August 5, 2008

En fin! (At Last!)

So, 22 hours of travel and we finally arrive in Beijing.

All things considered, it was a decent trip. The flight crew was exceptionally nice and attentive, and we got Haagen-Dazs for dessert. The food was more than edible.

We got seats together once we checked in at LAX and the agent was kind enough to let us have three seats. Paul's daughter, Drew, had warned us that the airline, ANA, had pretty tight quarters.

She wasn't kidding. But we had three seats, so no worries, right?

We slept for about five hours, watched some video. The time passed fairly quickly. I think because most of my long-haul travel has been solo the last few years.

The plane arrived a little bit late into Narita, which wouldn't have been a problem except for the 1 hour layover. A nice Japanese woman was waiting for us, and personally escorted us through security. We jumped the queue and hightailed it to our waiting plane. Mostly, we were stunned they held it for us. That never happens anymore.

We also had seats together from Tokyo to Beijing; an aisle and a window in a 2-3-2 configuration. The plane was pretty full -- the Canadian softball team and assorted tourists, mostly, so there weren't any empty seats. But the fat guy in front of me (in a bulkhead seat, mind you) decided that reclining all the way back was the way to go. Why shouldn't he be comfortable?

The main problem with that was when he was fully reclined (and my tray table was up) there wasn't even enough room for me to get out of my seat. Plus, there was some sort of blockage in the front, so I had no foot room, either.

Stewing turned into a claustrophobic panic attack and I had to get up and get some water and some air. And then I was fine. But I felt bad, because I'm supposed to be the calm one when we travel.

I was not a happy camper -- and that was a pretty long three hours.

But then we arrived in Beijing, and it was cool (okay, not literally). Everywhere we looked there were helpful people ushering us this way and that. We sailed through immigration and customs, went to get the credentials validated and were then personally escorted to the bus that would take us to our hotel.

I was taken by how eager everyone was to speak to us in English. How much of an effort was being made to make things easy, to make a good impression.

Paul says that in the beginning, everyone is friendly at the Olympics. The true test is how friendly they are at the end of the nearly three-week period.

We'll see.

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