The story of my second flight really began two years ago in May 2007 at a great Chinese restaurant called Xiao Szechuan on University Avenue. My parents and brother Michael took me out for my 25th birthday, and I invited along my then new girlfriend, Tian.
During dinner, we (not surprisingly) overheard some conversation in Chinese at an adjacent table. But this time, we had Tian who understood it all. She struck up a conversation with the two people and we all got to talking. It was one of those conversations where coincidences abound, and we ended up exchanging contact info. That initial meeting developed into a nice friendship, especially with Chris, who later invited Tian to do some Chinese/English translation work with him and with whom we had dinner on multiple occasions.
It turns out that Chris, who has had an incredible personal history with all things China, was heading back to Beijing this fall to spend another year teaching English at a university not too far from Tsinghua. And as luck would have it, we actually ended up on the same plane from Chicago to China on the 18th!
Chris was the perfect travel companion for the 13-hour flight to China. I must have asked him every question under the sun about daily life there, which he happily answered. He also gave me tips on the language. I learned the important word for nap – Xio Shi – and proved it when taking several on the flight. In between chapters of my book, we shared personal stories about travel, exchanged teaching methods, created new idiums and words, and listened to each other’s original music. We also befriended the flight attendants (in both Chinese and English), and eagerly partook in the resulting rewards of extra snacks and drinks.