The filly flew across the Great Water towards the Dragon’s Lair. At first it was easy. She took to the air like a bird. But the Great Water was large and soon her wings became weary.I flew over the Pacific Ocean on a CAAC flight (now Air China). I almost missed the flight for the the time changed and the only announcements given at LAX were in Mandarin, but I had caught something I thought was a flight number that matched to mine so I went with those putting me on the flight to an attendant who directed us to the gate change for more information. (Even MINIMAL language training can NEVER be underestimated!!)
I boarded a 747 headed across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles International to Shanghai. As this was the Chinese airline, the entire crew was Chinese and they did not rest or sightsee. The plane had just arrived from Beijing and it would be re-fueled and replenished with food stuff for the complete return trip. The flight would make one stop in San Francisco before turning toward Shanghai and passengers would not disembark but remain on the plane. While there weren’t that many passengers, I had a window seat. There was an empty seat and then a seat with a Chinese man. This man promptly set up the two seats as his sleeping berth once we could remove belts upon leaving San Francisco. Anyone who has taken a trans-oceanic flight knows that these flights last upwards of 12 hours (this one was 17!) So I settled back for this unusual flight and observed what occurred.
There was a movie. It was Short Circuit. That was about the only thing I understood about what was going on around me. The stewardesses would come by with meals, but I never knew what they were asking. So I politely accepted what I was given. Something else that was intriguing to me was that as soon as the movie ended, a large group of male passengers immediately stood up and went towards the back of the plane. Chinese poker. They passed out cards and began the betting. It was loud and raucous after awhile as they excitedly called each other on hands.
Another intriguing thing was the transformation of the women. Whatever they had been wearing in the States, quickly was removed in favor of the state uniform of China, Mao jackets, turtlenecks and slacks or jeans.
17 hours is a long time. I went to sleep as I would have for bed (by this time the guy next to me had awoken and joined the poker game) and slept for 8 hours. When I awoke, I was still on a plane and would continue for yet a few more hours.
As we closed in on Shanghai, the less Americanized the plane and passengers and the more Chinese it became. The entertainment on the viewing screen was no longer an American movie, but the Adventures of the Monkey King.
Sun Wukong (Monkey) is an animated film series adapted from the ancient Chinese fantasy novel “Journey to the West”. It tells the tales of Tang Xuanzang (a senior priest) in his mission to India for fetching Buddhist scriptures. The story outstandingly describes a resourceful, brave, and humorous Monkey who beats the demons and monsters who want to eat Tang Priest. The Monkey becomes the real hero of the fantasy tales and these pass on from generation to generation in China.
By now, the batteries in my Walkman had worn out and we were getting the signal from the captain to put our seats in their upright position as we prepared to land in Shanghai.
Now when I did this, these flights weren’t that often. When our plane stopped, only the Shanghai passengers would disembark and then the plane would continue on to Beijing, its final stop. So, in a fog, we begin our descent into Shanghai.
It was night. I remember that. I was a little apprehensive that there didn’t seem to be lights on the runway (mind you that this was only the second time I had flown, but somehow, I distinctly remember the lack of lights). And that’s when I saw THEM. Men. On the runway. They were wearing long jackets (it was cold) and hats with ear flaps. That was hardly the strange thing. No, the strange thing about the men on the runway was the AK-47s they were holding, aimed directly at the plane.
Well, I’m half-embarrassed to say this, but I remember staring out the window and saying out loud to myself, “Dorothy, we’re DEFINITELY not in Kansas anymore!”
And then the plane stopped. Orders were barked and my ticket was demanded. Then after some Chinese from the stewardess, I was ushered quickly off the plane, past the men with the guns (who were EVERYWHERE!) and into the airport. I was here. I was finally here….now if only I knew where baggage claim was…….
The fiery filly landed, very wearily but with BIG WIDE EYES, on the opposite shore of the Great Water. The filly was finally in the Dragon’s Lair!