Alaska airlines flight 386 with service to San Francisco leaves an hour late. I’m grateful for my three hour layover and our flight attendant confirms that transfers through SFO should never be tight, frequent weather issues and only two usable runways make for delays.
This first of four flights is joyfully empty and I have an entire row to myself. Thank you Lord! I chat with the flight attendant (Phil, I think?) who is very informative about life in the sky. I have kicked around the idea of working for an airline since my teen years and might revisit the idea later.
Transferring to the international terminal at SFO is more involved than I had hoped and I wind up going the wrong direction on the tram, getting off at the wrong stop which places me outside on a dark street at 10 pm. I pray out loud while dashing across the intersection to the airport bound tram entrance. No problems, all is well and I find the correct terminal with an hour and half to spare. I march toward the security checkpoint until I remember that I have to visit the China Airline ticketing counter to present my passport, continuing travel reservation and get my new boarding passes printed out for the next two legs of the journey. A short walk lands me at the end of a snaking line, crowded with economy travelers pushing, pulling and otherwise laboring beneath huge packages and suitcases. This is not going to be a quick line.
I fret for a few minutes and then decide to breathe and relax. It will be what it will be. Forty five minutes later with boarding passes in hand I jog through security and find my gate. On time, perfect. While waiting to board I buy a loaf of bread and cliff bar for dinner and meander around the gates with a stupid grin on my face. This is insane. I’m about to leave the Country. This is amazing!
3 hours from Taipei
I’m munching on cabbage soda crackers now while my seat mate sleeps next to me. The row in front is three seats across and then narrows where I sit next to the aisle, only two seats across affording more room to sprawl to my right. I’m a few paces from the bathroom, also a key factor on this thirteen hour flight. I dozed on and off for the first eight hours but can’t sleep anymore. Our flight attendants are thin beautiful Chinese women. All wearing the same hair style, all looking a bit exasperated and tired after playing carry-on Tetris, heaving the bulging overhead compartments shut and making continuous rounds through the cabin.
I had a nice conversation near the restrooms with an older woman who is working with her husband to help Chinese people learn indigenous languages which they will encounter in their work. She lived in Indonesia for three years and teaches me to say “what is this?” and “what is that?” Ini apa?” and “Itu apa?” She says these are key phrases for getting on in any new culture.
I have another three hour transfer in Taipei and will be more deliberate about checking tram routes before climbing aboard this time around. Next stop Denpasar, Bali!