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  • Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Long and Safe Trip to Chengdu

    We left home in Lords Valley about 2:00 PM on Tuesday, October 3. Francia drove me to our son Tad's home in Tenafly NJ. Had my last American Chinese take-out dinner. The limo driver arrived 15 minutes early, so it was quick "Goodbyes" to Francia and Tad's family. Although it was rush hour in New York, we got to JFK Airport in less than 45 minutes. With the help of a porter, I was first in line to check-in for my China Airlines flight; I had gotten to the airport 5 hours before departure time. After an hour, the check-in counter opened. I had three bags to check through, expecting to pay more than $100 for the third bag. The clerk said, "Your third bag is about the size of a carry-on so I won't charge you for it, but they may charge you in Hong Kong when you check in for your Air China flight." My first break!

    Had four hours to wait for my flight. An elderly Chinese woman sat next to me in the waiting area and started a conversation. She was going to Taiwan for surgery because it was much less expensive than the USA. She had come to New York many years ago, studied and then worked in accounting for Columbia University until retirement. She had been a member of the West Side YMCA in New York until it became too expensive for her. She was now studying piano with a private teacher. While waiting, a China Airlines attendant came around and was lifting carry-on luggage to check their weight and made many check their carry-ons. He never lifted my carry-on. My second break!

    The flight left New York on time. It landed in Anchorage where we had to deplane for about one hour. Anchorage airport had free wireless Internet service; since in was now 8:00 AM in NJ, using Skype I called Francia at Tad's house. What an amazing service! Then, on to Taipei. The flight from NY to Taipei took 18 hours -- it was like a VERY LONG night, as we left NY late at night on October 3 (EDT) and arrived in Taipei early in the morning on October 5 (China time). I slept much of the time, getting up to eat and to deplane in Anchorage.

    I had less than a half hour between flights in Taipei, but the cabin attendant said there were several folks on the plane making my connection and that they would hold the plane for us. So I walked off the first flight, went to the next gate and boarded my second flight in about 5 minutes. It was about three hours to Hong Kong. Although my flying experience is not very extensive, this Airbus plane was the nicest plane on which I have ever flown. Everything was great!

    Had a little more than one hour in Hong Kong. Had a little trouble finding the Air China check-in counters (got wrong directions the first time). Was in luck again, Air China did not charge me for my extra bag since China Airlines had not charged. Found a wireless Internet connection, but couldn't get Skype to connect on it. Then, the final three hour flight to Chengdu -- the only flight of the three that was not full. Chinese Airlines is based in Taiwan; Air China is a Mainland China airline.

    Arrived on time in Chengdu. My three bags were in the first ten coming down the luggage belt. My fourth break! I had been concerned because of the short time between flights in Taipei that my luggage wouldn't be with me. Did not have anything to claim, so zipped through the Green Line at customs and into the waiting area.

    Isabella Hua, General Secretary of the Chengdu YMCA, and her husband, Charles, were waiting for me. It was WONDERFUL to see and meet them. They drove me to my apartment, helped me get my luggage into the apartment, gave me instructions on the various appliances in the apartment, and gave me the rest of the afternoon to settle into my new home. Said they would be back about 6:30 PM to take me to dinner at their home which is in the building next door. By the time I was to meet them, I had unpacked and was beginning to feel at home!

    I met them in the lobby at 6:30 PM. Charles had brought my bike. Showed me where to park and lock it in the guarded underground bike garage. Then, we went next door to their apartment and I experienced my first Chinese dinner in China. The food was great and I began to learn the family style way in which Chinese eat their meals.

    From this first partial day in China, I knew how lucky I was to have this wonderful opportunity through the North American Fellowship of YMCA Retirees! Thank you, NAFYR!


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