Chapter 1


On June 19, 2009, I left San Francisco at about 12 noon on ANA, All Nippon Airways. I was in airplanes and airports for 20 hours, which included a 2 1/2 hour layover in the airport at Narita, Japan, before I reached my destination, which was Shanghai, need I say, China.

Upon arriving at Shanghai's Pudong Airport, because of the H1N1 Flu scare, we had to remain in our seats on the airplane for over a half an hour while the Chinese Health Department team boarded the plane. They were wearing white "Contact Precaution Suits," which covered them from head to toe, only leaving their eyes visible. Looking like astronauts ready for a space walk, they methodically thermal imaged us by pointing a pistol-like infra-red imager at our foreheads to see if anyone appeared to have a fever. They also took many of the passengers' temperatures, including mine, with an under the tongue thermometer. This was definitely an "Am I in a science fiction movie, or what?" experience.

Finally we deplaned and, after clearing customs and then taking an hour bus ride to central Shanghai, I finally made it to my hotel about midnight, June 20th, Shanghai time. The time in San Francisco was 9am, June 20th, as Shanghai is 15 hours ahead of California time. Needless to say, I was very burned-out, and I crashed straight-away.

The next day, Sunday, was very hot and humid, and the air was a rather dense smog. Being quite tired, I aimlessly wandered around Shanghai to experience the sights, sounds and ambiance of Shanghai and its people. I found an incredibly exotic, vibrant, electric, frenetic, colorful, friendly city that displayed much potential for my wanderlust.

That night, due to the effects of jet-lag, I went to sleep at 10pm. At midnight I was awakened by someone knocking on my door. I heard a girl's voice asking me to open the door. I repeatedly told her in Mandarin, "Bu yao," which means, "I do not want or I am not interested." Finally she went away.

I got dressed and went down to the desk and, while I was telling the desk person not to let girls come up to my room, 2 women and a man came out of the elevator. They were from the Health Department and they were the ones who had been knocking on my door. I was told that a girl on my airplane had tested positive for the H1N1 Flu, and that I had to go to another hotel in North Shanghai a little over one hour away and be quarantined for 7 days.

[FYI: On the airplane I was sitting on the aisle, and the girl who had tested positive for the H1N1 Flu was sitting on the aisle right across from me. I had put her baggage into the overhead compartment, and I also took it out for her.]

As I rode the elevator up to my room on the 9th floor, I was thinking, "perhaps I should just shinny down the drainpipe and disappear into a crowd of locals. This is such a big country, they will never find a 6'1" blonde paleface like myself. I could make my way to Outer-Mongolia, buy a yurt and raise yaks." Since I was a wee wanderer, it has always been my dream to have a yak dairy farm.

I almost fell out of the window looking for a drainpipe. Unfortunately, there was none. You know the old saying, "You can never find a drainpipe when you need one!" So, I packed up and paid for the one night that I had stayed at the hotel.

The Health Department people told me that there would be a vehicle waiting for me in the hotel's parking lot, but, when I went out in front of the hotel, I did not see any vehicle that appeared to be waiting for me.

After a few minutes, I noticed that there was a crowd of people causing a commotion on the sidewalk at the foot of the parking lot. I walked down there to see what was going on, and I found a crowd of local people surrounding an ambulance. They were waiting to see what horror had befallen whoever was going to be put into it. Yup, you guessed it, I was the "horror."

The curiosity of the on-lookers was palpable. The Chinese are very curious when it comes to someone's misfortune, especially a blonde-haired foreigner's. This was not a good omen. Ambulances are for seriously ill or injured people, and since I had never been a candidate for an ambulance ride before, I didn't want to change my luck with this one. After discussing this with the Health Department people, they convinced me that this was only a formality and that I really had no choice. So, as I nonchalantly got into the back of the ambulance, I mumbled to the crowd that there wasn't a limo available.

The driver drove post haste for over an hour to the quarantine hotel in North Shanghai with the siren wailing at every intersection. Like everything else in Shanghai, the roads were being worked on 24/7 and, while I was sitting on the cot in the back of the ambulance trying to hold onto my 2 suitcases, I was bouncing up and down banging my head on the roof of the ambulance. At that point I was more concerned with surviving the ambulance ride than I was with getting the flu. How could I have forgotten to bring my football helmet with me on this trip? I had brought everything else.

[FYI: Shanghai is HUGE! It covers 2,448 square miles, and the greater Shanghai area's population was said to be around 30,000,000 people.]

When the ambulance finally arrived at the quarantine hotel, I was met by a dozen naked Amazonian women who wasted no time in tearing my clothes from my body and spraying me with disinfectant...

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