In Seattle I stayed with Katie's friend Nate and his girlfriend Nadia. Katie flew to Seattle on my second night there. She and Nate have been friends for eighteen years, and they were excited to get caught up. Katie was giddy, having just taken third place in a national Ultimate Frisbee tournament. And we were about to fly to China.
Nate, Katie and I spent a day checking out the city. We crossed Puget Sound and went downtown, to the Pike Place Market. Hundreds of people were strolling about, shopping for fruit and seafood. I figured the large crowd would be a good preparation for China. We dined at Jack's Fish Spot, a famous seafood restaurant where I got a delicious fried trout. We also saw the Great Wheel, the bubble gum wall and some of Seattle's other quirky draws. It was a sunny day, and we caught several great views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. On our last night we ate at Proletariat Pizza and foraged for blackberries for dessert. My last stop in the US was short, but sweet.
On the day of our departure, Katie and I took a shuttle to the airport and loaded two carts with our luggage. When I saw the immense pile, it finally sunk in that we really were moving to China. In deciding what to pack, my biggest concern was that I wouldn't find pants or shoes in my size. I ended up taking every pair I owned. We wheeled our luggage carts to the counter and checked in our five bags, each of which weighed nearly fifty pounds.
As we walked toward our terminal, we approached an escalator to a lower level. An older lady, draped in a colorful shawl, and her adult son were in front of us. They moved tentatively, and soon it became apparent that the lady was terrified of the moving staircase in front of her. She would put one foot on, then quickly retract it as her son clutched her elbow. The rest of their family waited for them at the bottom, cheering them on. Finally, she went for it, leaping onto the escalator and wobbling, only managing to remain upright because of her loyal son. It reminded me that some modern-world experiences that I take for granted are alien to others.
Our terminal afforded us one final look at Rainier, far in the distance. Every time I saw the mountain, I wished I was climbing it. When we boarded our plane, the sun was about an hour from setting. We took off and banked toward the sun, then turned northwest and flew over the Cascades. Many of the mountains were covered in snow, and it seemed as though we were only a few hundred feet above them. We flew around Vancouver, then continued over Alaska, where we saw an even bigger mountain range.
It stayed light outside as we flew toward the sun, suspended in the sky. Katie and I kept our window open, no only for the view, but to stay awake, attempting to minimize the effects of jet-lag. Soon we were over the Bering Strait, then Russia. It did eventually get dark, but not until we were flying south over China, ten hours into our flight. It was the most beautiful flight I had ever taken.