blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Written over the Mongolian desert

Although there was no Gmail access, no Facebook access, no Google Search opportunity and no Blogger access while we were in Beijing, because of China's Internet censorship, I did take notes so that I could publish this series of blogposts later.

Mid-flight on the Boeing 777
I wrote this first one in the middle of our flight from Toronto to China, in the sort of situation where you look longingly at the standing area near the toilets and think what a good place it would make for a bed if the other people would only get out of the way and allow you to lie flat there.

May 8th-9th, 2015

We'd had breakfast at Zak's in Ottawa's Byward Market to fortify us for the long haul. Our first flight, to Toronto, was very short, and after it we walked across to the "Enhanced Seating" in the International Departures Lounge for some sandwiches. "Enhanced" means that the counters by the bar stools all have iPads available for playing with, not such a good idea; their batteries were nearly dead, so few people were using them. Our Air Canada flight was announced as san shi yi, Mandarin for 31, which made us aware that nearly all our fellow passengers were Chinese. Even the non-Asian members of the flight crew had a smattering of the language so that they could keep their charges in order. The man announcing our boarding procedures sounded like an auctioneer selling sheep.

We had paid for an enhanced seat in the plane too, in the exit row which gave Chris lots of legroom, to his relief, but no usable window. A window is irrelevant anyhow since all windows are kept tightly sealed throughout Air Canada flights, nowadays. It is like sitting in a dark tunnel for 13 hours. We had the pull-out trays and screens which meant unmovable armrests. Half way across the Arctic near the North Pole our second meal of the flight was served––pot noodles with a pair of chopsticks and a spam and salad-cream sandwich, specially chosen for the clientele, I presume. I had green tea with mine. During most of the flight I kept myself sane by watching my choice of videos on the miniature DVD player I'd brought along: Quartet, starring Maggie Smith, Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Koran, starring Omar Sherif, and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman as the young missionary to China. I also started reading a funny and original novel, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson, a Swede. Chris spent his time listening to podcasts and a recording of Schubert's Schöne Müllerin song cycle, lyrically performed by Olaf Bär. For one or two of those songs, we shared his headset, which is a very intimate thing to do, in the circumstances.

There's a wonderful Chinese baby in the bulkhead row near us, like a little mandarin with a fuzzy round head and admirably patient parents. I feel comfortable with the Chinese.

At 2am Ottawa time / 2pm Beijing time the pink lights came on in the cabin indicating it was time for us to wake up now. But we hadn't been asleep.

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