The trip to China, December 2005
Robert Kern Curtis
The Meetings and Conferences
Wednesday, December 7, Morning
Bejing Mathematics Association
Wednesday, December 7, Afternoon
College of Mathematics, Bejing Normal University
Experimental Primary School of Bejing Normal University
Thursday, December 8, Morning
School of Mathematical Sciences, Peking University
Capital Woman Professors Association
Monday, December 12, Morning
Jiangsu Institute of Education, Nanjing
Monday, December 12, Afternoon
Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Wednesday, December 14, Morning
Mathematics & Science College, Shanghai Normal University
Wednesday, December 14, Afternoon
Shanghai Yan'an (upper) Middle School (grades 10, 11, 12)
Wednesday, December 7, Evening
Dinner followed by a theatrical performance "The Legend of Kung Fu"--the story is told through dance, acrobatics, and martial arts.
Thursday, December 8, Afternoon & Evening
Visit to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
Peking Duck dinner at the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant
Friday, December 9, Morning
Visit to The Great Wall of China
Friday, December 9, Afternoon
Lunch at the Dayi Restaurant upstairs from the Friendship Store
Saturday, December 10
Fly on China East Airline to Nanjing
Sunday, December 11, Morning
Visit the Sacred Avenue of the Ming Tomb. Also visit the Memorial to
Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
Lunch at a local restaurant
Sunday, December 11, Aftenoon
Visit the Zhonghua Men Gate in the Nanjing City Wall
Tuesday, December 13, Morning
Take the train from Nanjing to Shanghai
Tuesday, December 13, Evening
Dinner followed by a local acrobat show.
Thursday, December 15, Morning
Visit the Yu Garden and then tour the Shanghai Museum.
Thursday, December 15, Afternoon
Lunch followed by a visit to a Silk Rug Factory.
Visit to Shanghai's shopping district.
Thursday, December 15, Evening
A Farewell Banquet.
On Sunday, December 4, 2005, my daughter, Phyllis, drove me to Newark Airport. We were in plenty of time, so we first waited in a very long line to check
my baggage: one large suitcase. When we finally got to the clerk, she was very friendly but said that she had never heard of Dragon Air, the
carrier for the last leg of our journey to Bejing. But she booked the baggage through anyway saying that she did not think their computer could read American Airlines boarding passes. (They couldn't, but just issued me a new one.)
That chore done, Phyllis and I had lunch, scotch and hamburger, at TGIF. I also discovered that my Nikon camera was having trouble holding its
batteries. It was, so we bought a different brand which seemed to work.
Finally, Phyllis and I said good-bye and I headed off to my gate and the
security check. Even without shoes and watch I set off the mangetometer. So I had to take off my belt and badge, etc. I finally made it through
and my "carry on" did too.
I boarded the American Airlines Boeing 757 and had a seat at the window back pretty far in economy class.
It was crowded and sandwiches were $5 each. I wound up buying a can of beer for $5 but no food.
The movie was "A Beautiful Mind" -- the story of John Nash. I watched it and bought $2 headphones so I could hear it. There was a lot of static on the screens
(as if a connector was loose) but I enjoyed the film. Six hours later, we
arrived at Los Angeles Airport. I had to leave one terminal and walk to
another for Cathay Pacific Airlines. I did so and found my gate after
going through security wearing my shoes and belt and watch. And my carry-on was OK too.
At the gate, I first met Bob Ackley who told me that he was from Tucson, Arizona. We had a wait and eventually more of the People to People group
showed up. When we finally boarded the plane, a Boeing 747, I found that I was at the window again, but to my right was Allen of the group and
to his right was a rather large gentleman who makes this trip quite
often. It seems that Bob was in the seat directly behind me. We were
three rather large men in these three little seats. Sardines.
We did not take off on time. A rather apologetic Captain came on the
PA and explained that there was a miscount in the luggage and that
security was requiring that all the luggage be removed from the plane
and reloaded. Our departure was delayed an hour for this. There were
rumors that our direct flight to Hong Kong was not going to be
direct but was going to stop for refueling at Taipei. Indeed it was
a fully loaded 747 and once we took off we found that we had serious
head-winds. We flew up over the Bering Sea and then down over Japan
and indeed we did stop at Taipei and spent an hour refueling. On this
trip we had excellent food: dinner at about 4:30 am NY time and then
about eight hours later breakfast. By the time we got to Hong Kong,
our 14 hour trip from Los Angeles had taken us about 20 hours. We
missed our connecting flights, etc.
