Shedding the Past

It’s a bit odd writing this post; for one, it’s been a “long” time (photographically) since my trip to China, and two, I’m writing from Germany, home for [at least] the next year. Reflecting back on a trip over months old is thus refreshing but also potentially dangerously narrative. With that disclaimer…

The trip home — the first time I’ve done back-to-back trips to China since the late 1990s — started in Houston, where I visited a friend who works at the Johnson Space Center. Few people can say they are friends with rocket scientists, but I’ve known my buddy in Houston since grade school. This time, he showed me Mission Control (nearly all of them) from the ground floor. I had two takeaways: first, the amount of technological achievements that come together to support a mission in orbit is astounding; and two, the equipment used to make space missions possible is outdated (making the first point even more impressive).

China 2015-1

 

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Shedding the Past

Addicting

It is perhaps a bit strange that I have thus far avoided the plane discussion on my China trip. Fear not; that discussion is here! The delay is due inevitably to how conveniently (if somewhat unrelated) it served as a segue into this post: it’s no secret that I have a love for planes and spend an inordinate time planning flights in order to fly on certain planes. No matter how hard I tried this time, though, I couldn’t get away from flying on the original jet that coined the term “Jumbo Jet”: the Boeing 747.

Addicting-5

 

 

While I had flown on the newest iteration, the Boeing 747-8, on my trip back from Germany last year, I’ve tended to avoid United’s 747s in particular because they are old and lack in-seat entertainment. (My trip back to the US was on an electronics-rich United 787-8, in comparison.) My flight from ORD-PVG was nevertheless on a United 747-400, and in the absence of all things luxurious I got to appreciate flight as it was just twenty years ago. (Shout out: the captain did a masterful job landing the plane — it was probably the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced.) Accordingly, I felt a pang of sadness as I watched a 747-400 push back from Shanghai’s Pudong: the view came with the realization that my inbound flight might have been the last time I fly on a 747-400. Addictions, even so immaterial as one to dated commercial aircraft, die hard.

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Addicting

Calming

It has been several years since I last visited China and seemed as long since my [in actuality] recent Singapore vacation. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the trip: was the pollution and smog really as bad as Western media reported? How much Mandarin had I forgotten? After visiting Singapore twice, would I find China revoltingly backwards? Would the Chinese recognize me as one of their own or as an outsider?

I braced myself for a frantic two weeks, but amid the fervor I found unexpected calm.

Calming-3

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Calming