First Day

24 hours of travel from Portland to Pudong will never be anything but long! I had looked at the seat map for our San Francisco to Shanghai leg to discover that the map had changed completely. Our treasured double window/aisle seat at the rear of the 747 wasn’t there. Imagining sitting in an inside seat so Sherry could have her aisle seat for 13 hours brought cold sweat. Walking out to the gate, I scanned curiously to see what aircraft they’d changed to. My heart sang when I saw the 747 sitting there. Sliding into the window seat with room between it and the aircraft wall felt so comforting. Now I could grade my papers and even stretch without worrying about colliding with another human.

We went down the Burger King to get some lunch before boarding. Sherry went to hold our table in the crowded eating area and got to talking to a woman sitting at the next table. When I got there, we realized that we knew each other! They’d been students in a class quite a while back. They are Assembly of God missionaries who are so migratory that they have no home. They simply travel the world teaching and consulting. It didn’t sound attractive to either Sherry or me!

I often imagine stories about people around me. I dubbed the fellow ahead of Sherry as the “worried man.” The concentration folds above his nose were constant and deep as he considered how to stow his things. Even when they were all satisfactory, the worry lines were still there. I imagined he was one of the coaches for the Chinese athletic team having so much light hearted fun in their bright red and white sweat suits. I imagined they were returning home in happy triumph while their coach was worried about all the other things. The fatigue of worry meant that as soon as possible he pushed his seat all the way back robbing Sherry of the bit of room ahead of her. He seemed to be constantly moving, even when he was asleep.

Half way through the flight the attendant was bringing canisters of hot water back to “cook” our Top Ramen style noodle snack. As she came by the worried man, he swung into the aisle, tripping her so she spilled hot water on her leg. She stared incredulously at him, getting no reply. She returned in a bit with more hot water. Apparently she spilled some on him stimulating a very strong reaction. She kindly got him some napkins to sop up the water. Fortunately, that was the end of things and the feud didn’t come our way.

Arrival meant the long lines through immigration and then the question of whether we’d have to answer questions about the 40 copies of Vintage Jesus. The open “nothing to declare” line was a relief and soon Jason was greeting us happily and we were on the way to the SMIC complex.

We are trying to get used to our nice three bedroom, two bath apartment. It is a little strange padding around in someone else’s apartment trying to find things and figure things out. Some of his stuff is here and there but out of the way, so it’s no problem. But what’s the wooden piece of furniture near the front door? It looks a little dresser drawers, but it’s too skinny. Investigation shows that it’s a place to store shoes. Of course one does not wear shoes in the house. That would be a little like dumping sewage on the floor.

The beds are Chinese style, which means that it’s extremely firm, a little like a blanket on the floor. But fatigue helps!

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