Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Update from Pete

I just got this email from Pete. Apparently the internet access is not so "forever blessed" in China. He got a 2 hr pass and that was it.

He's still stuck in an airport.

The email (sorry about the weird spacing):

Hey Baby,

Lost internet access. I don't think I'm going to make it out of
Bejing. No flights have left yet today. Uh oh.


Here's my blog entries - can you post them for me? China blocks
blogspot and facebook among other things.

June 17, 2010 8:04 AM (5:04PM Pacific)
Location: Bejing International Airport (terminal 2)

Why am I still in Bejing, you might be wondering? Shouldn’t I be
touring a factory in Lianyungang RIGHT NOW?


Let’s just say I got to see the dull dairy-cow staring en mass
today/yesterday as all my co-passengers and I were herded to and fro
like so many cattle. What started out as a simple little 11 hour
jaunt from Vancouver to Bejing turned into a 23 hour oddessey, 25
hours if you count the delays before we even got on the plane in
Vancouver. I won't go chapter and verse, but I'll hit the most
amusing highlights from a highly unusual plane trip.

1. In Vancouver, our flight was delayed for 2 hours due to
"non-functional water closets on the left of the plane," leading me to
crack wise - "Can the plane lift it's left wing? Maybe it's having a
stroke!" No noticeable chuckles. from my traveling companions, though
in my defense most of them didn't speak English. Turns out that the
movies/audio didn't work on that side either. I kept checking out the
window to see how that side's engine was doing.

2. After a movie-less eleven hour flight, we were relieved to
finally touch down. There was a long announcement in Mandarin, and a
groan which I assumed meant we would have to wait a few minutes on the
Bejing tarmac before offloading. The local time was about 6PM, so I
figured even though I had to change terminals, I could still catch my
connection to Lianyungang at 7:20PM. Even so, I was a little worried,
so I got up to try and plead my case for being let out a little early
leading to the following faux-Chinese Abbot and Costello routine
between me and a very baffled flight attendant (VBFA).

Me: I have a connection to Lianyungang at 7:20 - can you let me out a
little early please?
VBFA: The weather - Bejing is bad.
Me: Uh huh. I have a connection to make at 7:20, can you help me?
VBFA: (baffled) Bejing weather is not good.
Me: But we're already IN Bejing!
VBFA: (even more baffled). WEATHER BAD!
Me: (staring, baffled)
VBFA: (baffled)
Me: Ok. I'll just go sit down now.

Now, you might think I am an idiot, because you know the end of the
story, but I swear, at the time me and the other non-mandarin fluent
passengers thought we were in Bejing. Finally, a guy a few rows
behind me blew our minds by telling us we were in someplace called
Shen Yang. Hm.

3. Outline of the rest of the time:

• 2h go by. Still on tarmac in Shen Yang
• Instruction to gather our belongs and prepare to de-board, followed
by no less than an hour and a half of us all standing ridiculously
with our bags in the aisles, not moving.
• Instruction to put away our bags and prepare to take off. Wait 2 hours.
• Plane backs up 5 feet. Wait an hour.
• Instruction to stand up.
• Instruction to sit down (I swear I’m not making this up.)
• The plane was out of food by that point, so they brought us some
crackers with three layers – cracker/butter filling/cracker/lemon zest
filling/cracker. Gut-turning. As a more experienced traveler would
later tell me that night – “never eat a ‘filling’ in China.”
• Plane finally deboards, but they won’t let us leave the baggage
area, though they have supposedly arranged a hotel for us. At least
an hour goes by. Turns out there are about 30-40 passengers on the
plane without Chinese Visas, who CAN’T LEGALLY LEAVE THE CUSTOMS
CHECKPOINT. (Ala “The Terminal” with Tom Hanks).
• Finally, since these passengers can’t leave we REBOARD THE PLANE!
• Go back through security, I kid you not. I even got patted down.
• Wait.
• Fly to Bejing!! Arrive at about 5AM local time, vs. expected
arrival of 4PM the previous day.

So what was the weather situation? Never explained. My personal
feeling is that they were having mechanical problems (maybe on the
left side of the plane?), but we’ll never know. Thankfully, upon
landing the flight crew apologized “for any inconvenience.”

And THAT, my friends is why I am still in Bejing.

In case you were wondering.

PS – ticket counter where I modified my flight had a picture of Santa
on the wall, a full size glittery head. I didn’t inquire.

June 17, 2010 12:39PM
Location: Bejing International Airport (terminal 2)

Every flight since 7:30 this morning has been delayed due to
thunderstorms. Odds of things clearing up by 7PM for my flight seem

I told Rosie before I left that I thought this would be a growing
experience for me, fending for myself in foreign environment, but in
my heart I thought things would go pretty much according to plan.

Suddenly I’m starving for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Pretty
sure I saw one back at terminal one…

(hurredly packing up stuff and heading for the tram.)