...two steps sixteen hours apart.
11.05.2012 22 °C
It's half past midnight and I'm eating carrots and pistachios. If I had a spoon I would also be digging into the rice, but I forgot to pack utensils. The terminal at JFK is filled with people, and it's safe to say that every single one of them is absorbed by something behind an electronic screen (including myself, as I write). It's hard to know, but I imagine the majority of the passengers in this flight are returning home to Hong Kong. Maybe not. Maybe some are actually Chinese-Americans visiting family. One thing is certain: my wild hair and round eyes are as strange here as book reading or conversing with strangers.
The red-eye schedule seems to have little bearing on people's energy levels. There are young kids watching music videos while they sing animated but in a moderate volume. Not a single person is sleepy-looking, they way I presume I must look right now. But I'm not giving up. I'm reminding my body that this may look like midnight out there, but it's lunchtime where we're all going. So I chew my carrots and pistachios evenly, enjoying the salty tinge mixing with the moist fibers of the carrot, hoping for a mouthful of rice and the fortitude to stay awake a few more hours. With luck I'll be sleeping in the cabin, something that, to me, represents the epitome of discomfort.
Everyone in this flight speaks Cantonese, and if it weren't for the bilingual flight attendants, I would be signaling my way through meals and drinks. Sixteen hours in high altitude confines were looming ahead. Not even halfway up the sky, I was chatting with the young couple sitting next to me. Although not really "a couple," Dani and Ken were close friends who met two years ago studying in Philadelphia, and going back home to Hong Kong for a visit. They were curious about my trip, and amazed at the few things certain to me upon landing, but took my aloof, carefree attitude with a grain of salt. Through the sixteen hours up there, Dani, Ken and I took breaks between movie-watching, video-gaming and napping, and had five minute flash chats, in which I was giddily nervous about being understood, and not speaking a toddler's worth of chinese. But both Dani and Ken were immediately concerned, in a very loving way, about my well being. Arriving at Hong Kong was then tinged with a spectral familiarity, not because having been there, but because my new friends were leading the way. We stepped out into the muggy morning, passed through customs and got our luggage. They offered me a phone call or two, so I contacted a couch-surfing host who offered to at least take me around and have breakfast. No answer. Everything moved so quickly, even thought the 5 am airport was virtually empty. Things got quicker when Dani's dad showed up to pick them up. All of them looked up at me, parting expressions on all of us. I had their numbers, they said, I can call any time. My momentum quelled, but Dani's phone rang, The host was calling me back. We agreed a place and time to meet, and I felt a bit less torn about staying alone in the airport.