Shaolin: The big white guy returns

July 1:After the usual and customary delays for Chinese domestic flights (only two and a half hours), I experienced what some believe are not the usual and customary events after a Chinese flight: a safe landing. Air safety has improved a great deal with Chinese airlines. Previously, the CAAC, which is the government name for the airline system (otherwise known as Chinese Aircraft Always Crash), used primarily Russian type aircraft, with some American and some other "god knows what it is but it can fly" airplanes. However, just in the past two or three years, the Chinese government pushed for the purchase of brand new Boeing jets. And they did another wonderful thing: they made all flights and all terminals No Smoking. (Now if they can make this hotel No Karaoke, I'd be in good shape). Years ago, after the plane's wheels left the ground, a huge cloud of smoke, bigger than any clouds you'd see outside, would start to fill the cabin, making it extremely difficult to breathe. Terminals were the same way. Now, clean air. Well, almost. Someone on my flight was sneaking a cigarette. The Chinese stewardesses for some reason ignored the violator. For some reason they didn't ignore me. My seat back just couldn't get into enough of an upright position for them.

I was met at the airport by the Shaolin master who was to train me. As I forget his monk name, I'll just refer to him by his real first name, DeQing. Wang DeQing actually. He waited the two and a half hours in the airport with his sister. Or, was it his cousin? Gong fu sister? I still don't have that straight. Interesting thing these Chinese airports. They list departure times on this white magic marker board, that some half English speaking woman writes kind of illegibly on, every five minutes or so, making known the changes of all of the flights. Of course, they announce it over the PA system, but who can understand that stuff? So, when departing, it is necessary to constantly run up and back to the magic marker board to see what is happening to your flight. When there is a blank space next to your flight number, you're in trouble. Arrivals are a whole different story. No magic marker boards. No announcements. No listings. Who are you going to call? Nobody. You just sit and wait, and when the flight arrives, it arrives. Poor DeQing and sister, or whoever she was. They just waited, and waited, and.....

As for the sister, or whoever she is, I did get out of DeQing, who, during his sojourn this year teaching martial arts in Hungary learned some English, that she had wanted to meet me. He told me that she was married (past, present?), and that she was separated (married but husband was away, separated as in hates the guy, divorced as in killed him?) So much for DeQing's English. So much for her's. She didn't speak any. That got me off of whatever hook she had planned for me. A smile, a nod of the head, and some poor attempts at speaking what little Chinese words I could remember, and I was a hit. They took me to the Holiday Inn in Zengzhou, which, after spending a night there, I decided that I was to see this place more often. One hell of a nice room, a real size bed, running water both hot and cold, and a restaurant that had real cakes. On top of that, a health club (rare in Chinese hotels) with an indoor pool (even rarer), and I was in heaven. I made plans to definitely return at my earliest convenience.