Cholo Jeans, Dragon Shirts, and Rainbows: An Oregonian Lands in Shanghai

So, I have a blog now. I don’t really know much about blogging (believe it or not). But since the intent of this blog is mostly for updating the folks back home in Oregon, I think I’ll just ramble and story-tell and hope that some of you find it interesting.

On Wednesday, January 11th, 2011, I spent my last day in the United States. While I would have loved to have spent the day relaxing with family and friends, I instead spent it frantically packing up the last of my things, cleaning my portion of the house in which I lived, working out final details with my roommates, banks, and landlord, and attempting to enjoy a few final moments with my family and my partner. I obviously made it out in time to catch the plane, but I must say my parents were instrumental in helping me accomplish these final tasks, and Carolyn was there for hugs and support when I became overstressed.

After a long and stressful Wednesday, my parents, Carolyn, and I took off to PDX around 3:00am, Thursday the 12th, so I could catch my 6:30am flight. Once we had all had our hugs and goodbyes, I was off through security and onto the plane for my first leg down to LAX. While the plane ride could have been less comfortable, I decided I can greatly increase my comfort in the future by wearing fewer layers. You see, in order to maximize the space in my suitcase, I wore several layers of clothing which resulted in me feeling and looking like a marshmallow. This wasn’t a huge deal while I was still in Oregon where it was near freezing temperatures, in fact, it was rather cozy. But walking into LAX wearing three layers of pants, four shirts, and two coats where everybody else was wearing shorts, tank-tops, and flip-flops made it quite apparent how Oregonian I am, not to mention unbearably warm.

Navigating the LA airport in my marshmallow suit was a bit tricky and uncomfortable, but soon enough I was in the relentlessly long security line for international departures. When I finally got to the checkpoint, the TSA agent gave me a smile and nod and pointed to the rainbow patch on my laptop bag. He said he wished he could be so forthright, but that he was worried about such an upfront display of personal identity in his line of work. He joked about giving me a pat-down and then let me on my way. While this was just one simple and short-lived interaction, I was struck by the reality of this man’s situation. It evoked feelings of empathy for the man and feelings of anger toward the people and organizations responsible for the environment that provoked this fear.

To speed things up a bit, the flight was long – over 14 hours – and I was quite happy to step off the plane into the airport in Shanghai. One wonderful surprise is that my friend Steven took a train to Shanghai to pick me up so I would have someone to help me navigate my way after arriving. As I strolled through the arrivals archway wearing my cholo jeans and dragon shirt, he spotted me right away. We exchanged smiles, and once I passed beyond the gate, I was greeted with a bear-hug. We were soon on our way through the airport, chatting as though it hadn’t been nearly a year since we last saw each other. As we ventured through the Shanghai subway system with all my stuff, I felt strangely at ease, partially because I had been here once before, and partially because I knew I was beginning a great adventure of personal growth and learning.