Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Design in the Sky

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Restless hours drag
Clouded worlds open below
Sleepless travellers…

We’re time travellers!

In spite of the fact that only a few hours have passed since our last blog post, it is, in some sense, tomorrow. We’ve crossed the international date line, landed in Shanghai, and are currently melting in its puzzling indoor humidity. More accurately, I’m melting. Evan is sleeping.

I wanted to record some remarks about our last flight before I go try to join him in dreamland. It was genuinely remarkable: we flew with Eastern China Airlines, which actually we were warned against. We were told that it’s too young to have really proven itself as an airline, and to not expect too much of it.

What that actually translated to was a brand new plane with touch-screen entertainment systems at every seat and a supremely helpful crew. An interesting cultural note that made me question (again) some of the airline practices in the US was that no one bothered to do a safety demonstration or even announce when we were beginning to taxi. There were no obnoxious walk-bys where flight attendants demanded seat belting. The vegetarian meal option was both a sufficient amount of food and tasty; we were treated to curry for dinner and yogurt and fruit for breakfast. The cabin was insulated and better sealed than many I’ve been in, and the outside air rushing by created barely a whisper as opposed to the deafening white noise I’m accustomed to. My ears popped once or twice, but not at the level they have in the past. I was pleased.

Between micro naps, we amused ourselves by adding features to expedition! and poking around the entertainment system. We played some games (one of which, Beat the Landlord, is clearly the godparent of Tichu), learned some snippets of Vietnamese, and watched some films. Like many other systems today, this system offered a flight info app that shows where the plane is located. Different from many systems, this app had a feature that I’ve long complained for: window view. Most flight systems show a view top-down of where the plane is, and may allow you to zoom in and out to see your surroundings and context. But my question is always “what can I actually see out my window?”. They have an answer! Using their fancy 3D simulation, they simulate the view out windows on both sides of the plane and out from the cockpit, and they label everything within view. Brilliant!

Just before landing, all the lights came back up and passengers were encouraged to wear headphones to follow along with a video that was being broadcast to all the entertainment stations. It was called “Sunshine Calisthenics.” I’m hoping to add a link to a video, but at the moment I’ve got no wifi… Anyhoo, basically it was a series of exercises demonstrated by flight attendant actors and actors in some kind of sunny rooftop city garden space that we were expected to do to get the blood flowing in our bodies again after the long flight (it was supposed to flush the meridian and encourage the spinal flow, according to the subtitles). The exercises were actually quite lively and fun, plus it was an entertaining view into the culture we’re visiting for the 4 hours until we fly to Cairns. I think I’ll go join Evan in his nap now. Our flight to Aussieland leaves at 20:00 local time, but due to the long duration (10 more hours…) and time change, we won’t really be in Australia in time for me to blog it today. Then again, although we’re physically located within the borders of China, we never technically entered it due to customs nonsense. We’ve still seen insane evidence of Chinese people-moving ability (they are sending 2 international flights out of the same gate within 5 minutes of each other), and I can still take a nap.