Saturday, December 16, 2017

Return to America 2 - Into the Valley of Death

Your humble blogger
It was an odd flight from Hangzhou to Los Angeles. I’d never heard of the airline I was flying: Sichuan Air, and I didn’t know what to expect. I suppose the first expectation anyone has have an airline is that it gets you from point A to point B, and Sichuan Air did that. As for some of the tangential stuff, it was a memorable flight. 

First off, you couldn’t hear the English announcements on the PA, which was fine, I suppose; they’re rarely of any consequence. Next, the food was weird. After a strange combination of breads, fruits and Chinese entrees I’ve never tasted before, the flight crew came down the aisle carrying a big steaming bamboo basket of something. I thought for sure it would be steaming hot towels for clean up. Instead, the flight attendant held out his tongs which clamped a whitish-brown lump and asked, “potato?”. Now, I like steamed potatoes as much as anyone, especially in a nice peanut sauce or the like. Eating an un-seasoned tuber with my hands at the end of a meal like some starchy dessert, I dunno. Maybe it’s a Sichuan thing.
Out of focus picture of the California coast - on fire!
I accepted, but didn’t finish my potato. For the morning meal, the same ritual was repeated, but the steamed vegetable was a carrot. Lastly, I was shocked as to how empty the flight was. An Airbus 330 carries 277 passengers maximum. There were maybe 50 on our flight. That left many opportunities for bold passengers to claim entire rows of the 4-across middle seats of this 2-aisle plane. I shoulda claimed one. Whereas I did have a 2-seat section at the window all to my own, trying to sleep on the plane achieved mixed results. 

Getting through immigration at LAX was like no other place I’ve arrived at. First step was an automated kiosk where it took your picture and scanned your passport. Then, you went through a secondary screening. During the interim, I’m assuming the computer system processed you for various risk factors and so when you got to talk to an agent at secondary, they already knew all about you. I’m assuming. 

One thing I noticed during the selection process of which secondary screening station you were sent to, there was definitely profiling going on. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Coming towards the point where an officer points you in one direction or another, every Chinese passenger got pointed off to the tables to have their bags opened and belongings inspected.
Every non-Chinese got pointed towards the counters where they just asked you a few simple questions and you were on your way.

My parents were at the gate to meet me when I emerged into the public areas, and we drove off to the Chino Hills, having an authentic Mexican feast along the way, to an RV park which made a good way-station to the next day’s travel to Death Valley. 

Some of the differences I noticed between the USA and SE Asia were expected. Yes, it’s a lot cleaner here. People drive more predictably and also a lot faster (LA traffic excepted). Others were unexpected. One of the things that struck me as noticeable on my immediate return was being able to fully understand everything that people around me were saying. What I mean is that it was kinda cool listening to the banter of the clerks at the 7/11. They were joking around, not talking to me, and I understood every bit of their communication. It’s not a thing that I thought of as something I’ve missed, and as simple as it is, it’s an enjoyable difference.

Waking up the freezing cold dawn of the Chino Hills,
my off-time internal clock got me out of bed before the sun was up. I think many people consider the topography of Southern California boring. With its brown hills, lack of greenery and desert appearance, some might call it barren. Me, I like it and I enjoyed recording it on the way up to Death Valley. 

Happy birthday, Dad!

Enjoy the video.


  1. Taiwan has fully automated customs. I assume the US version was a compromise...machine does all the work, but the unionized customs guys get to do the final stamp.

  2. Aww... thank you o very much for this wonderful video! I'm truly so happy for you and your parents! I've read every blog entry your parents wrote/posted and that's how I found your blog, also. My heart feels truly happy for you and your family! Enjoy your time, together! Blessings, Lynn

    1. By the way, I haven't stayed in the area where you're located, now. However, I've driven through part of that area, as I have sometimes visited my cousin who lives in Lake Havasu City, AZ. I truly adore that area. Enjoy! Blessings, Lynn

  3. Glad you were careful about the lighter. It would have been terrible if you had gotten into trouble for such a small item. Can't you get a light from some other smoker at times like this?

    1. Actually, the airport there in China had electronic lighters built in permanently in the airport smoking rooms.


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