In this journal:
business class 1/5 the price of economy
I exit the terminal after waiting forever for an immigration officer to show up, and promptly made it to the Gautrain station. Gautrain is like the fast speed rail service from the airport to Pretoria, one of the capitals in South Africa, and downtown Johannesburg. It is not cheap, costing 151 rand/12 dollars for a one way trip into the downtown station called Malboro. However, as everything else privately run in South Africa, its price came with spotless facilities, world-class services, and guards armed with heavy semi-automatic guns. It was no different than any other European train system, maybe even faster and cleaner. I re-emerged in the city center, and took a taxi to my hostel. I rested mostly to adapt to the slightly colder weather as Seychelles was too tropical for any person to not get used to. I woke up to a brilliant dusk at the edge of one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Jo’burg in sunset
For the night, I went to a night market with a bunch of people I encountered in the hostel. It was truly a perfect demonstration of this melting-pot of a city. People congregated from all over the city to be stuffed into this stadium-size convention ground. You have your typical South African Braai, which is the local variation of barbeque. You also have the Koreans making their proud kimchi tradition better known, and Chinese with baos and spring rolls. The Europeans contributed confections, desserts and wine. The middle eastern falafels, Australian cured meats, and Argentinean steaks all made their way into this crowded place.
the night market
After gathering a little bit of food like a bear foraging to prepare for winter, I met up with the rest of the group on the second floor. We talked and laughed, while holding our wine glasses and food plates steady, just in case a strong gust would make a lucky guy downstairs covered with Korean barbeque sauce and premium South African wine.
Muhammad Ali fights on in this 10-story high mural
The next day, I decided to visit the most iconic place in probably the entire South Africa historically. The township of Soweto is the syllabic abbreviation of South West Townships. This large suburban neighborhood used to be a city of its own, until urban sprawl from Johannesburg swallowed it whole.
leaving downtown Joburg on the way to Soweto
Before the township could be reached, we first needed to pass a giant stadium called FNB Stadium, which is used for the biggest sport events in the country, and was the main venue for the 2010 South Africa FIFA. It was now slightly out of shape, and needed a little bit of care, and a lot of love, because there was not a single person else in the area while we were standing outside this giant bowl capable of holding 94000 people.
If you have ever heard of Apartheid, you would be very familiar of the event of Soweto Uprising. I was very intrigued by the idea of Apartheid after being discriminated against in my life in Canada for my skin color, and I had been hoping to take a first person glimpse of this place ever since. Regarding the uprising, I will detail it even more as we progress deeper into the town.
welcome to Soweto
Upon my arrival, I was surprised to see what kind of buildings were erected there. I had always thought Soweto was a desolate wasteland full of substandard shacks and horrific living conditions, but this first area in the northeast was obviously on par with western living quarters. Hell, I would even say these houses were much better than mine! Apparently there were also a lot of rather richer folks who had crawled their way out of the painful vicious cycle in Soweto, but refused to leave the place that nurtured them.
will you believe this is the a neighborhood notorious for poverty?
However, the conditions quickly worsened as we ventured west. The street view soon turned grim and unbearable. Shacks and trash started popping up the moment we left the block, and before too long, it was exactly the image I had pictured in my head. Poverty circled above this unfortunate place and these unfortunate people like a vulture staring down its prey.
there is now a bungee jumping facility for tourists inside those giant chimneys
While we came to a stop at a crossroad, a group of local “entrepreneurs” came up to sell things. People here sell everything from toothpaste to fake passports trying to make a living. They proud themselves as they avoid crimes at all costs despite this is likely the poorest neighborhood in the entire region.
“cash for scrap”
The township had a lot of governmental housing back when the city government had the control before National Party took over with Apartheid. They are all in the exact same size and shape, occupying about 30 m² of space, constructed with cement and covered with the same paint. They may sound dreadful in modern westerners’ eyes, but in comparison to the shanty town far in the distances, these little huts appeared to be little bits of heaven.
a government housing
Now, time to talk about the South African elephant in the room: Soweto uprising. The cause was simple yet complicated. The Apartheid regime (apartheid means “separated” in Afrikaans) pushed a lot of discriminatory legislations through the era. One of those horrible laws relocated thousands of poor blacks from center of Johannesburg to Soweto, which was separated from the Johannesburg by a lot of mines in between. They limited the food and daily supplies going in and out of the part, severely hindering the development and safety of the townspeople. However, people carried on living, until one thing that the younger Sowetans could not tolerate, happened.
poor enough to not fix the flooding, but rich enough to erect a sign about it
The government decided to enforce full Afrikaans/English education in schools throughout the nation in 1976. As you may have known, South Africa is an extremely diverse country. The many different tribes from all over the country speak 100+ kinds of languages, ranging from Zulu to Sotho to Tswana or Tsonga, and only the small fraction of whites speak the Afrikaans, a distant variation of Dutch. This infuriated the black students, who were already getting education as poor as my flirting skills. They started a march down the streets in Soweto on June 16, 1976, and quickly it turned violent. All after that was blood-covered history. Among the first wave of shooting, 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot dead, and the famous photograph of his body being carried by a friend was taken then.
a historical moment, an unspeakable tragedy (seen in front of Hector Pieterson memorial)
Nobody knew how many people died, and the estimated number ranges from 200-700. The photo spread across the world quickly, and international community strongly condemned the Apartheid government: it was day 1 of the downfall of this racist regime.
We then passed by Nelson Mandela’s old house, (I am almost certain everyone knows him so I will skip the introduction) so crowded with tourists that it was barely suitable for human occupation, and that marked the fact that we were now officially in the heart of Soweto: Orlando West. This was where all the actions took place. Of course, that includes food. What I was given, though, was surprisingly local.
looks like a cholesterol lollapalooza
This is a kota. It is basically a bread cut half, and its innards taken out, and replaced with sausage, ham, egg and fries. Yep, it is very delicious, and very dangerous. It was surprisingly cheap as well. A kota, which comes from the word “quarter” since it is essentially a quarter of a bread, costs only about 20 Rand/1.5 dollars with a bunch of stuffs nailed inside. I could barely finish mine, but I saw two large words glowing, as if they were luring me into a beautiful trap: “KOTA QUANTUM”. (I think it is a Fallout reference?) I asked what was inside, and the owner of the tiny stall smiled: “Everything.” I WANT EVERYTHING, DON’T YOU WANT EVERYTHING? So I happily paid up my 80 Rand. I felt like I was holding a newborn baby, equally warm and almost equal in weight.
Young holding his baby back in hostel
We continued to a rather featureless house right beside the Mandela House. The flowers from the front yard were blooming so passionately, that it completely hid the house behind. I was puzzled about what was special about this house initially, until I was told that this is the house of Archbishop Desmund Tutu. He fought alongside Mandela for civil rights and racial equality, yet he was much less known. Though he was forever honored with a Nobel prize as well.
We were then taken to a local school. This small school was one funded by private corporations as well as philanthropists. The government here does little to help the children who cannot afford the basic tuition fees despite their families were scratching the earth for food, sometimes literally.
children at the school
The kids were very lovely, and they had a lot of materials to work with. Some Japanese company donated a lot of computers to the school, but sadly they could not use them because the entire area had no official power source. There was also a pair of American mother and daughter duo helping at the library, which cutely had these rules written.
the ten commandments
From the school, we started walking into the true Soweto, where nothing was provided and everything had to be earned. The shacks made from abandoned bed frames, broken glasses and aluminum roofs extended beyond the farthest I could see. Public toilets that were basically those used on construction sites lined the streets as nobody had any form of plumbing.
The local guide continued to lead us through different people’s houses, and asked us to be very careful about not touching any metal. Why? Well, it is kinda sad actually. Since no electricity grid exists, so what a lot of people did was to take electricity from the main grid off the roads, which can be quite a distance away. Thus, makeshift power “transit” poles were set up, with absolutely no safety precautions built in whatsoever, and no rubber coating was on the wires either. During rain, the water mixed up with trash can become quite conductive, and anything with metal on it could shock a person unconscious.
a makeshift local power ditribution
We encountered a person in his backyard, rubbing and cutting tires. I was rather curious what he was doing, and it turned out that he was making flip flops from waste rubber. He was so good at it that I could barely recognize that they were made from tires that were thrown away on the side of the road!
look at how well-designed they are!
It was truly incredible to see how these people managed to survive in such poor conditions without resorting to any kind of trickery, crime or violence. They knew life was hard, but they were still trying their best to live out a world of their own. It was simply beautiful, human resilience at its best. I doubt if any of us from much more fortunate backgrounds could survive under these conditions…
the flowers of hope blossoms…
We continued to make our way to the famous apartheid museum. It was a dark brown structure sitting at the east side of Soweto. It was massive. Before we could enter, every person was randomly assigned a race: white, or not white. The entire first section of the museum splits up the two races just like what the government did. The carefully crafted system gives every person an identification card, detailing his or her name, birth date and place, as well as race. They have the following categorizations: white, colored, black, and Indian. Some strange rules applied to make Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese “honorary whites” and enjoy the same privileges as whites, but they, along with all others, were still highly discriminated against.
entrance to Apartheid museum
Many atrocious acts were conducted by the apartheid government. First law passed prohibits interracial marriages and the second one prohibits interracial “immoral acts”, then blacks were forced to relocate from areas that the whites want to live, purging the cities from the blacks. Homeland system called Bantustan was created to restrict further black movements, and then came the iconic “Petty Apartheid”. Whites and non-whites used different trains, water faucets, cinemas, pharmacies, beaches, laundromats, supermarkets, bathrooms, and even just space in general. Blacks were denied passports much more often. And sadly, the media perpetrated this cultural idea during this era so much that even some blacks started to believe the apartheid was justified. This really reminds me of this Korean girl I read about who wants to become Kylie Jenner so much that she would do anything to get a plastic surgery, just because she “looks too Asian”. (story here) It is scary how powerful the media steamroll machine can be, sometimes strong enough to convince some people they deserve to be ripped off.
Rest In Peace, Nelson Mandela
I barely had enough time to read through half of the museum before I gave up processing. The sheer amount of racism contained in a closed space was too much for me. All these pictures of people getting beaten, facilities with giant “WHITES ONLY”, along with a court case record of an “unethical case between an Asian and a white woman” all made my head spin. I thought I was quite strong as I had suffered my fair share of racism and racial-prejudice, but I was never prepared to go through all these information in such a short amount of time. In fact, I think I will never be. I exited the museum, with tears dripping from the side of my cheek. Not only had the museum reminded me how cruel of a world I live in, but also did it remind me of my own sad history…
a road dividing shacks from houses, and also social class, Soweto
On the way back, the sun had already started disappearing from the sky. The orange light was casted upon the slightly grey skyline. We approached the city from the west, just like the sun rays basking the city in its final moments. This marked the end of my adventures around the world, as after this slightly cold night, I would be heading to one of my homes, officially ending visiting new places on this circumnavigation around this world.
good night, Jo’burg
Next day, I woke up early, took an uber to the Gautrain station, and popped inside the airport. It seemed so routine to me now, saying goodbye to a place and its wonderful people, and secretly shedding some tears inside my heart for leaving the cute fellow backpackers in my hostel without any notice. I had gotten slightly numb from doing this, which meant that it was a good time to take a break from travelling. My heart was overflowing from all the experiences in all these places that I had passed, and it was a good time to slowly sort and store them in somewhere I could truly rest and think. Where else could be better than my childhood home?
Etihad, thank you for actually delicious food on airplanes, in economy class
I am not going to detail the week I spent in Shanghai, as I was not actually walking around looking for tourist sights, as I had spent a fair share of my 16 years there doing so. Instead, I will talk about some thoughts I have gathered during this trip and some other miscellaneous things that I have always wanted to put down in my blog for this journey.
