Saturday, May 24, 2008

My trip: Day's 1 through 3; Chicago, Narita and Xiamen

Here's the condensed version because I'm tired and need to go to bed (remember, morning in the US = nighttime in China). We left Grand Rapids about 6 am on Wednesday and drove to O'Hare. Checked into our flight on ANA (a Japanese airline), boarded and took off. The flight was 13 hours long but it seemed shorter (we think it was because we were traveling with people we know - my cousin Mike, my cousin Laura, and her husband Andy (aka my BFFe) were traveling with me. Also because I watched three movies, ate a few meals, had a few drinks, and crossed 14 time zones) We arrived in Narita, Japan (which is real close to Tokyo and a major hub for most flights into Asia). We checked into our hostel (which we stayed at b/c we had a 20 hour layover) and then explored Narita. Saw a giant temple, met a new friend from London, and marveled at how much taller I am than everyone there (got some good pictures of me standing in front of door frames that come up to my shoulders, also visited a grocery store where the aisles all came up to my chin).

Next day, we got up (b/c of jet lag we woke up at midnight, 5 am and 7 am), returned to the airport, said goodbye to our English friend (Jo) and flew to Xiamen (this time the flight was 5 hours but still seemed short, probably for the same reasons). Landed, met our host and drove to his company's building for a tour and to meet some of the people who work for him. Then drove to his house dropped of our stuff and went to a local restaurant (in the village where he lives) and had excellent, authentic Chinese food (no General Tso's, sorry) and my dad's favorite Chinese beer, TsingTao (which we learned some of the history of), returned and went to sleep.

Woke up on Saturday and I got to chat (instant message) with Katherine, which was great b/c I miss her and we hadn't communicated directly since Wednesday. Spent the day at work with my host (we're thinking through a strategy for the company and how to manage the strategy going forward). Stopped by a beach about 2 mi from where we're staying and visited a party that this local ex-pat family was throwing for some visitors from their hometown in Texas (we learned they go to the same church in Dallas the Jason Castro of American Idol goes to) and a bunch of local Chinese teens and young adults. So I spent the afternoon playing beach volleyball with limit capacity to communicate with the people I was playing with. Followed that up with another great dinner (and more TsingTao) and then we retired for the evening. Katherine and I got to speak tonight (unfortunately the quality wasn't very good b/c I was using an internet phone) but it was great to hear her voice and to hear Lyla in the background.

I miss my family, I wish they could have come (though 14 hours on a plane, a 20 hour layover, and another 4 hours on a plane with Lyla sounds awful). I'd prefer to be sharing these experiences with them. I really like China, I think living in New York City and San Diego makes Xiamen kind of familiar to me (large city, coastal climate) but it is very limiting not being able to speak the language and know that the trip would be completely different without our host. Anyway, 6 more days. I'm looking forward to it, but also excited to see my beautiful wife and baby again. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. Here's a video of us walking through the village in Xiamen where we are staying: