It's all a blur. That is, after I got off the plane this will all seem a blur, and truth be told, it's all a blur right now in middle of it all.
It's been nice a nice trip to far, Lynne and I got 3 seats in the back of the plane for our Charlotte to SFO leg. This let us take turns sleeping on each others laps. That flight was uneventful except for the landing. Coming into SFO in a rain storm with 30MPH on-shore winds ensured us a solid 20 minutes of rugged turbulence during the landing. Definitely the choppiest landing I've experienced so far, and the closest I've come to using a barf-bag on a plane. I wasn't the only one as most of the passengers we're green by the time we landed.
By far the most grueling part of the trip has been the 11 hour flight from SFO to BJ, and in this paying extra for business class has been worth it. We got to use the short line to get our boarding passes and check our luggage. We then spent some time in the United Red Carpet Lounge relaxing waiting for the two other families we met up with in Charlotte to get through the coach line. We did rub it in a little, but only because Mark and Moya got to fly first class from Charlotte to SFO.
The food on the flight was good, though I believe that's a matter of taste and Lynne would probably disagree with me. The first meal started with an appetizer that included lobster and smoked salmon. Choices for the first meal included shrimp, duck or beef, though by the time they back to us, all the beef was gone. All the food was served on real plates, though we still had to eat with plastic silerware.
The other nice thing was that we were flying on a non-US carrier, which meant that if not experiencing turbulence, we could all hang out around the galley areas and talk to other adopting families or the flight crew which were all very congenial. US carriers are now hyper-sensitive about security and don't allow you to hang around the galley or bathrooms chatting.
The only downside to business class was really with the plane we were flying on. You see, we came over on a 747-400, a huge, old, probably 20 if not 30 year old two level plane. The upper deck includes the flight deck and business class which seats 20. The only problem is that there is very little space in the overhead compartments and so we had to check half of our carry-on bags. We ended up shuffling things around beyond the gate before getting on the plane, trying to decide what to take and what to check.
I would like to take some time right now to thank my father-in-law for for going on and on about economy class syndrome before we left, thus relagating every ache and pain in our arms and legs not just annoying, but elevated them to the calling card of a deadly blood clot. I was sufficiently freaked out that I got up religiously and walked about the cabin and stretched ever hour, the only time I sat for longer than that was the single two hour nap I took towards the end of the flight. Now I fully believe that ECS is a real problem and I think it will be interesting to see how the inherent tension between the need to get up and move around to prevent ECS and the over-zealous security rules of domestic carriers that prevent people from congregating around the galleys will play out. If history is any guide, more than one person will have to die and their survivors sue the airlines after after suffering from ECS and being told to return to their seat after trying to avoid it by walking around the plane.
After getting of the plane we got our luggage we met up with our CHI guides and the rest of the families arriving on the plane and were bussed to our hotel. It is now 7:30 at night China time. Did you know China only has one time zone? I bet they don't even have daylight savings time. We disgorged the luggage into the very nice hotel room and picked up our "panda phone" and called home to check on the kids. They had just gotten up (I will *not* get used to the whole 13-hours-time-difference thing) and were in good spirits. After a quick shopping trip to the grocery/mini-wal-mart-like store next to the hotel we crashed for the night. I slept from 11-3am before waking and not being able to fall back to sleep. I tried for an hour and failed, so now I'm down in the hotel lobby typing this up.