my bed for the first 16 years of my life
I got a lot of time by myself while I was back “home” in Shanghai. I had the entire house to myself, and I sometimes just stared into the white ceiling in my room for hours. If my generation was the lost generation, then I am definitely the lost-est among the lost-est. I almost can imagine myself on a strange island after an airplane emergency landing and find out some supernatural time travel paradoxes full of plotholes and inconsistencies. (yes I am referencing Lost, and yes I loved that show) I did not know what side to choose for high school in China (you have to choose sciences or arts by grade 11), so I left China for Canada. I did not know if I should get a B.A. or B.S. in university, so I chose both. I did not know if I should choose girl A or girl B, so I chose neither. Okay I am joking, the fact I am single is sadly not by choice, not by my choice anyway. (insert sad music here)
a casual Cantonese lunch, by myself
I later picked up traveling, and it turned out to be a great way to get lost while still enjoying myself. I was postponing the responsibilities of getting a decent job, getting a stable family, etc, because I am so lost in the giant maze of life. I am scared that if I make the wrong choice, I will not only disappoint my parents, my family, my 2 friends in life, and myself. I am afraid to bring shame to my last name, and I am worrying about other people’s scathing laughter… Some may call me brave for venturing out into the furthest corners of this planet, but I know I am actually just an extraordinary coward.
dinner at a canteen
I want to have a steady aim for something great, just like that neighbor’s kid who knows she will become a financial consultant ever since age 14. I want to have something everlasting, like those of my high school classmates who are getting married this March. I want to have something beautiful, like my cousin who is going to have a lovely baby this summer. I travelled. I travelled because I wanted to know what I truly wanted. Do I want to become a breadwinner, dressed in suits and talking on the phone while rushing through the subway tunnels? Do I want to come home to a love of my life and feed two adorable little Young’s? I wanted to know. I wanted to know…
Instead of an answer, what I got from traveling was even more things to confuse me. The despair and destruction in the poorest places in the world, the beauty and serenity of the natural wonders, the friendliness and hospitality from the people everywhere, the evidence of globalization and climate change, the wonderful fellow travellers from all over the globe, these things all started to mess with my head, making me question my purpose even more. I sincerely do not know who I should become anymore. I thought travelling would solve the mystery, but instead, the journeys I partook were a mystery itself.
“please do not shoot arrows inside the mall”
I guess that is the magic of backpacking. It made me jump out of the circle of normal social cycle. We were merely told that in order to live a normal life, we need to study hard, try hard to get an internship, try even harder to get a job that allows you to go to a cube at a specific time every single day, try your hardest to save up some money in your 401-k account for retirement, and then go on some dating website/app/setup to find someone to live a life with, and eventually get kids, get old, and get into the casket. But who told us that we had to do this? Can’t we make even a little bit of amendment to that? The trips made me hate the fact that I needed to do something I hate so much, like getting up at 6 every day, in order to get money, which I genuinely do not care about. I would love to wake up to a late morning sun in Paris, or a cozy afternoon under a coconut tree in Seychelles, and who told me I could not? Maybe I will never find love in my arms, but I have already found love in this world: the very world itself. I believe after an epic trip like this, nobody will be able to think “normally” anymore, and guess what, I feel proud for anyone who has reached this step.
meals from the South Ocean
I think it all boils down to living a life worth living for. It may sound cheesy, but I think it is what everyone aims to do. Some have a clear goal to become either a doctor or a lawyer, then good for them. Some are just a bit relaxed and wish to be a family housewife/house-husband, that is fine as well. I, however, am just a tad bit lost, and I guess I just found myself a life worth living for via traveling. I want to be the best person I can become, and be nice and gentle to everyone around me as well as people who need my help. I may end up alone on this path, but who can deny that I have lived a great life when I myself chose this path? I had an epiphany: live a life worth living for, that should be the goal of my short visit on this planet Earth.
“Why be so complicated in life?” this board connects every problem in life like being single, want to be understood, and having no money to one solution: eat hot pot
Back to some trip reports! For two rainy days, I met up with my long time mate Siyao from back in middle school, and decided to check out the new Shanghai Disneyland. It was the newest and most modern Disneyland to date, and features Mickey Avenue, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventure Isle, and the world-only Treasure Cove with a special Pirates of the Caribbeans ride!
