And so I'm amid the slow process of airport transits – definitely away from where I started from, but still a seeming eternity from Guangzhou and my welcoming party there. It is only eight in the morning and I have four hours to kill till my connecting flight. And I'm in Starbucks, which of all places will be home for this time, drinking an Americano. And though they claim to have free wireless broadband, it seems not to be accessible anywhere in the terminal space I'm confined to; this'll probably be sent once I'm in Guanzhou.
It was a long day on Friday, day of the flight, which could have gone smoother, but I can thank my lucky stars that, so far, I don't seem to have forgotten anything. Both Thursday and Friday proved that even with plentiful time to prepare, my brain still managed to leave many tricky tasks till the last moment; but still leave just enough time to complete everything before a rush to the airport. It is always the way.
The pre-big trip anxiety only hit me on the drive to the airport in fact, showing that this drawn out lead-in really did rob me of the nervous energy it would have otherwise provided for at least a week preceding departure. This meant that I slept well the night before I left. But now, it has dawned on me properly: I'm starting a long adventure from which the relaxation of home is as further away as it will ever be; my feet will always feel in the air till they're back on home soil; I'll have curious eyes on me every day; and I'll have a long time to adapt to my new city and to connect myself in with the Chinese world.
Airports always play on my nerves as I subconsciously think about all the things that can go wrong, wrong entrances I could go through, forms that could be filled out incorrectly and wrong places to go and fruit and pocket knives I could accidentally stow in the wrong bag. I may have done something wrong already: I'd packed a bottle of Ginger Liquour in my check-in luggage to act as a gift or, if no recipient becomes obvious, for my own consumption in Guangzhou. Last night I went to duty-free where I took forever to make the decision of buying a NZ-made gin (gin being another spirit I seem to enjoy). However, the man at the desk told me I could only bring a litre of alcohol into Hong Kong. I didn't even think of the combined volume of the gin and the liquour in my bag; that puts me up to 1450mls of drink, and a bottle of the size in my check-in does show up on the scan of luggage meaning that I should declare or face a potential fine. Fortunately it wasn't the most expensive bottle, should it be taken off me later.
The flight to Hong Kong, from whence I write this, was very smooth. (500) Days of Summer was the best movie in the entertainment book and it was worth the watch (I do like everything Gordon Joseph-Levitt, if that is his name, is in though). The Last King of Scotland was probably good except for being constantly obscured by my ever lowering eyelids; Forest Whitaker makes you forget that he really isn't Idi Amin; I didn't see the end though – the curtains came down. I had a few short patches of sleep but otherwise cruised through the flight peacefully half-awake/half-asleep. The Other Man was my movie of the dozy morning, clunking its plot along but getting at peace with itself by the end.
If the delays and my fall at Cathedral Cove were some sort of karmic stop-signs telling me I had made the wrong decision to come to China, there have been plenty of other interesting personal coincidences telling me that this enterprise is right. As I boarded the plane, walking through Business class, I looked over at a passenger at the same time as he looked over at me. We both recognised each other immediately. He had been one of my students six years ago. Although he was a native of Qingdao (on the northern coast) and had been staying in New Zealand for most of the time since, he had started a company near Guangzhou in the last two years with a family friend. He visited me later in Economy with his business card and said we should meet later. It is always nice to have these lucky meetings.
And of coincidences and decisions, back in Auckland Airport waiting an hour to leave, I bought a hot chocolate and read in my freshly delivered Forest & Bird magazine about the degradation of waterways due to dairy farming. I pondered an interesting resolution: to be dairy-free for this whole Chinese endeavour, where realistically possible. My flight meal was already vegan (the airlines smartly give a vegan meal to all who have moral qualms about food), which brings me back to the huge Americano to my right (a really, really long black). I've been popping Raw Cacao beans as if they were candy. Such a principle would gladly avoid the generally horrid milk in China and keep me away from foreign temptations. But we'll see. I'll probably be offered a slice of cheesecake somewhere and scoff it without any moral restraint at all, and probably have my expectations let down with a tremendous clatter (in terms of western food here, things that look like a duck, don't necessarily quack or taste like a duck).
And so as I sit in the bastion of capitalism and epitome of a soulless café, I sit and ponder whether I'll find a cheap voltage adaptor soon before my cyber enjoyment runs out. And wonder how softly I'll land into Guangzhou, the erstwhile "Arsehole of China", and my home for the next year.