Friday, July 29, 2011

ASIAWOOT, Flying, Sunset Porn, Hong Kong, and a litany of thank-yous

I’M IN ASIA. WOOT! I’ve arrived safely.
 
The following part of this post was written while connecting in Los Angeles (up to the end of the sunset porn)

I’ve been fortunate enough to fly a lot before. And yet the feeling of taking off (that particular feeling that you are suddenly liberated of a great weight), the pressure changes in the ear, the realization that, wow, the world is several kilometers below you never ceases to amaze me. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be the nutty aviation nerd I am. The flight I just got off (I’m in  was particularly hard-hitting. Why? We flew into the sunset…and because of the westward directions and time zone changes, it was a three-hour sunset.

This is for someone who really likes the idea of flying into the sunset. You know who you are.
   




There are 23 more photos and two more videos where those came from.

Other than that, the flights were relatively quiet. I had nice seatmates, and I wasn’t too uncomfortable-small spaces are always a bit challenging for me given my height. I managed to get a few hours of sleep on the LA-Hong Kong flights. The approach to Hong Kong is incredible: Hong Kong is a port city, on a delta, that is highly mountainous. It almost feels like you’re descending into a cross between Middle Earth, the SimCity 4 regions, a city, and a watercolor.  We had a nice view of the sunrise over Japan, but I didn’t have my camera on hand for that.

I’ve been to Hong Kong before: when I did this study thing (referenced in the living post) in China, I passed through Hong Kong and stayed with acquaintances. It’s a city of living contradictions: a vibrant, cramped metropolis of seven million with 70% of land protected (there is incredible hiking just south of the Central Business District); a rich city with the rich world’s largest rich-poor divide (on a brief walk I just took, I spotted a posh foreign car dealership across the street from a ramshackle apartment block); a city at once colonial and utterly Chinese. It’s an endlessly fascinating place, and probably responsible for my total obsession with the Cantonese language.

I’m only here for a day, during which I’ll rest a bit, get some necessary items, and take some walks. And eat. And speak Cantonese (achieved already). I’ll post more pictures up tomorrow; I’ll write that post on what will be my fourth flight in a week.

For reference, most of my time in Asia will be in the area of Mainland China closest to Hong Kong, but I have not been there period. It’s a radically different place due to a) the developments of the last 150 years and b) settlement patterns that occurred four hundred years ago. However, there are many links, so look forward later, perhaps, to a post comparing Mainland Guangdong and Hong Kong. (Hong Kong is part of China, but has separate customs, currency, rights law and governance save foreign affairs and defence.

Finally, this will be nowhere close to ex: (it gets really, really sappy here)

I thank  Nicki, Daniel, Runnan and Tyler for hosting me when I was settling stuff in Chicago, and Aaron Lichter for storing some of my things. Also props to Jackie for lunch, and a shout out to Jay Stanton and Michael Wang (yay random run-ins).

I thank G-d for the fortune to be able to have this experience at all. I’ve recited the Sheheheyanu (the Jewish prayer of thanks for a momentous happening) so many times now that I’ve lost count.

 I also want to thank my parents, for even letting me go thousands of miles away from home for work experience, for encouraging me in all sorts of endeavors, and for  just being extremely helpful in the preparations. Also to my sister.

I thank my boss this year for giving me this post and for all of his and his staff’s assistance, and my boss last year for giving me the pay (important, yes), experience and most of all, encouragement that made it possible.

And, most of all, perhaps, thank you to my friends for encouraging and supporting me and dealing with my excitement, and for even reading this. It means so much to me. Y’all are awesome.

A note: China is flat on the other end of the world from Chile, where friends of mine are on a research internship. If I stuck a magical, earth-piercing laser ray at a slight angle into the ground, they might get it in Santiago. It's kinda (no, really) cool that I can still talk to them. A hundred and fifty years ago, journeys like this meant we would probably never see each other again. I am so damn grateful that I will see them in two months. And I can’t wait to compare the stories from what are, quite literally, opposite ends of the earth. Espero que, de la voluntad del Rey, vos viajes pasen en paz en el otro lado del planeto de lo mío.

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