Of course, this place is incredibly crowded despite its rather high pricing, since it is in China. The most memorable rides are the Pirates of the Caribbean Show, and the accompanying ride. The Adventure Isle also has an interesting area for climbing and digging, which makes me miss the days on top of Kilimanjaro. It is somehow slightly funny and ironic that the very things that this land is imitating, such as camping, mountaineering, traversing rivers, etc, was exactly what I had been doing out there in the wild for months.
the Sleeping Beauty Castle in the park (please look at the Munich part for its striking similarity to the castle there)
The best ride, however, has to go to the Tron ride in Tomorrowland. It was incredibly fast and sitting in the front will make your heart fly out of the imitation motorcycle, into infinity, and beyond. I was a big fan of the original movie as well as the reboot, and needless to say I took the ride 10 times too many… 😛
Star Wars has an… exhibition?! not a ride? what the fuck?
Marvel has a drawing classroom
What I could not stand, however, was the Frozen show. Firstly, the great movie does not have a ride, why? Even the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto has a goddamn ride for Arceus’ sake! Secondly, they only hired Elsa and Ana from overseas, and everyone else was locally hired. Before any hyper-liberal feels triggered, let me clarify that there is no such thing as political correctness in China, and I guess sticking to the original race of the movie to cast people is reasonable, but the problem is, why don’t they just hire a bit more foreigners to do the job? I don’t think the Kingdom of Arendelle takes Chinese immigrants, right? The core cast of 4 should be foreigners at least, right? Thirdly, WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU FORCING THESE POOR FOREIGNERS TO SING “LET IT GO” IN FUCKING CHINESE??? Oh boy then if you want the Chinese kids to sing along then just hire Chinese actresses and put some makeup on! Hearing the poor blonde girl trying her best trembling voice to sing the Chinese Let It Go must be some form of punishment from the gods for disobeying my single nature and bringing a girl to an amusement park.
the two poor expat girls in action during the parade
I also had a chance to meet up with Till again! If you remember, we met in Victoria Falls, and he actually now worked in Shanghai for his company. I invited him to join me and my grandparents, and we made wontons together. Till was incredibly good at learning, and got the gist of wrapping a wonton within seconds! It had been a great time, Till, and I guess, ‘TILL next time! (hahahahahaha)
hey not so shabby~!
Now it is time for me to leave. I have to get back to North America to position myself for the next trip. It is incredible to think that while everyone was wrapping up their summer vacation, I had just begun another one. I boarded a Spring Airlines flight to Taipei, the other home of mine during childhood, but unfortunately I had no time to visit. I transited in the Taoyuan International Airport, and heard the best news in my life ever since my high school crush told me she likes me (I forgot to check and it turned out it was April 1st but I felt so happy for 2 hours). I WAS UPGRADED TO BUSINESS CLASS!!! I had never flown business class on a long haul flight before, and that randomly happened on my way back to Los Angeles? Not to mention I spent a measly 170 dollars on the flight? It must be my birthday!!! So what was about to happen was going to be a full review of the flight since I have always wanted to make all long haul business/first class flights be reviewed on this blog.
lounge bao and onigiri selection at Taipei
yum~ yum~! 😀
The first leg was economy from Taipei to Osaka, which had nothing to brag about. However, I had to thank Japan Airlines again for their dedication to all passengers, premium cabins or not, and their high quality food service. For most people, they just want good food, comfortable seats and some good entertainment options. JAL consistently delivers on their promise as the national carrier of Japan. (I also took them for my weekend trip to Tokyo.)
economy lunch, TPE-KIX
I then settled into the Osaka Kansai Airport Sakura Lounge, and I found myself sitting inside a spotless room facing the tarmac, with delicious, authentic Japanese food lining the sides. I think if I do enough good deeds and die, this is the place I will come to.
Osaka JAL Sakura Lounge
I also found a strange little rice ball thingy. It looked like a mochi in the outside, but the moment I bit into it, the juice inside as tender as baby Jesus exploded in my mouth. It was likely the best thing I have ever had in this cruel world. Seeing that it was limited to 100 per day in this place, I took out the last 3 of them with surgical precision and lightning speed.
if I get a girlfriend, I will call her whatever this is called
Before I could finish my 7th glass of champagne, the plane was about to board. Of course I wanted to board first! Usually on short/mid haul business flights like the trips to Panama City, I do not want to board first, since the seat was just nothing but a bigger economy seat. I would prefer to stay in the lounge a bit more and relax. However, since JAL flies their B788 on this route, it means Business Class is as good as it gets on this plane, as First Class is absent in this seating configuration. I was warmly greeted by the purser, and took the long-awaited left turn once I stepped into the plane.
instructions, for your seat?!
