I was so busy with finals, I hardly had time to mentally prepare for the trip. Sure, it was something I’d dreamed of for a long time, but it hit me all at once as I was being dropped off at the airport with my
luggage couple changes of clothes and books.
I met up with some friends and we stood around talking about how anxious we were and how little we slept and so on. We checked out bags once the group was all there and boarded our flight to Newark, New Jersey. Since I spent most of the week before pulling all nighters and writing critical book reviews and a huge foreign policy briefing, I
rested lightly crashed completely on the short flight.
We got into Newark around 9:30 a.m. and started the process of moving toward our new gate. Funny thing I hadn’t noticed (because I never once checked the itinerary provided), was that our flight to Hong Kong didn’t leave until 3:15 P.M. Not that I haven’t had my share of layovers, and sometimes much longer, but it was just such a buzzkill. You get on that first flight with the “hell yeah, I’m going to China!” mentality only to have it crushed by a connecting flight, a layover, and then the longest flight ever.
I got lunch with my friend Rachel and we talked for a bit before heading out to check the shops. I had been reading Hunger Games but forgot my copy at home, so I broke character and bought another copy at a news stand. I had finished probably 1/3 of it on a flight to California a few weeks earlier, finished 1/3 of it during the layover, and then crushed it on the flight. Also, turns out I was one of maybe 15 other students reading it on the trip (out of 25).
After we got bored of the shops, changed some of our money over to Hong Kong dollars, and were sufficiently stuffed, we went back to sit with the group and kill time till our departure. Good thing we managed to kill about 45 minutes doing everything above.
We killed the next four or five hours reading, listening to music, and napping interspersed with light conversation.
Finally, we board the flight of all flights: about 8615 miles and many hours. Sure there are longer flights out there, but this one was particularly wicked owing to the timezone shenanigans.
My first journal entry for the trip is about halfway. “4032 miles down, 4583 to go, shit.”
At this point we are flying much farther north than I’ve ever been in my life. At one point while over Canada’s far north, I caught a glimpse of the frozen earth below and it was pretty wild. The window opens even the slightest bit and it’s like a supernova of white light reflected by all the snow and ice.
I finished reading the Hunger Games, finished a book of Kerouac’s short stories, watched Drive, and fell asleep to Money Ball. And all of this happened before we hit the proper halfway point.
I’d eaten my ridiculous (see also:terrible) airline food and had a pair of Jack and cokes (big mistake, expensive and pointless). I was feeling pretty tired and finally went back to sleep expecting to finish off the voyage that way. Didn’t play out like that. The rest of the trip was spent in a cycle of sleeping uncomfortable for thirty minutes, sitting uncomfortably for thirty minutes, and repeating until landing.
It’s a powerful feeling to sit in one place with no legroom (middle seat, long legs) and feel the gradual descent of the plane. Everyone starts opening their windows to catch sight of land. Even from the middle seat I can see out the window enough to glimpse lights and building tops. Soon we make our final approach and touch down on land—sweet, sweet land.
We disembark, and since I have no carryon, I walk right over to baggage claim. As I reach into one of the pockets on my luggage to get my camera, it’s pretty evident that my bad was rifled through and everything is a mess, thankfully nothing missing, I grab my bag and head over to immigration. We wait forever in the long line and slip through and I snap my first picture of the trip, which is of Chinese Wright Brothers.
We took a bus to the YWCA Garden View Hotel on Hong Kong Island. It’s a nice drive (on the wrong side of the road) and the skyline is beautiful with all the lights.
We pulled into the hotel and stepped into the balmy Hong Kong air that is something like being in a sauna at all times. Checked in, went to our rooms, and just relaxed.
I won the jackpot when it came to roommates. I’ll call him Adam for the sake of anonymity from here out. Describing him in my journal I wrote:
Rooming with [Adam], a standup guy, football player, good humored, sophomore—just left North America for the first time, business-y type. He’s a good guy, looking for fun and adventure and so came to search for it in China
I walked across the street and bought four water bottles and a bag of chips for about a 1USD. Came upstairs, showered, and fell asleep on top of my sheets in our small, comfortable, utilitarian room.