I am above the clouds at the 34th hour after leaving Portland. I am told that soon I will be able to see the Himalayas below us and I'm excited to take a photograph through the two layers of greasy airplane glass. This plane from Guangzhou to Kathmandu is much smaller than the gigantic international flight my companions and I took into China. It shakes up here and I let my neck go a little limp as it sways side to side. I was getting the hang of taking the flights but still couldn't sleep on them. I was pretty delirious in China. Once we arrived on this flight, Maggie found three empty rows for she, Debbie and I to lay down in. I took a milliram of lorazepam, turned on my Passenger CD and finally fell asleep for two hours. The shaking woke me up and I felt relaxed and a little excited by it. Nobody here seems to mind as they walk up and down the aisles and speak softly to one another in Mandarin and other languages whose names I don't yet know. There is a monk in a grey robe who occasionally walks to the bathroom, and unlike the other passengers, he returns my goofy smile with one of his own. I decide that I like him well.
So far, flying above this sea of white is my favorite part of the trip. I imagined it as we flew over Mt. Hood and back then, those many hours ago, I hoped the the Himalayas woud look just as beautiful. When I landed in L.A., I found the international terminal was very under construction. I couldn't check in to China Southerrn because the kiosks wouldn't be open for another three hours. I walked back to find Debbie, who had just disembarked on her plane. We passed each other outside multiple times before we figured out that I was on the departures level and she was on the arrivals platform. Ha!
An old friend with a brand new baby came and picked us up and took us out to dinner. We ate steak and salmon and salads with rich dressings. I attempted a hot toddy for the cold I came down with the day before I left. It just made my throat more sore and the dehydration from the forced air a little worse. My friend brought us back to the airport, full and happy, and we were finally able to check-in through the international terminal. Inside, we found a myriad of fancy restaurants, including a caviar and champagne bar with glowing gold orbs over each seat. We forked out the $3 for water bottles and tissues and then went to plug in our electronics.
The flight disembarked late, a little after 11pm. We were hoping to sleep, but they kept the lights on and served beverages and shrimp with rice, rolls and potato salad. I covered my head with a blanket and tried to sleep before they finally turned off the lights around 2am. The whole plane slept, my companions next to me finding ways to adjust their bodies for at least 20 or 30 minutes before some random pain woke them up. They would shift and go back to sleep. I couldn't seem to find this rhythm with them so I stayed up, knitting, watching The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The gigantic plane landed with a thud so hard that I grabbed Debbie's arm before realizing that all was okay.
We wandered through the next International terminal, finding dim sum with warm black sesame soy milk. We paid in cash, at a questionable conversion rate and moved on to the most wonderful experience since the whole trip started: a long, drawn out time in front of the bathroom sink with a toothbrush. At least one part of me no longer stunk. Some yoga stretches at the gate with essential oils on my smelly feet got us aboard doing a little bit better after the 16 hour flight.
And now we're here, over the clouds, shaking and swaying, looking for signs of the mountains peeking through. We are twenty-five minutes from landing in the country that birthed the Buddha, the country that holds the largest mountain on Earth. There is a greatness I feel measured against when I think about that and I wonder how it will feel in my heart when my feet touch that soil and hear the languages that are sung around me.