The legroom on this flight is almost obscene. Though it is not completely lie-flat, it was close enough, and not in a staggered configuration, which made every seat feel more spacious.
look at this legroom! I am trying my best to stretch my legs here!
I was offered a drink, so I picked the signature JAL Skytime to wake me up, and quickly we took off from Osaka Kansai Airport. The view on take off is brilliant, as the airport was built in the bay across from the city, and I could clearly see the skyline of the city fell flat onto the ground, and slowly disappeared towards the back of the plane…
take off from Kansai
The air hostess gave me a menu, and I held it as hard as I was trying to hold my tears back. A menu? For a flight? whaaaa? I can actually order things?
even the menu is designed
Before I could finish half of the menu, the air hostess came to take my order for lunch. It was not her fault though, as this 10-page menu has too many goddamn things on it! I got myself a Charles Heidsieck Brut champagne (retailing at ~$75) to start things off with my sesame tofu and quiche.
先附/appetizer: Japanese artisan sesame tofu, potato and girolle quiche
I needed to try out the Japanese set meal called 懐石料理/Kaiseki designed by chef Jun Kurogi, so I ordered that for my first dish and main course. The 茜空/Crimson Sky, basically the first dish, is a selection of the seasonal best for the late summer. It came to me as a small box wrapped in a red string, as if the myth of the red knot was telling me I should be together with this dish, forever…
beautifully wrapped Crimson Sky
What was inside completely blew me away. I always know Kaiseki is famous for a lot of small dishes, but the detail and work put into this dish were simply unrivaled by any other type of cuisine I have ever seen. Hell, I will say there is not even a kind of cuisine that can come close!
even more beautiful inside
Now this is my kind of lover, beautiful outside, yet even prettier inside! Let me introduce each dish. Top left you have prawns with tartar and caviar, the creamy sauce seeps deep into the shellfish, bringing out the ultimate seafood experience. Top middle you get the fresh lotus root on top of a saury sashimi, and below that you have an eel roll with grilled duck: land, sea and river all merged together into the most flavorful extravaganza in your mouth. Then top right sits the pork sukiyaki, a kind of prime beef that I will never have any beef with. It is topped with a lightly cooked egg and fresh snow peas. Bottom left is the vinegared persimmon, a cold dish used to adjust the rich flavors of the other meat dishes. Bottom right has the baked conger, a type of eel, and blowfish marinated with kelp. This fish dish is simply spectacular, as the texture was through the roof, and likely into the sky. 😉 This basically served as the Hassun/八寸, Mukōzuke/向付, Takiawase/煮合, Yakimono/焼物 and Su-zakana/酢肴 parts.
Next came the real biggie, the Dainomono/台の物 grilled beef tongue and salmon in miso sauce, along with the Gohan/御飯 steamed rice, Konomono/香の物 picked vegetables, and Tomewan/止椀 miso soup.
The beef tongue was de-li-cious. It was so creamy that it melts into your heart directly, and the miso salmon was very good as well. Couple these two with the slightly sticky rice and picked vegetables of the late summer, I felt like I could eat this all over again for 10 times just for lunch! The amount of detail put into these dishes were simply phenomenal. For dessert, I got a fun pack of a DIY paper crane red bean puzzle piece. I enjoyed making it and eating it so much that I forgot to take a picture of it. I watched a movie, and then decided to at least take a nap on this 12 hour flight, so I ordered a 東洋美人 brand sake, chugged it into my over-full belly, and turned my seat into a bed.
