We're back. Enjoying a day with friends, family, A/C, Mexican food, root beer, fast internet, a Braves game on TV :-) ... all the kinds of things we don't get much of in China.
Our journey home began after a restless night in which our air conditioning in China decided to stop spewing out cold air and instead simply regurgitate warm, stuffy air. Not too restful. Thankfully the school brought us to the Xi'an airport (1 hour away) in an air conditioned van.
When we got to the air port two hours before our flight, they still hadn't begun checking anyone in for international flights, so we began waiting. By the time they opened the check-in line, we'd admired some Chinglish. At the front of the line was where the problems began. during the 10-15 minutes she spent trying to check us in, the rest of the passengers had been sent through security checks and were waiting to board the plane. She frantically began making phone calls, finally getting approval from a supervisor to let us on. My guess was that someone made a mistake when applying my passport number to the ticket, but since she spoke very little English, it's all a guess.
Our Korean Air flight to Seoul left about 15 minutes late, but not too bad. Then in Korea, we encountered another problem when we handed our tickets to the ticket-takers just before boarding - "go over there," please, they told us, pointing to the service desk. There, we were handed new boarding passes with an ominous note about baggage, which gave us the impression that it might not make it to the plane. Unfortunately the Seoul to Atlanta leg wasn't on Korean Air as we'd hoped. Instead it was on Delta (Korean is well-regarded for it's service, Delta isn't).
We were seated in seats 40 B and H. I don't know why they didn't seat us together, but we figured, surely someone will want to change seats. I asked my two neighbors, but neither wanted to trade a window or aisle for a middle seat (I don't blame them). Thankfully Ruth's seatmates were a couple who wanted to sit together, so finally, I got one of my seatmates to move. This was the first time I've ever flown on a long internationl flight that has the cool in-seat entertainment centers in them. Every other time, I've been forced to crane my neck to watch overhead displays show whatever lame movies the airline had picked out for us. This time we had more than 100 movies, music, and even games to choose from on our cool touch screen. "Maybe Delta is OK," we thought. Since I couldn't sleep, I managed to watch no less than FIVE movies during the flight, in addition to getting some grad school reading done. I watched Best in Show (grade: A-, lots of laughter) simultaneously with Ruth, then we diverged, Ruth watched several chick flicks and I opted for a variety of films: The Flash of Genius (B+, surprisingly good story about inventor of intermentant windshield wipers), Bedtime Stories (C+ funny, but silly & predictable Adam Sandler movie), Gran Torino (A, excellent, very deep, movie about much more than the title implies), Burn After Reading (B-, Cohen Bros - odd but interesting characters, like most Cohen movies, I'll probably like it more on a second viewing). Only managed about an hour of sleep in our 17 hours of flying (almost 3 hrs from Xi'an to Seoul & 14 hours from Seoul-Atlanta).
When we touched down in Atlanta, there was no gate for our airplane, so we got to spend another hour sitting on the runway, waiting. Wish I would have gone for the sixth movie. We were amazed at the diversity of people. I kept finding myself staring at people. Surprised cuz the security people even made small talk with us about friends living in China. I can't imagine guards in Los Angeles, let alone China, doing that.
After waiting and waiting and waiting for our bags to finally arrive, we grabbed them and started heading for the exit, then realized we weren't done just yet: at the Atlanta airport, some genious decided that customs should be next to the international gate. Unfortunately, that gate is miles from the exit, so we had to now re-check our luggage and go through security AFTER going through customs. Since when is there security to LEAVE an airport? We hopped on the train, which brought us to the other terminal and met Ruth's family, then we had to wait again, while our luggage came to us.
We finally got out of the airport a good 2 hours after we'd touched down - about 24 hours after leaving Weinan, I think (though my math is a little fuzzy with all the time changes). We swung by the Varsity and enjoyed the best onion rings and fried apple pies around (along with a chili dog), then made our way toward beds. I slept like a baby for 10 hours. Ruth wasn't so lucky, only 6 hours or so for her before jetlag strangeness kicked in. Hopefully tonight works out a little better.