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Flight to Beijing

Note: This post references some movies whose titles may link to Wikipedia articles – which tend to have full plot summaries. If you want to avoid spoilers, skip those links and just read my mini-reviews at the end.

May 7, 2012: 6 AM flight out of Baltimore. Short 1 hr flight to Newark, then the big flight from Newark to Beijing by flying over the Arctic. 14 hr flight.

Yes, sorry, everyone. If you were expecting a post on Beijing, that’s next time. First, I’ve got a little to say about the flight!

I love these long international flights, especially when they are on these huge planes – a nice, big Boeing 777. It’s easy to work out your times awake and asleep to prevent jet lag, and there’s a good selection of movies, shows, and music. Granted, this was only the 3rd such flight I’ve had, but so far they’ve been good.

Conversation soon opened with the Chinese man next to me, who was probably in his 40’s or 50’s. He lives in the US and his English was fluent so throughout the flight we mostly spoke in English about various things, but it was pretty much just basic and friendly chit chat throughout. We’d still use Chinese sometimes for some basic exchanges. That was still very hard for me, even on so much that I should have understood. More on this will be upcoming in a “Performance Review,” because it is now 3 years since I started this stage of language learning and it’s time to review my progress.

As my…uh, flight mate? row mate? looked for movies to watch (having not been impressed by the first one he picked) I suggested 3 Idiots and summarized what it was about. He was enjoying it, so I sort of re-watched most of that movie off his screen while I listened to music, mainly listening to recent albums by Rainie Yang, Utada Hikaru, and I forgot who else. I had no idea they had put new albums out; I’ve been slipping.

United States

Over US, looks like we’re skimming along water.

Over US, waves – I mean clouds, are picking up.

Here come the waves! I mean clouds!

Among wool and cotton.


Over Canada, probably Quebec. Bonjour!

Over Canada, probably Quebec

Over Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland Island

Probably just off the coast and over the ocean

I met one other person on this flight: a professor at a university in Xi’an. We were both roaming around the plane to stretch our legs and I ran into her when I stopped for a while at a wider area. When we got to speaking about her university, she said that they have programs that bring Americans to study for free. I asked if they have graduate programs and she said they do, and in fact they pay a little bit; not much at all, though – the equivalent of around $300, no more than $500. The programs are mainly for sciences and I believe language fields, though others are available. If I wanted to do music, she’d have to check, but if not there, she said there are other universities participating in this program – apparently it’s backed or created by the government.

Of course, I had some reservations about such things that may sound too nice or good to be true, but none of this was like a pushy sales pitch, and nothing really sounded exaggerated – come on, $300 to $500 is no eye-popping stipend. Besides, I know China really is offering various kinds of programs that may surprise Americans, and I had a good feeling about her so we exchanged contact information. She even suggested I talk to my professor and give him her contact info if he wanted. I haven’t yet talked to her again, though I will pretty soon. I can add, though, that when I talked to my professor, he let me know her university is a reputable one, so if it’s all true, I shouldn’t have any concerns about it.


Now over Greenland. You can see the black of space!

The greenery is truly impressive!

More Greenland! Green, green!

I planned my time to have sets of roughly 3-4 hours asleep, 3-4 hours awake, to stay energized and prevent jet lag, and that worked out perfectly. When I started looking for movies, I immediately had an easy first choice when I found Love Aaj Kal, an Indian romantic dramedy I’ve been wanting to watch ever since I ran into its music on Youtube. Afterwards, I scrolled through the list and found this Korean movie called Never Ending Story that seemed interesting. All this time was interspersed with some conversation and of course the meals, of which we had about four, though the last one was more like a light snack. Not much else to say; last time I woke up, we were nearing Beijing.

So, to close this post, last set of pictures, and then my mini-reviews on the 3 movies mentioned in this post. Enjoy.

Next post: Beijing….probably Beijing Part 1.



The Arctic. North pole is right there! Don’t you see it?

It’s right by the flying reindeer! Nah, I’m kidding, if I remember correctly, this is no where decently near the pole.