I woke up to feel hungry again, and I reached for my menu: there is no “stop” in the word “eating”. Still remembering the great Japanese lunch I just had, I went for Japanese again for my breakfast/dinner. I ordered chef Fukimo’s set plate.
dainomono is back
This meal is much lighter. There was no fluff to be cut, so the first thing that hits my table was the beautifully presented dainomono along with kobachi/小缽. The main dish consists of grilled salmon, squid in sea-urchin sauce (oh my god so good) and seared daisy and chrysanthemum blossoms. The flowers definitely showed this female chef’s girly side, which put on such a good touch on this well-balanced flavor fest. The kobachi include a bowl of rice and a great selection of pickled daikons, along with a colorful miso soup. I did not hesitate and ordered the Japanese Asahi beer to go with them.
To finish everything off, I had some fresh fruits and ice cream. There were a lot more on the menu, including a full “Western Dish” side that I had not even touched, but I guess I would need 4 more stomachs in order to try them all.
fruits and JAL exclusive “SUPER PREMIUM” Dean & Deluca ice cream
I guess on the airplane, time truly flies. Before I realized, we were flying above the beautiful Californian coast again. Last time I saw this view, I was 3 months younger, and with 8 countries fewer on my list of accomplishments. It has been a long, long journey. From the mountainous hills in Swabian Germany to the lone giant called Kilimanjaro, from the shining coast of Seychelles to the frozen waters of Longyearbyen, from becoming a literal edgelord on pulpit rock to turning into a princess in Neuschwanstein, from cruising down the waterfalls of Geirangerfjord to cruising down the grassy ocean in Masai Mara, from the majestic Victoria Falls to the heroic Glencoe, from the colonial capital London to the colonized capital of Johannesburg, I had experienced them all, and this marked the end, the end of not only my longest journey to date, but also my first voyage to literally circumnavigate this planet. I have done it. I truly, truly have done it. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the clear waters hitting the Malibu Bay, and then, the bustling city of Los Angeles came into view, and quickly disappeared. My eyes were clouded by a thick layer of fog, and my mind was shrouded in an even thicker layer of thoughts…
It was more about the destinations, though, as there were so many friendly people to guide me, to help me, to accompany me along the way, and without them I would never be able to come this far. From the very first day’s lady giving back my passport, to my beloved big sisters Sophie and Pinar, and then to the distant Schlotter family members I have in Swabia, these are all people in my life that I will never forget. What I learned in this journey, is that it is sometimes less about the place you have been to, the food you have eaten, the games you have played, or the photos you have taken; it is more about how you got to those places, the people who shared the food with you, the reason you played the games together, and your smile looking into the camera. The greatest voyage is not one around the world, to the north or south, east or west; the greatest voyage is one inward, like a race to the center of a maze, and via going inward one will find true self, and those who are the closest to him.
UCLA from air
After snapping back from my rumination, the plane had descended enough for me to clearly make out UCLA from the air. Today, all other students start school, yet today for me was the end. The 787 plane slowly touched down onto the tarmac, and I said goodbye to the air hostess. She gave me the paper crane shaped chopsticks holder I really loved (and told her how beautiful it was) as a gift. I thanked her profusely and ended my first long haul Business Class trip in the world.
I stepped onto the curb of LAX again, almost at the same time I did the same thing while departing for this trip. The sun was shining bright, just like July 4th, the day I left. Everything felt exactly the same, the ever-busy LAX, the passengers dragging their suitcases, my giant backpack filled with dirty clothes, except the calendar on my phone showed September 20th. I grew some beard, and I grew a bit wiser, but besides that, time had not left any mark on me, except the bruises I got on the mountains. I met so many people, and they appear ever-so-lovely in my memory. To all those people who have laughed with me, cried with me, loved with me, assisted me, wronged me, befriended me, it has been my greatest honor to travel alongside with you.
I originally would continue to Eugene, Oregon for a side trip, but I looked at my Business Class boarding pass, closed my eyes, and shook my head. My heart had so much to express, and I was not ready to take on more challenges. Give me some time, and let me raise my sail again in a few days, and voyage towards the unknown future. And that is why, folks, I have decided to live a life with my own twist in it, A Life With A Young Style, A.L.W.A.Y.S.
Japan Airlines Regional 787 Business Class Grading:
- Ground Service: 170
- Hard Product: 95
- Soft Product: 190
- Food: 185
- Value: 190
- BONUS: 10 OMG A SURPRISE UPGRADE!
- Total: 840 【GREAT】