I'm typing this blog entry from the front passenger seat of a yellow taxi.  Our driver, like most taxi drivers, is eager to get to our destination quickly... he just honked at the other taxi in front of us to get out of his lane, there's two lanes.  Don't you wish you could do that sometime?

We're about to pass the other taxi now.  Passed.  Now on to the next clump of cars and Volkswagen taxis ahead...  Virtually all of the taxis here are Volkswagen Jettas.

It's 5:39 AM here in "East-North" or in the Northeast of China.  (I still think it's funny that they say "East-North" instead of "North-East"  "North-East" sounds just as funny in Chinese as "East-North" sounds in English.)

Everywhere around us is covered in a light fog due to the heat and humidity.  The sides of the highway are lined with green deciduous trees.  It's not an unpleasant drive other than the break-neck pace and the lane weaving.

I woke up this morning to the sweet sound of gentle harp string plucking, which is the ring tone that's on default for my phone alarm clock.  I guess maybe "sweet" wasn't how I felt about it this morning, it was 4:31 AM, I hopped out of bed, it was already fully daylight outside.  China is all on one time zone so the sun comes up here, pretty far east of the where the time zone should be, at about 4:00 AM.

I don't usually wake up at 4:00 AM, especially for the last three weeks, it's been hot and muggy and I've had insomnia which means I usually fall asleep, finally, at about 4:00 AM then wake up at about 11:00 AM.  It's not my preferred schedule, but it's better than not sleeping at all I guess.

The taxi driver just commented to Becky that I seem to be working on my computer, as I typed this blog, and asked her if I was German or American.  I responded, to his surprise, that I was American.  He told me that my Chinese was excellent... even though I literaly only said one word 美国人 (meiguoren) which means "American."  Usually people think I'm Russian.

But this morning, less than an hour ago, as I was showering, I worried about getting sick.  I got 2 hours of sleep the night before, and then last night about 4.  No sleeping in to compensate for my sleepless nights.  I was about to get on an airplane, a metal tube crammed full of people who might be sick, breathing and coughing out cold viruses into the airplanes ventilation system... my immune system would work better with more sleep. There's been studies... But it was too late, we had to leave the country, our visas only allow us sixty days at a time in China.  So to the airport we go!

Even as I typed that paragraph our taxi has just arrived at the airport, I'll pick this up later.

OK, I'm finishing this blog entry from a coffee lounge in the Incheon Aiport in Korea.  Our trip here was a different than the last.

Back to the airport in China: There's this guy who stands at the base of the stairs that lead to the check-in counters at our local airport in China, it's usually the same guy, I've come to recognize him from my frequent travels through the airport.  You tell him where you're going and he lets you up the stairs, or he tells you to wait.  Most people asked to wait just stand there in front him, so you have to push your way through a  little crowd of people clustered around the base of the stairs.  I guess you could say he's the "Stair Master."

At first this arrangement was a little stressful to us because we weren't used to this "the guy" system of doing things.  We weren't accustomed to shoving through throngs of people.  But now we are. Becky usually likes getting behind me because I'm pretty good at clearing a path.  ...If I don't say so myself. I'm a little heavier than the average Chinese person and once they see my scary face they tend to yield.  Actually I've come to almost enjoy it.

People are trained to be extra polite to foreigners in China, nobody messes with foreigners, other than over charging them for things.  But in our little unimportant city in a forgotten corner of China, people aren't used to seeing foreigners enough to think of overcharging them.  But maybe I'm just a little biased towards the friendly farmer folk here in our little corner of China... the friendliest part of China.  I even heard a Westerner who moved there describe it as "real China" comparing it to other more popular "Westernized" parts of China in the South.  Maybe you'd like to visit.

Anyway, after we shoved up to "the guy" and after we were admitted to the check-in area, waited in line, got our tickets, waited in line, got our passports "departure stamped", I turned around to see if Becky was still behind me.  She wasn't. I saw her heading in the opposite direction, away from the immigration booths, he must have turned her away for some reason, back towards the end of long lines...

Becky prefers if I go in line before her when we go through immigration in China.  There are few Americans passing through, and even fewer Asian Americans.  For some reason they get confused by her documentation.  Actually most of the times I've entered China the immigration officer calls his manager over to look at his computer screen after he's processed my passport.  They have more than once been confused by which date was which on my passport or visa.  So I guess they are less perplexed by her U.S. passport after they've already processed mine.

So there I was, with my passport already stamped as having had officially left China, standing between the immigration booths and the security checkpoint, where you're not encouraged to stand, watching my wife, out of ear-shot, walk back into China.  Was she not allowed through?  Would I be going to Korea alone this time?  We didn't have much more time before our flight left, and the lines looked really long for her to have to come back through.  Did they send her to some office in the back to ask her questions or something?

