As always a last minute dash to get bags packed and the current bedroom restored to it’s former glory. I’ve been staying at my Mum’s and she’s been the ultimate host, as always. I’m the guest of honour, and now it’s time to go.
Rolling clothes tightly. Positioning them just so in my 14 year old backpack. The backpack that I bought at the age of 18 to take with me to Europe. This could well be it’s last ride -as the zips have grown weary and seams bulge and fray. A little panic- how’s everything going to fit??? What if it’s overweight?
Somewhere in the middle of this I finally connect with my beautiful English boyfriend. It’s been perhaps 2 weeks without real communication. On skype we have ‘the’ conversation… One that has been brewing, one that unfortunately has to happen and breaks my heart (though in the mayhem I hardly have time to feel it). We no longer reside in the same city OR country…and the idea that we would be together forever has crumpled and the logistics have become too complicated. It feels all too rushed. And just like that…after a year of magic, it’s over. I love you Philly Benoir xxx
Next thing you know Mum and I, we’re in peak hour traffic going to collect my best buddy from town as she’s kindly offered to come out to the airport to see me off.. Mum’s stressing and I’m quietly anxious.
Eventually I am on my Air China flight. But! I am not flying direct to LA – I am going via Beijing. 11 and half hours worth of detouring. I’m in the aisle seat, someone sat next to me and no visable spare seats to sneak into for a little lie down later. The phone rings – it’s my mate Bianca, and Mum – saying a final farewell on speaker phone….awww, bless their cotton sox. I indeed feel loved.
The sun sets – a massive orange orb wrapped in thin Melbournian clouds.
Having flown Air China previously I have very low expectations, so when there is a digital touch screen on the back of the headrest in front, I feel a rising sense of joy. Not the greatest selection of flicks and tv episodes…but it’ll definitely work for the journey ahead.
Read, eat, movie, read, tv, tv, tv (Bear Grylls-yeahh), eat, sleep for 2 hours, arrive.
Beijing – I was here just under 6 weeks ago on my way out from London (my former home) to Melbourne (my original home) for holidays. It’s clear and hazy. Long grey stretches of tarmac sail towards the horizon whilst multi layered plastic wrapped boxes strapped to whizzing cars deliver goods to planes.
Through immigration and the transit area to the next terminal.Now to find my hotel where I am going to spend the next 10 hours until my continuing flight departs.
I have been given a travel voucher that entitles me to 2 meals, a bed and a shower in a hotel – or so I think. For a 6 hour stop over or more this is a granted priviledge, I am told. I get to terminal 31 – hotel found, elevator, reception. “Lounge or hotel” I am asked upon presentation of my voucher. “What?, What??” I reply. “Sleep in lounge with snack, or hotel room four hours” she offers. These are the options and not what I was told to expect at the Air China Melbourne office. After much to-ing and fro-ing, a trip across the airport to the Air China desk and this ‘hotel’ receptionist is not backing down. I take the 4 hours in the hotel room. The room is not much bigger than a closet, but I am truly grateful to see a bed at this stage and in the to-ing and fro-ing, combined with immigration, I’ve managed to kill an hour and a half.
Before you know it, I am back in the airport and hungry. Air China did not provide the 2 meals promised on my ‘hotel stay’, but I must admit I’m quite excited to explore the eating options. I am somewhat obsessed with Chinese food, and the following feast did not disappoint!
Starter – pork and radish steamed buns, followed by fishball and wintermelon soup, beef steamed dumplings with a main of chicken, veg and rice…it’s lunch, breakfast, dinner combined (God only knows what time of day I am on!) accompanied by steaming mugs of jasmine tea – and I am in heaven (:
Onto the next plane – it’s packed with hundreds of Chinese school children between 12-16 years of age on their way to America. I swiftly discover the plane has no inflight entertainment system, just a large sized TV screen for communal viewing in each plane section. Soon after I also discover my seat struggles to stay reclined for more than five minutes. I’m down and the next thing you know I’m back upright. Oh no… this is not looking good. I try to connect my headphones into some bang bang action film now showing on the communal screen and despite flicking through multiple channels; there’s absolutely no volume. I find a friendly, fluent, English speaking airhostess ( now this is a first on Air China) who takes my head phones and tries other seats for volume. Nothing. She apologises and explains she’ll go and reset the entire planes entertainment system whilst my fellow travellers are locked into their Ipads playing computer games and oblivious to my current pain. Boom, just like that and we are back on the airwaves. I take a moment to thank my friendly air hostess, but also express my disappointment in the lack of personal screen and viewing options on this flight. She apologises and explains the plane will be updated in a month or two (no good to me as this is the last Air China flight I’ll be taking) as it is coming up to being almost 20 years old. At this point I have a vision of one wing falling off, balls of fire and our plane plummeting into Eastern Siberia never to be heard of again.
The next thing you know there is a jamboree in the aisles. I’m trying desperately to sleep. I’m being knocked, my chair is still up to it’s old tricks, I’m deep breathing, I’m pacing, I’m counting the minutes and wishing for LA in a big way.
The sun rises. The west coast becomes visable. The ocean shimmers looking diamond studded. Tiny islands pop. The water turns golden. A wave of excitement and anticipation trembles. We’ve touched down. I’ve finally arrived. I’m sleep deprived, but oh so ready! GOODMORNING LALALAND! Buenos dias to you, to you, the City of Angels xxx