Well here I am back at home once again. The trip back was a mixture of the mundane and the unusual, those two sides of the coin that seem to describe every day I spend on the road.

The trip to the airport was interesting mainly for the route taken. We had borrowed one of the Intel drivers for the drive out and I had tried to discuss our route given that I was aware of some serious traffic problems on one of the routes. Despite his comments on the high quality of my Chinese, I knew he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

We headed out on city streets in a direction I recognized from our many trips to the design firm. Roughly in the direction of the airport but not a way I had gone before. Eventually we circled around what was pretty much a giant block of the local neighborhoods and then ended up heading in the opposite direction of where we should be going, along a road the cut across our regular walk home from Hongmeilu. I mentioned this and my companions were reluctant to believe me. We passed through a tunnel that had caught my eye on my earlier walks around town and came back into the daylight staring at a sign for the airport. The wrong airport. So I asked and he told me he knew where he was taking us and drew a large circle in the air indicating (I think) that we were heading out and around the city. This is exactly what we did, crossing swaths of Shanghai and Pudong that I had never seen before. One last adventure before heading back to the US.

The airport was the airport and the best thing I can say about it was that we made it through all the drills and boarded on time. I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, at least until the people around me conducted a round of musical seats and I ended up sitting next to a couple from Mexico City. Another chance to practice my Spanish on this, my tri-lingual trip to the Far East.

Not much to say about the 10 hour ride except that the sound on the movies was sketchy once again and its failure was once again joined by apologies and claims that the planes are about to go in for remodeling. I thought Pan’s Labyrinth was an odd choice for a movie as it was shown in Spanish with English subtitles. Not much fun for the Chinese passengers I suspect.

San Francisco was there right according to schedule and the passage through customs was only made interesting by the fact that my bag was about the last one off the plane. Sometime I need spend some time back with the baggage guys in order to understand how they load these things. Occasionally your bag appearance shows a strong correlation of when you went to the airport (first on, last off) and sometimes it just seems random. I suppose I will never know.

Now the Albuquerque connection is known to be generally late or cancelled or adjusted in a way that makes the four hour wait futile. Today though we were just about on time. A large group of what appeared to be nurses cackled in the waiting area in a way that only a bunch of people on the same flight who know each other can. Given the small size of this plane, I figured that would play out unfortunately later.

We got off close to on time and I was dozing off when The Captain came on to tell us about the gentleman in Row 6 who had been placed on oxygen due to light-headedness. I took a look and sure enough it was one of the two guys that had managed to get on via standby. The Captain said “Looks like he’s feeling fine” so I started to nod off back into a nap.

Five minutes later The Captain was back on the microphone telling us that the light-headedness had evolved into chest pains and that we were going to start looking for a place to put down in order to connect this guy with medical care. One of the traveling nurses had moved into the seat next to him and was trying to make him feel better. She asked for aspirin and I gladly offered mine up as I always travel with them close at hand. The nurse asked me if they were chewable and I said “Sure, if you can stand the taste.” My good deed for the day.

Fresno was chosen due to proximity and we made the most amazing high speed corkscrew drop from altitude and landing. On the ground he was shuffled off the plane and into an ambulance.

And then we shifted into “airlines time.” The maintenance crew had to come out and inspect the plane as we had loaded above weight due to our fresh load of fuel. They said “15 minutes” it took 45. That being done next up was a replacement of the used oxygen bottle – “15 minutes” that took another 30. Petty gripes perhaps, but I was tired of this detour punctuated only by the roar of California National Guard F16s rocketing off the runway.

Eventually we were on our way and the rest of the flight was unexceptional – just the way I like it.

It’s with a bit of sadness that this last trip comes to a close, as it may very well be my final business trip to Shanghai. Our focus shifts north now as construction begins and it may be that all the future work takes place in Dalian. Shanghai has been great for me – wonderful experiences with the people, language and culture and I am going to miss it a great deal. It’s taken me from being a novice international traveler to someone happy to wander the streets in a foreign city in wide-eyed wonder without concern.

But as always, it’s great to be home.