But, here I am once more, back in Kunming, known as the "City of Eternal Spring," the capital of Yunnan in southwestern China. Thanks to funding from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, awarded to my collaborating professor at the Kunming Institute of Botany, Prof. Wang Hong, I was able to return to perform my pollination experiments over again. This time, my flight to Beijing and then to Kunming were booked on a Chinese carrier, Hainan Airlines. Doing a little research before I left, I became wary about flying using this carrier (though I had no choice, this trip was being paid for with Chinese government money, which had to be spent on a Chinese airline), as I read that there seemed to be less space (worrisome for a 6'4" American), worse food, and less friendly service than American carriers. I have to say that, aside from the typical discomforts associated with 13-hr flights, there was just enough space for my legs to stretch out, several movies to keep me entertained (I chose Saving Mr. Banks and The Wizard of Oz), and kind enough service to make the flight tolerable. Yes, the food wasn't my favorite, but I came prepared with some snacks of my own to satiate my bear-like hunger.
Last year, having never traveled to Asia before, I found there were a few things I wish I would have known to bring to make my stay a little more comfortable. This time around, having learned my lesson, I can say I am much more at ease, initially at least, than I was upon my first Chinese experience. At the top of my list, a pound of dark roast Starbucks coffee and an Aeropress coffee brewer, instant oatmeal and peanut butter, and bed sheets have significantly improved my comfort level. Also, as an unexpected surprise, my phone from America works here without me needing to do anything except turn it on. While there are a few things I dislike about T-Mobile, I must admit that the free international service they have has taken some of the stress out of worrying how to contact people if I need help (particularly as soon as my first foot stepped on Chinese soil). In case you were wondering, the T-Mobile plan came, at no extra charge, with free data and texting and a call rate of $0.20 per minute. As most Chinese like to text, or use QQ (similar, but better than, AIM instant messenger), to keep in touch, this made things very simple for me. It does cost them 1 RMB (about $0.16 USD) to text me (which may not sound like a lot, but normal cost for them is 0.1 RMB per text), but using QQ, which most young people do, is free for all.