I began my journey back to China early on Sunday morning. Friday night, my aunt and cousin made a last minute one night visit, so we lounged around and visiting, had breakfast tacos made by my dad, and went to Cracker Barrell for a last homestyle meal before they left Saturday evening. I had a t-shirt quilt that I had vague intentions of finishing Saturday night/Sunday morning before leaving, but with sewing machine issues and limited time, I didn't get anywhere close to finishing it. I did stay up all night getting as far along as I could on the quilt, answering e-mails, and hemming a pair of pants. My parents took me to the airport at 4:30 Sunday morning.
At the Abilene airport, my two large bags made it in, even though they were one pound and six pounds over the limit. (The new limit was 50 pounds each, 20 pounds each less than it used to be! That's probably good for me, though, because I really do have a lot of stuff already and I need to learn to be more of a minimalist.) When I went through the security check point, my heavy carry on had to be searched through because there was so much metal in it. I had a six pack of mini Dr.Peppers for my friend, a jar of jelly, apple cider packets with metal foil on them, a cheese grater, and various other small bits of metal that the detector didn't like. They unpacked it all, and then asked if I was going to cooking school. No, I told them, I just live in China. They nodded like they understood, then as I walked away, they kept on talking about the contents of my bag.
I slept all the way from Abilene to Dallas, and most of the way from Dallas to San Jose, waking up only for the breakfast, which was a choice of special K or egg and cheese quesadilla. I was sitting next to a big guy who asked me "Do you think anybody ever actually chooses the Special K?" I laughed, savoring the last of my chances to interact with strangers in English.
As I walked to the gate in San Jose to depart on the plane to Tokyo, I breathed deeply the smells of Starbucks, California Pizza Kitchen, and Cinnabon. Oh, the smells of America! It'll be a while until I get to experience those again. I got closer to my departing gate, but I didn't actually have to look for the gate number. I knew I was there as the number of Asian guys wearing cute clothes, thick plastic rimmed glasses, and carrying girly looking handbags increased.
I sat next to a guy on the overseas flight who asked me a lot of questions about spirituality. That was good and made me think through some things. I got to watch the new Pride and Prejudice and part of Proof. I was happy for good movies, although I think I like the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice better. Colin Firth just can't be outdone as Mr. Darcy.
In Tokyo, we had to deplane at a cargo gate and then be shuttled to the gate. That gave me bruises from carrying my too heavy carry-on up and down the stairs, but I'm recovering well. I also had issues getting my carry-on in some of the overhead compartments. On the first flight, one guy standing near me actually told someone next to him that he didn't think it was going to make it. I sorta felt like I was being voted off a reality show or something. Anyhow, it did make it with a few pushes and shoves.
I had to spend the night in Beijing, then I got on a plane to Yanji Tuesday afternoon. I didn't even leave the hotel. They had a free breakfast, then I just stayed in my room and read. I decided to savor some relaxation time before check-out.
In Yanji, I was surprised to not even need a hat and gloves from the airport to the taxi. Apparently, the weather has just gotten warmer in the past few days. The high temp is still hovering around freezing, but with the sun shining, it's definitely bearable. After haggling with the taxi driver (bringing the price down from 6 bucks to 4), I got back to school early evening. It's been so nice the past few days to see friends again, settle back into a routine, unpack and clean. I decided it would be best to clean a bit before I really unpacked, so I hit the floors with wet rags. The result was a handful of blackened rags from the coal dust that settled on the floor (it even creeps in through closed windows!). After a few rounds of cleaning, finally my room is looking pretty good again, although I am going to have to de-clutter it.
We started meetings yesterday and will have them through the weekend, then we have classes starting on Wednesday, March first. It's good to be back!