This piece is being written at 37000 feet over Russia which seems a little risky for a child of the cold war era with vivid memories of what befell Gary Powers when he tried it. I half expect a couple of MiGs to slide into position alongside us and fire warning shots.
Times though have changed and my crew down the front of this Boeing 747 have no reason to fear the fate of a Korean Jumbo that strayed into Soviet airspace a while back. it’s night time outside and I’m in an aisle seat anyway so no furtive glances at what lies below for me in any case although I have pre-booked a window seat for the return trip…
Beijing, or Peking as I knew it, is my initial destination on the first trip to China although after a meeting there tomorrow I will be heading out to Tianjin on the coast to work for a week before reversing the process for the journey home. China is not somewhere that I have contemplated visiting before and I would probably not have made the trek had not the offer of work come up. If all goes well it is possible I will be back again next year and be on way to being able to claim that I am an old China hand perhaps.
I do seem to be very lucky of late for this is my third new continent in five months, with this job in Asia following last month’s trip to Africa and to South America at the end of last year.
As a boy I was an avid reader and used one of my treasured possessions, a second hand world atlas, to track where the action in every book that I read was taking place. Of course some locations are fictitious, but even then there will be some reality to anchor the scene.
Through books I read of the Andes and the North African and Gobi deserts to name three places that I came to dream of seeing one day, but with no real belief that such dreams would come true and yet in the span of barely a quarter of a year I have seen something of two of them and am about to fly over the third.
This trip also takes me further East than I have managed before. Until last month my previous best had been on my second overseas trip where a pal and I took in Copenhagen and Malmo amongst our motorised rambles, but last month my Libyan visit took me still further East and this time I am going well over 4000 miles further on. I almost claimed it as my first visit to a communist country, but I lived in a Marxist Britain under New Labour for too many years than I care to remember so I’ll let that one pass.
As always it will be an interesting trip and I am sure that I will be fascinated by what I experience. Most of the books, fiction and otherwise, that I read as a boy gave me the impression that people all over the world are all right as people. They may have customs and laws that are different to the ones that I am used to and I might find that I am uncomfortable with some aspects of that, but the people will be fine as long as I treat them with respect and will be even better if I show some interest in them and the way that they live.
Perhaps some time after I have come back I will write here again about my experiences; I am sure to have a fund of stories.