:00, and I had about a hour to kill before hopping on the quick 90 minute flight down to Xiamen, so I stopped at one of the small coffee shops, had a drink and enjoyed the free wireless that the airport provides. Later I was complaining that this new airport had its gates set up in such a way that less of a line then normal formed at boarding, which made for a fun push of elbows just to get on the plane and to your seat.

As soon as I get seated on the plane they make an announcement that the flight is going to be delayed due to "Not enough petrol." This was a new one to me, but at least it was more description then "For flow control", although I did wonder why they wouldn't fuel up the plane before we boarded it. Looking out the window you could watch a pretty fierce lightening storm making its way to the airport, I figured we had about 40 minutes to take off if we wanted to miss it. Five minutes later they announce that they are going to feed us on the plane now before it takes off – that's their nice way of letting people know that their flight is being delayed. I looked outside again and figured that we would be lucky to get out before the storm – unfortunately I was correct.

The meal was good, and followed by a couple rounds of drink service as we watched the rains come and lightening hit close enough that it felt like the thunder shook the plane, and as women walked their screaming babies up and down the aisle I figured that they pretty much knew there was a break in the storm coming and that we would be out as soon as possible…

No such luck, after 4 hours sitting in said tin can it was determined that the storm was still going strong and they might as well let us off the plane to stretch a little and get some fresh air. The air in those planes gets real stagnant when they aren't running the engines and getting a great recirculation. So here we are, almost 3 hours past when we were supposed to land, heading back into the terminal in Shanghai.

At about that time they started handing out food boxes and drinks to the flight that was supposed to leave after us at the gate, and this caused a bit of a issue with some of the guys that had just gotten of the plane with me. They felt that we deserved food and a drink since we were more delayed, and the airlines felt they we should all just sit down since they fed us on the plane 4 hours ago. Forty minutes later us passengers won that argument and we were given a second meal of two muffins and a bottle of water.

Another 3 hours of watching the storm and the increasing yelling match between two travelers and the airline employees and we are back to boarding the plane. This time the line is much more organized and I'm only 2 people behind a child whose stomach decides it doesn’t want to hold all the chocolate and drink his parents have been feeding him. I only get a little splash back on my shoes, unlike the poor woman in front of me.

We board the plane to see that one of the complainers has decided that since we had to wait he can sit up in first class. This has the attendants telling him to move and then the gate agents coming down to talk to him again. At this point its past midnight and everyone just wants to get this plane in the air, but this man is insistent on arguing that he deserves to be up front. After 20 minutes of arguing, why a guard or someone wasn't called to just take him off the plane I don't understand, he finally moves to his correct seat and the plane closes up and pushes back from the terminal.

Made for a fun night, I finally made it to the hotel just after 02:30 and was quickly asleep since I had to be up and off to work first thing in the morning.

The fun of it all, at least the trip had that so that I would have something to post for you all…