Revisiting China four years later

I had the opportunity to visit China again after nearly four years of being away. While the visit was work related and not to the city I stayed in last time, it would still be a great opportunity to really understand if I ever wanted to return long-term. I would be visiting Shanghai for the game event, ChinaJoy, to write about it for my Events For Gamers website that covers all sorts of game industry events.

Upon arriving in the Pudong airport, I suddenly had this giddy feeling about me. I quietly whispering to no one in particular, “Yep, smells like China.” The smell wasn't bad of course, but just unique enough to recall it from my past trip. The next thing I noticed was that I had no immediate concerns or curiosities about the surroundings, having apparently lost that air of mystery when traveling abroad the first time. Even walking the city streets felt like a walk in the park back in Vegas. Been there, done that, romance over... at least for now.

If you are interested in how the event went, you can read about it at Events For Gamers.

After the event it was time once again to head across the Pacific back home. A year of being abroad, especially when it's your first time, not surprisingly gives you a great urgency to return to friends and family you hadn't seen in that time. Having to pay $1,700 for that return flight and quite vividly remembering the experience gave me the same exact sense of urgency to get back before trouble had a chance to set in, not to mention I seemed to be quickly coming down with the flu. It looked like I wasn't about to pay $1,700 for the flight home, but possibly just as much to stay overnight for another couple of days in some mysterious Chinese hospital, which consequently would demand I purchase a ticket anyway for the flight I missed.

Fortunately none of that happened, except for the additional night stay paid by the airline. We were on the tarmac waiting to take off when the captain came on and announced a "minor" delay (which ended up being three hours long) in taking off while the Chinese airlines got priority to fly out. It was a busier day at the airport than usual. Sensing the plane moving again we managed a few corners on the tarmac and then the engines suddenly shut off.

Damn... that close to taking off.

The captain came on again and announced a mechanical issue with the aircraft. It would be a few more minutes to get the tools to fix it. At this point in 90 degree heat inside of the aircraft and coming down fast with the flu, I began to doubt my decision of returning to the country. Several more minutes passed as everyone kept asking for water that was quickly being depleted. The captain once again came on and announced that we would have to taxi back to a gate because the tools had mysteriously gone missing.

Oh shit.

At this point we were simply glad to get off the broiling aircraft. To no one's surprise as I watch nearly everyone roll their eyes after the airline apologized for the additional delay, we waited in the airport for another hour as we started to form small groups to discuss which hotels were preferable for an emergency overnight stay that was inevitably going to occur. As if on queue, they announced a rebooking of the flight for the next morning and a hotel voucher for that night's stay. I sprinted full tilt down the hall toward the voucher counter to ensure I got that free hotel room, got in the room and collapsed for the night. I prayed for the flu to subside before the next flight. Did they check at the customs checkpoint for sick people? Was I going to show up on some sick-o meter and be banned from boarding the aircraft?

The next morning and not feeling any better, thoughts on the medical scanners were forefront in my thoughts as I pushed the luggage cart back to the same terminal and got my new ticket for another aircraft in supposed working order. Wheels touching down in Las Vegas 16 napping hours later and feeling quite a bit better, I ran to the nearest burger joint and ordered a double whopper with an extra slice of cheese.

I smiled and took a deep breath, whispering to the hamburger in my hands, “Yep, smells like America”.

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