Well the journey to China has started! Around 1pm on Thursday afternoon, I checked two large and extremely heavy bags both weighing 52 pounds each! I was quite stressed about the bag situation since I had to bring two weeks worth of clothes and all of the decorations and food for the two tables in Wuhan! I took the 3:10 pm flight on September 18th out of Philadelphia to Chicago O’Hare. From there, I had a 3 hour layover so I wondered my way around the airport trying to find some good eats before I boarded for the last leg of the trip. Well actually, I got off the plane and bee lined it to Garrett’s Popcorn, because if you know me at all, I have a soft spot for their popcorn, especially for their Caramel Nut Crisp with Pecans of course! Good thing they were out of that type because they had a one day special and I honestly didn’t have the room to stow away a souvenir tin, so I went with the original Chicago Garrett’s Mix ( Cheddar and Caramel) instead! I figured that will suffice until I make my way back in two weeks! If you have never tasted the Garrett’s popcorn, it has to be put on your bucket list. I can sum it up quickly…. Its pure pleasure in your mouth! Well after I got my medium bag to go, I headed over to Macaroni Grill because that was my best option. I figured I would be having enough Chinese food for the next two weeks, and pasta is hard to come by in China. Well, pasta besides Chinese noodles that it is! I boarded the plane around 6:30 pm and I honestly thought something was wrong when I got on since most of the seats on the plane were empty. I sat there anticipating that a mad rush of people were going to board at any moment. After 20 looooooong minutes passed, a few people trickled on the plane. That’s when I then realized that the seat next to me was all mine. ALL MINE!!!!! So needless to say, I took full advantage of that bonus and lots of others around me did the same. The lady across from me had five seats all to herself, so while I tried to contort my body all different ways to try and get comfortable, she just laid down the entire time. Yes every time I awoke to find my foot asleep or the armrest shoved into my back, I was a little green with envy that she was able to sprawl out like she was in her king size bed at home. I made it work like I always do and was able to catch a few cat naps in between the crying baby, watching Finding Nemo two times and the two meals they handed out (the airline version of Pork Fried rice and Chicken Teriyaki). I was hoping to see the Northern Lights since we went over the north Pole and came down, however I was unsuccessful. I did see the moon, and a sky full of stars, which was an amazingly stunning view. For a few minutes, I was taken back by the beauty of Mother Earth! We finally landed in Beijing around 10 pm on Friday, which is 10 am in Philadelphia and I was beat! After they herded us out like cattle, I found my way to immigration and stood in the Foreigners’ line. Every time I go through this, I feel as if I am going to be detained. I guess I need to stop watching those movies because Hollywood has instilled a small bit of fear in me! After about 10 minutes of waiting in line, I got to the counter, handed the guy my passport. Its the usual procedure of looking at my passport, looking at me, looking at my passport, looking at me, looking at my passport and looking at me, until finally he stamps and waves his hand to pass through. What seems to feel like a 30 minute process, is actually a 45 second staring contest. As I made my way to Baggage claim, the Chinese culture already was in action. People were running to baggage claim, running into to each other while all of the Americans just slowly walked along knowing their baggage will still be there when they get there. In fact, my bags weren’t even there, so I still don’t understand all of the hurrying and they say we are always in a hurry! I finally got my bags and headed past customs to find someone outside with a large piece of poster board with my name on it and yes, I did feel important for a split second! I met my host Candy, that’s what she says her English name is and we headed for the private car which took me to my hotel. On the way to the hotel, I was told a few little facts about Beijing drivers. in Beijing, you must purchase the license plate before you can purchase the car. Yes, its backwards because driving a vehicle is a privilege and is only given off of a lottery based system. Once your number is picked you can proceed to purchase a license plate and then a car. The number of your license plate also determines which day you can drive your car. So if the last number on your license plate is an odd number, then you can drive on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays and for even numbers you can drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Interesting huh? Then I was told that if you are rich, those people purchase two license plates and two cars so they can switch between the cars each day to drive 5 days a week. I guess no matter where you live, there is always someone trying to buck the system! I arrived at the hotel and have now settled in, but I am meeting the rest of the group today at 9 am (in 8 hours). Its now 1:45 am Saturday morning here, so I am signing off for now, cramped legs and all! Good night everyone and as I say….Without good food and adventure, life isn’t worth living! Until next time…….

Chef Marz