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On a plane from Vancouver to Beijing

I had thought we would be flying over the ocean, but below is frozen and unpopulated land. It might just as well be an ocean. It’s been going on for a few hours and I’ve not seen any signs of population. No towns. No roads. At first I thought it might be Korea, but we can’t be that far yet. It must be Northern Canada, Alaska maybe. Or Russia.

We left Vancouver at about two in the afternoon, delayed by an hour. The sun is now low in the sky. It’s either the 8th or the 9th of January. If we’ve crossed the international date line it’s the 9th.

There’s a coastline ahead. On the screen a chinese woman demonstrates exercises you can do whilst sitting in your seat. She’s sitting on an empty place. The one I’m on is packed, and the guy in front keeps tipping his seat back as far as it’ll go so there’s not even enough room for my laptop screen. I’m typing this with it half closed.

Getting the bike boxed up to go on the plane was a problem. I haven’t ridden it for a couple of months and was unable to get the pedals off. The joints had seized up, and I wasn’t totally sure which way to turn them to undo them so I may have been tightening them. But I managed to get it in the box with the pedals on, but taking off the handlebars and front wheel.

And then I had to get all of the paniers into one bag but the airline (Air China) wouldn’t give me a bag so I had to go and beg someone from Cathay Pacific to give me one of theirs, which she did if I promised to fly Cathay Pacific next time. I sort of did promise, but I don’t think she believed me. If you make a promise but the person you’re making the promise to doesn’t believe you’ll keep your promise, that voids the promise. So I had my bag. In it I put the two back paniers, the two front paniers and the tent and sleeping bag, managing to rip the bag slightly – I wrapped what tape I had around it, and them some more tape at the checkin but it felt very insecure. I hope it holds together. The video tapes are in one of those paniers.

The stewardesses wheel the drinks trolley along the aisle. I’d like to ask them why the seat of the guy in front of me reclines further than mine or anyone else’s, but I won’t. Earlier I wedged my kneses into the back of his seat so he couldn’t recline it any further. That was when they were serving dinner. And then I gave him a few nudges. He seemed to get the message and moved his seat to the upright position (almost) for the duration of the meal (chicken stir fry, a bread roll, salad and some kind of mousse type thing). It was about the best airline food I’ve had, though I don’t fly very often. I don’t like it. for several reasons. First, the environmental reason. Flying over this frozen landscape which we’re contributing to defrosting more than anything else. And second, the fact that it’s over so quickly. When I step off this plane I’ll be in a world completely different from the one I left, or at least once I get out of the airport because airports are all pretty similar. There’s no journey. Very little sense of the distance you’re covering. It’s like teleportation.

I had wanted to get a boat across the Pacific, but it was too complicated, and too expensive. I would have had to get a medical check up, which I would have had to pay for. And to land in China you need to be able to show proof of onward travel, such as a flight out of the country. Even if I had been able to arrange that, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for it up front. I get paid monthly – the rent from my flat – so I don’t have a lot of money at any one point in time. Plus it would takee the shippiong company a month to organize my passage, so by the time we got into December and I hadn’t managed to do it I realized I’d have to fly.

I can smell food behind me. Must be the next meal. don’t know whether it’s dinner lunch or breakfast, but it smells good.

There was some local amusement as they were serving the last meal and the stewardess asked me what I wanted in Chinese, and then realizing, laughed and asked me in English. The guy next to me said, so you’re not Chinese then?

We’re descending now. That must be China below us. Or maybe Russia? Or Korea? A long river, a couple of lakes. Another river, or possibly a road since there seems to be movement on it.

The other night I was in the Samesun hostel bar on Granville Street, Vancouver, a place frequented by many Aussie backpackers, most of whom I have no trouble understanding, but the other night the following took place:

AU – Is this the loin for the bear?
UK – Eh?
AU – Is this the loin for the bear?
UK – Sorry?
UK – Errr.. Ahhh! No. There’s no line for the bar. You just push your way to the front and wave your money about.