上海 Blog #4
Wednesday May 20th, 2015
Local Time: Airplane Time (17:20 CDT vs 6:20 Shanghai Time)
I’m on the airplane. You know, the one that goes to China. I’m feeling very not Chinese right now considering I’d say about 95% of the people on this flight are either Chinese or Chinese American (it’s really impossible to tell the difference at this point). We’re about half way through the 13 hours flight (** cue unenthusiastic “yay”), 4,000 miles in and should be flying over/near Russia right about now after having made it through the southern tip of Alaska. It was daylight when we began flying, it is daylight while we are flying, it will be daylight when we land and it will be daylight another six or seven hours after we land. In total, we’re talking roughly 24 hours of pure, unadulterated, nothing-but daylight. Who needs to go to either pole for their daylight fix?
The plane’s crew has taken pains to mitigate the blinding sun by shutting every window and turning the lights off. I think that’s my cue I’m supposed to sleep, especially since it’s early morning in Shanghai and I’ve already been up since 4:30am CDT. But besides my two hour nap on the bus from Madison to O’Hare and my two hour nap on the plane (both heavily interrupted, with lots of tossing and turning and trying to be comfortable) there is no sleeping to be done by me at this time. I’ve always sucked at sleeping in any position besides laying down. So instead, I’m studying Chinese, writing this blog, exploring the aircraft and looking forward to making the best of whatever exhaustion awaits me upon arrival in Shanghai. It’s sort of difficult to tell exactly how to approach this whole impending doom they call “jetlag.” My sleep schedule is naturally so wack anyway (I’m a 3am to 11 am sort of sleep schedule) that maybe this whole 13 hours ahead turning-the-nights-and-days-around.
Let me tell you, there is plenty of exploring to be done because this plane is absolutely massive. I’m sitting near the back of economy class with the thirteen or so other Madison students on the Global Gateway Trip. Our professor, from Holland, who personably enough has insisted on going by Mark, is sitting near the front of economy with his wife and two children. The family will be staying in Shanghai for a week before moving on to Taiwan, his wife’s home country. Mark will be staying in residence with us at East China Normal University for the full month and teaching us Chinese Religious Studies at the ungodly hour of 9:30am.
We’ve been served chicken, rice, vegetables and salad for lunch (dinner maybe?) and a sandwich and chips for lunch. Airplane food isn’t as bad as I was told it would be. They’ve been running movies pretty consistently on screens that absolutely litter economy class. There are Chinese subtitles on everything, but the movies themselves are American. I have no idea how anyone can read the subtitles as fast as their being flashed. I’ve found three channels connected to the movies when I plug in my headphones. #1 plays in English, on some movies #2 plays in Japanese, and I can’t quite tell what language is running on channel #3 but I’m fairly certain it isn’t Mandarin because whatever is being said doesn’t match what few subtitles I can comprehend. Whatever language it is, it’s definitely Asiatic in origin though and sounds tonal to me.
There are 14 sound channels in total and upon my perusal of said channel, I came across a song I recognized as country, “Whiskey on My Breath.” Sure enough, of the 11 music stations on this international flight, one of them is American Country Music. Ha, small world! Who knew? Also representing is classical, oldies big band, rock, oldies pop, R & B, modern variety, modern pop, Chinese modern pop (which contains a fair bit of English in addition to mandarin lyrics, as far as I can tell), Japanese pop (or J-pop as all the cool kids call it) and a classical Chinese music station. Nobody told me the flight out was going to be an adventure in itself.
I was that annoying, curious, little tourist that opened the window, let all the really bright, white light in, and woke half the plane up. Oops. But we’re flying over brilliantly snow-capped mountains right now. It’s beautiful. I’ll probably begin filling out my customs form now that they passed out at the beginning of the flight. Almost there (that is, over half way there)! I’m definitely a long way from home.