The day began at 8:00am China time on February 27th. I arrived at the office as planned at 8:00, which I thought was cutting it pretty close, as our flight from Hong Kong was at 11:00am, and it's like a 1.5 hour drive from the office to HK Int'l Airport. But Jacky and the other 2 guys I was traveling with seemed completely confident, so I figured it wasn't my place to say anything. Upon arrival, Jacky said we would be bringing with us $30,000. Now I assumed he meant 30,000 Hong Kong dollars, which is about $4,000US, a sum I thought was far more than we would need for 4 people's meals for 8 days in the US (hotel was paid for by company credit card, meals were paid for with company money, then we provided receipts). However, I was absolutely floored to see Jacky pull out 300 $100US bills from a bag. $30,000USD. The 2nd largest sum of money I have ever held in my life. Why in the hell were we bringing $30,000US cash to the US, I had no idea. We were unsure as to whether the limit for transporting US$ into the US was $10,000 (i.e. you must have <$10,000) or up to $10,000 (i.e. you can have $10,000), so we decided to play it safe--I got $9,999, Jacky got $9,999, James got $9,999, and Howard got $3. Apparently nobody trusts Howard.
So that was that, we had divided up enough cash to buy a decent car. Now to get to the airport. Of course, no one was actually ready to leave at 8:00am--rather, we ended up getting out of there around 8:20am. Again, this is a 1.5 hour drive, and our flight was at 11. So we got to HKIA at about 9:45, and thanks to my being United Premier, got to go to the front of the checkin line. We'd completed checkin by 10, everything was going well, we went to security. At which point they told us we couldn't carry on this sign sort of thing that we were bringing as an advertisement for the trade show we're going to here in ATL. And we had to go get it packaged up and checked. Now we were really in a crunch for time. By the time all that was done with, it was about 10:25. We ran through security, ran through the airport, and got to the gate about 5 minutes before they were closing the doors. Had it not been for my United Premier, Shinerich would have had 4 people miss a flight from Hong Kong to Chicago. I think that alone calls for a substantial raise!
So the flight was pretty awesome. The in-flight entertainment for like 1/4 of the plane wasn't working, so consequently everyone got United Airlines vouchers for either A) $75 off one domestic US flight, B) 10% off any flight, anywhere in the world, or C) 3,000 miles free. Now for me, $75 one domestic flight doesn't really do any good. 3,000 bonus miles is not worth very much. So I went with the 10% off any flight anywhere. Not bad, hopefully I get to use it before it expires in a year.
So at O'Hare I was greeted by my Mom and Grandmother, who had come out for lunch during my layover. They generously brought the iPad that my grandpa had given me, as apparently he had an extra one lying around, so I now have a free iPad2...not too shabby! Lunch was good, headed back to the airport and hopped a flight to Atlanta. Upon arrival in Atlanta, we went to a pizza place near our hotel. On the walk over to the pizza place, the huge problem in Atlanta of homeless people became very apparent. At one point, a homeless guy just would not stop pestering us, so I basically said "you know what, good sir, I have $0US on me. HOWEVER, if you want, I will give you this 5 Chinese Yuan note. 5 Chinese Yuan (~$0.85)." And he took it. No sooner did this occur than a cop pulled up and asked us if this guy was asking us for money, to which I sort of sheepishly replied "yeah..." The cop started walking towards the homeless guy menacingly. I asked if the Chinese guys and I were free to go, to which he replied "y'all don't want to press charges?!"...."No....."
"Ah well yeah, then you're free to go"
Is that all?
Anyway, so eventually we got to the pizza place. It was absolutely hilarious seeing the awe of the three small Chinese men traveling with me when there was a large black man with dreadlocks making pizzas behind a counter. And consequently, here is the photo of the day:
However, I acknowledge that this is kind of a crappy photo, so here's another 2 from the airplane as an added bonus!
This is a photo of the Canadian Rockies from about 36,000 feet.
And finally, with all due respect to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and every other Asian megacity I've ever seen, it must be said that no image quite quickens the pulse like flying over Chicago coming off the lake and looking out at the skyline, as seen in a pretty poor quality photo below:
After our dinner at the pizza place, we went back to the hotel, only to run into 2 of the legends from the US branch of the company, Brian and Brandon, who were at the hotel bar. After a couple of drinks (I decided to take it very easy, as I'm horrendously jet-lagged and really don't understand the point in going hard on a Monday night with a bunch of guys when you need to work at 8:00am the next morning), Jacky and Brian decided they wanted to play pool. So we walked through the dodgiest part of town about 2miles in order to get to the nearest pool hall. Which was essentially this horribly grimy combination of a jazz club/pool hall/crack den/Dongguan. Really weird place. And the walk was just unbelievable. The fact that people tell me to make sure to be safe in China is pretty laughable--Atlanta seems to be infinitely more likely to get you stabbed, robbed, or killed than anywhere I've been in China--even freaking Dongguan! So the next time someone tells you to be safe when visiting a developing country, tell them to look at where you're coming from! If you can survive a major US city, you can survive anywhere!
So anyway, that's about it from the flight over to Atlanta. Earned another 10,000 or so frequent flier miles, carried $9,999 into the United States, saved my company several thousand dollars by being United Premier and allowing us to not miss our flight, and had lunch with my mom and grandmother in Chicago during a 3.5 hour layover. All in a day's work, really. Will be meeting up with one of my best friends from HS/university, Bryan, who now lives in Atlanta, tomorrow afternoon.
More to come from the other side of the world