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June 1, 2011

Seven six-layer days – Day Seven Again

I know, it seems as though we should be on Day Eight, but when we cross the international Dateline we will have day seven again and catch up with the day we lost, so this is Day seven again.

The group had a wonderful time last night and yes, there were flashing strobe lights and other flashing lights so I am glad that I didn’t risk it. We are all getting ready to catch the plane for Beijing and then home so we are packing and doing last minute things. The shoppers have a little while to shop and the rest of us are being a little more leisurely. Some of the group is taking China’s equivalent of the bullet train to the airport. I think it takes about nine minutes. I have ridden on the Japanese Bullet trains many times so I don’t feel that I need to do that although the idea of skipping the 1 ˝ hour bus ride is compelling, you will have to wait somewhere for 1 ˝ hours. The Chinese brag that their train is even faster than the Japanese train.

I got up showered, got ready and went down to breakfast. I could have had beef stomach today but I passed on that delicacy. I will repack and get ready to leave after breakfast. We will leave here at noon. We are all cold, tired and ready to go home, I think. It has been an amazing experience, chock full of interesting things and we have been on the go all day every day and we are ready for some down time. At least I am. They will only have five more days of heat. It goes off on the 15th. Brrrr.

We had the morning free so some of the group went to a nearby mall and did more shopping. Some people slept later than usual and some people packed. I am one of the packers. At about 11 something I went down to pay my internet charge. The WIFI was available but not free. Xi’an is the only place where it was free. I ran into Dick who asked if he could use my computer, so of course I said “Yes!” I was the only one who had a computer on the tour. He wanted to reassure his children that he was “OK.”

We are staying at the Renaissance Hotel. Doris and I had a corner room with a view on the 49th floor. It is a very nice five star hotel and had two queen size beds with five pillows each, a large screen TV, a little couch and a big desk. It was very nicely decorated and very comfortable. There were fluffy robes and slippers and a nice bathroom with a picture window. It had a Venetian blind so it was private but Doris and I couldn’t quite figure out the rational. Doris decided that it was so that people could watch TV while they bathed. I guess that was a good a guess as any.

We were to meet in the ground floor lobby at 11:45 or noon or 12:15 depending on what you thought you heard. We waited for the two women who managed to get lost or strayed every so often. They had gone to McDonalds for lunch! I thought of Kay in Paris, when she was 13. She said, “I didn’t come to Paris to eat at McDonalds!”

We were finally all there and the people who were going to take the bullet train were put on a bus to the station and the rest of us got on another bus and left for the airport. It was an interesting ride, especially the part where the driver backed up on the three lane thruway to take a ramp that he had missed. The traffic can be very exciting. There was a lot of building going on in anticipation of the World Expo coming to China in about 51 days.

We have been somewhat anxious every time we fly with one of the men. His He is Dick and the tour company put “Dick” on his papers instead of Richard so his papers didn’t match his passport. Fortunately, these Chinese tour guides are really good at getting us in and out of the airports and in and out of the country. He was instructed to act calm and not say anything. It worked and once more he got a boarding pass. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Our flight was not direct from Shanghai. We had to go back through Beijing, so we had a little wait there. I am sure our shoppers checked out the shops in the airport. The Beijing airport is big and new and very nice although I could have skipped a second visit.

The flight home on the 747 was uneventful, at least the first part was. We had just a little spot of turbulence. Perhaps it is because I have flown so much, but I am usually asleep before the plane leaves the ground. I shared a row with a Chinese man with an empty seat between us. I awoke to the sound of a child screaming and crying. During the night a young mother and her little boy, A.K.A. the little Emperor, had switched seats with the gentleman and they were now next to me. The mother informed me that Chinese children are spoiled and that her child is very spoiled. I was rather amused, and also grateful, when the flight attendant came by and silently handed me a set of ear plugs. The flight attendants also impressed me by their attention to cleanliness. They came by and regularly wiped down the toilet seats. The food was not very good but we have been eating so much it was OK.

The young woman with the child next to me was most interesting. She was very beautiful and spoke English perfectly. She had worked in the US about eight years and was now living and working in China. She was in the film industry. I asked her if she was in front of the cameras or behind the cameras. She is in the business end and seems to be very successful. Her little boy, Jaden, has a Caucasian father who is much older than the she is. She was taking Jaden to visit him. They are not together and she lives close to her Chinese family. By the end of the trip Jaden was sitting on my lap and looking out the window.

We were happy to arrive in Los Angeles and breezed through Customs and Immigration , except for two women who had claimed their luggage and decided they had to visit the “Happy House”. That is a euphemism for toilet. They gave their luggage to someone to take to the meeting place and somehow went to a toilet reserved for security personnel. They were caught doing this totally forbidden activity and since they had no luggage or papers, they had a hard time explaining themselves to the officials. We couldn’t get to them or even send a message. We tried all sorts of things and eventually they appeared and a cheer went up from our group. I told them what I had learned on safari, “Don’t ever leave the herd! When you leave the herd you become prey!”.

We boarded the bus that had been waiting patiently for us. We had become adept at counting to 17 and then calling out, “Two Dollah!” which evidently means, in Chinese, “complete” or “all here” or some such thing so one more time we counted to 17 and called out “Two Dollah!” We appreciated the bus staying in its lane and following the traffic rules and depositing us safely at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange. Doris had parked her car there so we drove home and arrived about 7:30 PM. I ate a yogurt and puttered a bit, took a Tylenol PM and, except for the cat visits during the night, during which she slept ON me and head butted me and meowed at me and asked for some serious petting, I slept until 8 A.M.

There is no place like home.

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