Arriving at the other side of the world! Russia! Pretty far north in Siberia.

Still Russia. Привет!

If I don’t have pictures there of some place (*cough* Mongolia, China), I was probably asleep, watching a movie, or didn’t see anything interesting enough when I looked out.

Movie Reviews
3 Idiots: Indian dramedy; comedy and drama elements throughout, but first half is probably lighter while the second half gets more serious. The comedy is mostly from the shenanigans of the group of friends and jokes at the expense of the most arrogant and heartless of the group. This said group that the viewer follows constitutes two “typical” students (by heart, as they’re shown to be among the worst in grades), one studying what his father wants while his heart is elsewhere, and the other looking for a good degree and successful future to help his impoverished family. A third student is fully invested in the system (thus becoming a favorite student of the school), considering it the correct means for a prestigious career and getting rich.

The drama is a social criticism of the intense pressure on Indian university students (particularly in engineering) from tough and unforgiving teachers, curriculum, and policies, as well as over-demanding parents. The genre mix seems pretty common in Indian movies (they’re longer than your average American movie after all), and it’s done really well here, flowing naturally in what is primarily a university setting. You’ll get some sudden jumps from carefree antics to heart-stopping tragedy and vice versa, and a despondent situation that I’m not yet quite sure why was filmed to be intentionally over-dramatic, but somehow most of the choices seemed to work.

The music in the beginning sounded way too Christmas-y, a dramatic birth scene had something plain dumb, the Zoobi-Doobi song was way too light and fluffy for me, and I’m not too happy with their portrayal of where everyone ended up since the person whose supposed to be worse off (so as to carry the movie’s message) still seems to have done well in his own right – but, are bhaiya, aal izz well! Excellent movie, highly recommended, 9/10.

See it or skip it? Simple: Watch it. If you haven’t, you have to. Should be in your list of required Indian movies to watch.

Love Aaj Kal (“Love [in] These Days”): I guess a romantic comedy, with the twist that the couple is supposedly avoiding a relationship. The movie begins with them in a relationship but deciding to break up as a “logical” choice considering they’ll be going separate ways and don’t see any way a long-distance relationship will work. At first, all seems ok, but then some serious drama comes in. Throughout, an older man tells him his love story which seems much more illogical, involving love at first sight and great efforts pursuing his love despite issues beyond merely distance.

Interesting premise, some nice music as well as some catchy pop music, and the addition of the older man’s story adds a refreshing extra layer to what would otherwise be too weak of a story – and parallels are made between the two love stories of two time periods. Characters could have been rounder though, and Padukone’s character was especially underdeveloped and needed more screen time. Good, enjoyable, 7/10.

See it or skip it? I don’t believe you should regret the watch, so watch it. But if you already know the music, and the premise doesn’t seem all that interesting to you, I think you can skip this one.

Never Ending Story: Korean romantic-comedy-drama? A careless, carefree, lazy guy and a hard working, extremely organized, and focused young woman start seeing each other after finding out they have only 3 months to live. They learn from each other a little as their relationship grows deeper and their time grows shorter, but for the most part, I think more change is seen in her as she learns to loosen up.  She plans most of the days, and there’s a bit of dark humor in what her dates are all about. Although it gets sad and may tug at tears a few times, it is not a sad movie and the ending leaves you in a much lighter mood than you might expect. That could be seen as a negative as it avoids going too deeply into the more serious issue of their impending death, but I think that’s just it – it really is meant to be more of a romantic comedy with a dark undertone.

Characters are likable, felt pretty rounded with interesting quirks, and the movie does a good job at showing their personalities, and their efforts to make the relationship work. Liked the cinematography too. Cute movie (their chemistry helps make the movie), good watch, likable, but nothing extraordinary, so I give it a good 7.2/10.

See it or skip it? I’m still ignorant in what’s typical of Korean movies, so maybe this movie is even less special than I thought, but from my current position, if you have the choice to watch the movie, I’ll recommend the watch.

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