Just a little earlier Becky thought for a moment that she had forgotten her passport and joked that she'd have to go back and get it while I went to Korea by myself to avoid having to absorb the cost of two instead of of one ticket.  Now it seemed like the joke might be happening.  I pulled out my phone and tried to call her but an automated voice said that her phone had been turned off, which I remembered her doing to save battery life...

After about five minutes of waiting, I decided to keep going through security.  We were flying to Korea during peak season and our tickets were at least twice the price that they usually were.  Even at the lowest off-season price our visa runs are our biggest expense every 60 days living in China.  If she didn't get through in time Becky would have to fly out the next day to avoid over staying on her visa.  If we were just going on vacation I probably would have tried walking back through immigration to stay back with her.  Why did she go back?  I wonder if the guards would even let me go back through immigration?  (Or is it called emigration?)

Maybe, if I explained it, they'd let me through and just stamp me as having re-entered China... that would be a neat trick to avoid these expensive "visa runs".  But, alas! I'd have to buy an airplane ticket to get that far anyway.  So probably not worth it.  Plus I'm more honest than that.

In the security line I attempted to walk though one of two metal detectors only to be physically grabbed by the arms by a security "guy" and firmly but gently pushed into the other metal detector.  Apparently I hadn't noticed that they separated the metal detectors by gender, with the wand search afterwards being performed by a female on the right and a male on the left.  My foreign, scary face did not help me avoid the man-handling, but like I said it wasn't exactly rough, and you can't expect people in foreign countries to obey the no touching rules of the U.S. You get patted down at airports anyway in the U.S. too right?

Usually when we leave through our little international airport there's only one plane leaving at a time.  There may be passengers for two later flights waiting in the waiting area, but only one boarding, one checking in, and one going through emigration and security.  At gate four, the gate closest to the entrance, there was a plane boarding for Russia.  My gate, gate 3, looked like the last three people were boarding. I didn't think I was that late. By the time I got there it was just me.  I walked up to the gate and flight attendant looked at me and raised her hand and said clearly and firmly "No!"

Of course, I admit that I've explained it in this order and in this dramatic way for anyone reading it to wonder "Is Marc going to get on the plane or not?"

I wasn't actually worried myself, maybe I anticipated her to say "No."  You see, I was at gate three.  Gate four had a long line of about a hundred people, at least a third of them were Russian, as it was a flight to Russia.  She thought I was Russian and trying to go to Russia, we kinda look the same.  I didn't look Korean.  I still don't. But now I wonder if she thought that I thought that I was really clever and found a second gate, door, leading to the flight to Russia that didn't have a line of people waiting at it.

I smiled and handed her my ticket.  She quickly saw that I was at the right gate, tore off my ticket stub and let me through.  But I couldn't help saying "No?" before I walked in.  She laughed.  I wonder if she knew that I knew that she thought I was Russian.  I'll never know.

In our little international airport in China, much to our annoyance, there are no "sky ways" or walk ways, tubes, that connect the airport to the airplane that you're boarding.  There's a shuttle.  The shuttle takes you out on the tarmac to the plane, and then you get off the shuttle, walk up the stairs into the plane.  Which isn't so bad in the summer, but it's a little rough when it's -30 degrees outside.  I'm not trying to speak ill of the friendly locals in our little corner of China, and I don't want you to think that they aren't as friendly as I say, but theres always a lot of crowding and rushing onto and off of the shuttle and then onto the plane.  Even though it's assigned seating and it doesn't matter who gets on first or last.

But the shuttle hadn't left yet!  It was still sitting there waiting about half full.  They were waiting for more passengers.  Becky had since texted me that she had forgotten to fill out her departure card so they made her go back and fill it out.  The lines between there and the shuttle were long enough that I was pretty worried that she wouldn't make it.  But, after standing on the shuttle for about ten minutes, she did, she made it with a few minutes to spare.

I had also forgotten to fill out my depart card, but "the guy" didn't say anything.  I guess he filled it out for me, but didn't do that for Becky.

One cool thing about our little, sometimes frustrating, international airport, with it's funny little quirks like having to deal with "the guy" system, is that, if you can communicate a little bit, and when you're a little late, "the guy", or often "the gal", will move you to the head of the line.  Like I said before, there's only few flights being processed at a time in the airport so they usually know where you should be.

When Becky got back in line, as I was hoping, it didn't take "the guy" there very long to fast-track her back through to the front and reunite her with her family. Me.

Thanks "guys".