As time has not been kind, for some reasons I have lauded here, and others I have not, I now have a few hours to catch everyone up on our jouneys.
Our journey started with packing everything into 3 large suitcases. It turned out babies require much more then I would have thought. Our flight was not until early afternoon so we booked out taxi (having to hire a van due to the amount of luggage) and went through the apartment to make sure the gas, water, and all electronic devices were off and all windows closed and locked. We were not too rushed getting to the airport, a little unusual for me. Sophia was pretty good not getting too upset at the exit point, security point, or shopping in the duty free shops before we borded the plane. The United flight we took was an older plane, evident by the lack of video screens and no basenett mounting points on the bulkhead. We were able to change our seats by requesting a basenett which was nice as it offered my much greater leg room. Sophia did have a few hour meltdown on the beginning of the flight but after two hours of crying she setteled in and the other 11 hours were event free, from her anyway. I did not pull out the laptop, but relayed on my Creative Zen and sleep to pass the time, taking a peak at the movies they offered from time to time.
Landing at O’hare offered Coco her first impressions of America. We took differnt immigration lines, I still don’t know if we had to as there were 2 Americans in our party, and I went to gather the luggage and wait for her and the baby to show up. Luckly we had a baby carrier for going throgh the airports as the stroller was always added to the checked luggage at the gate. I got a cart, foung all the bags, and then gathered my wife, but we could not find the stroller. They did not have it available at the gate as promised, so I had to ask the good old American airport workers at the luggage handling area and they were as useless as always, finally the stroller showed up and we rushed on our way to the connecting flight. As we checkin in for the next flight (something we did not have to do) I was reminded about a Chinese bottle of wine I had forgotten on the plane. The check in people found the bottle, and we added it to one of our cary-ons and had it checked. Then we rushed off to terminal C via the tram. Getting in the terminal Coco looked at the duty free shops, and was dissapointed by the lack of choices they had to offer, Chicago’s O’Hare duty free shops are tiny compared to what you find in the Far East airports. We were hungry, it was the same time we had left Shanghai, on the same day, but after 14 hours on an airplane any food looks good. Coco got a nice salad and yogart at some store I had not heard of. I wanted to stop off at Quiznones but because of the stroller finding and missing wine I had to resort to McDonald’s. I had forgotten how different Chinese and American McDonald’s are.
We barely had time to get to the gate (thanks to American fast food not being so fast) when the plane was bording. Coco was amazed by the size of the plane, we had just gotten off of a 747 and now we’re on a 707, a huge difference (she had never seen a jet so small before). We got headed south and Sophia again decided it was time if fuss, only this time she could only last about 45 minutes of the 4 hour flight. Traveling this long really takes a lot out of a person as I slept most of the flight. When we landed in Birmingham it was just getting dark. We walked off the plane and onto the tarmac, not unusual for Chinese air flights, and the first thing I noticed was the sent of honeysickle on the warm southern night air. The smell was soon overpowered by the smell of jet fuel exhust once a small breeze lazily blew. For the fist time in well over a year I could look up and see the stars in the same place as they were when I was growing up. We gathered the baby stroller and made sure the baby was ok and went into the small concorse to find my mom almost imeadeatly. We had a wonderful ‘welcome’ hug from my mom as I introduced her to her grandchild and my wife. Luckly we found a porter and due to the number of bags, and the condition of two of them, we needed his help to get them to my mom’s truck. I was unusally chatty as I made small talk with the porter and he was quite interested in China.
After re-arranging some things in the bed of my mom’s truck we headed south out of Birmingham, I got to drive for the first time in over a year! Leaving on the interstate I immeadeatly remembered the way and we got out of Birmingham headed towards Montgomery. We got off the interstate around Montevello and again journeyed south, avoiding deer and slow drivers. Around Maplesville Sophia decided to have a fit and we luckly found an open McDonald’s. After a changing and stretching out legs we got the baby calmed down and headed to Selma for some supplies. Coco was shocked I was leaving the truck in the parking lot with out putting the luggage in the cab of the truck. I did put the small bags, holding the cameras and laptop, in the cab but explained to her we were parked under a light, at the main entrance to the store and there was a police car very close by and the security guard was there eating chips and chatting on his cell phone.
Coco’s first impression of an American grocery store was the Super Wal-Mart in Selma. It is about the size of the Carefore’s in Shanghai (a European superstore with food on one level and retail items on the second) so she was not so taken back by its size, just its selections. We have canned foods here in China, just not that many of them as well as boxed cerials, pastas, and chips are mere fractions to what you find in America. We got food for the week and even an outfit for Sophia as well as a University of Alalbama hat for me (remember I am a huge football fan and grew up in Alalbama). They were renovating the store so 1/4 of it was closed off or under construction so she only got to see the garden department through the chain link fense. We paid for our things, packed them in the truck, topped of the tank at one of the 24 hour gas stations and went down the highway toward the farm.
We were lucky in that few deer were out this night, they are a large problem on dark southern roads at night all times of the year. We got onto the dirt rodes and finally pulled up to the front yard of the house just after 1 AM. We unpacked the truck and settled the little one in and called it a day.