At Hong Kong, my body passed security fine, but my carry-on did
not! The first problem was a nail clipper which had a file attached.
The file part had to be broken off. Then, too, there was a small
xacto knife I had completely forgotten about which I had to surrender.
Dragon Air got us on a new flight to Bejing. This was really
excellent. An Airbus 330 with more room per seat, and a number of
empty seats. They served us a hot lunch on this three hour flight
and were very friendly and helpful. The stewardesses were also
very pretty and very young looking. We arrived in Bejing many
hours late, but found our luggage and were met by Bruce Ming, our
guide and interpreter, and our bus. We took a significantly long
bus ride to the Bejing Marriott Hotel West and tried to do all
the business we had missed by being late on the bus. We were all
exhausted and just barely made it to dinner at the hotel and
went to bed. It was now December 6th in the evening.
Our next travel was on December 10th, from Bejing to Nanjing
(literally "North Capital" to "South Capital"). This was on
China East Airline and was an Airbus 300. Again, the food was
good. The two hour trip was not too bad. We arrived at the Nanjing
Hilton which was decorated for Christmas complete with a large
model railway in the lobby.
Our next travel was by train in "soft" class. Railways in
China have two classes, "soft" and "hard." It comes from soft seats
and hard seats. For rail travel this ride was luxury. Very nice.
There were two stops along the way. Until the first stop, we had
the car to ourselves. And yes there were waitresses selling
food and trinkets. We and our luggage arrived at our hotel, the
Pudong Shangri La, happy and on time. ("Pu dong" means "river east."
This is the big high-rise financial district of Shanghai, which
was rice paddies ten years ago!)
Finally, on December 16th, we had to have our baggage in the
hallway by 4:45 am! At 4:40 am, the wake-up call came, and began
"Ni Hao." We left the hotel by 5:30 am with a bag of rolls and
fruit for breakfast, and got to the airport with time to spare.
Shanghai has a new 10 billion dollar airport, but this was the
one place where we were bussed to the plane and had to walk
across the tarmack and walk up the many steps to the plane's door.
The flight would be on a Dragon Air Airbus 330 to Hong Kong.
Security here and at Hong Kong was fine, but we could only
check our baggage to Los Angeles, not to our final destinations.
A couple of hours and a good breakfast later and we were in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong we had a little waiting to do, but were able to board
a Cathay Pacific Boeing 747 which was only about 2/3 filled and
which left on time and had a good tail wind. After about 14 hours
and two meals we were in Los Angeles. Now to get the luggage and
wait in a very long line at a different terminal building to check
it. While I was waiting in line to check the luggage, the security
men with the explosive detectors came on duty, so when I finally
got to check mine, I had to be checked by them and, yes, I checked
positive for explosives. So this meant that they had to take everything
out and check each item.... Another half hour or so spent on this.
Finally, I was able to check the luggage and go on. Another big
line to go through security. This was OK. Finally, I got to the
gate and found they had changed the plane to a different gate. I
got there and found that the plane had not arrived yet but was
running about an hour late. This was to be an American Airlines
Boeing 757. While waiting in Los Angles, Mr Richard Gelber, the
father of two young men I had had in the Honor Society, came
up to me! We were going to be on the same plane. He was trying to
get to Miami, but the only way he could was to go to Newark and
then go to Miami from there. He had flown 400,000 miles this year!
He tried to get me promoted to first class, but did not succeed.
The plane was packed and there were six others in line for an
upgrade. When I finally boarded the plane and took my seat, I found
that I was between two women for the ride home. Again I bought a
beer and six hours later I was at Newark. After getting off the
plane, I saw Phyllis waiting in line with the limo drivers with a
welcome home sign for me! We joined up, got the luggage and
The trip was great, but traveling economy class on very crowded
planes was pure torture. I am grateful to have survived.