return from china to los angeles & a day at anacapa island

Wednesday, July 15:  This morning at 6:30 a.m., I leave my humble abode in Nanning, China, locking the keys inside.  I feel a little strange leaving the place I’ve lived for the last year, knowing I will never see it again.  Outside, a car arranged by the university is waiting to drive me to the airport.  I get to the airport by about 7:30 and check in without incident at Shenzhen Airlines for my 9:40 flight.

Planes departing from Chinese airports are almost always late, but I don’t worry because I have a 3-hour and 20 minute layover in Beijing and I will check in to Air Canada at the same terminal where I arrive.  Today, when I have a nice long layover, my plane surprisingly leaves Nanning on time.  When I arrive in Beijing at 12:45 p.m., I pick up my bags from the baggage claim and make my way to Air Canada, where I must check my bags back in for the international flight.  There is a long, slow-moving line at Air Canada, so I get a little antsy as the time seems to be going by rather quickly.

Then I hit the line for Customs/Immigration in International Departures.  The lines are snaking queues with hundreds of people in them, and they’re barely moving.  I stand in that line for well over an hour!  By then I’m starting to get worried I will miss my plane in Beijing!  After I finally make it through and send my bags and tennis shoes and every possession through security, I have about a half hour before we board.

When I arrive at the gate, I have time to sit for about 5 minutes before we start boarding at 3:35 p.m. I get in the line for Group 5, which is already about 30 people long.  We board and are ready to take off on time; however, air traffic control tells the pilot we will have a 30-minute delay, which worries me as I only have a 1 1/2 hour layover in Vancouver.

I realize too late that I’m booked into a middle seat.  They can’t change me to an aisle seat because the flight is fully booked.  Misery!  I sit between two Chinese boys, one of whom speaks both fluent English and Chinese.  He’s from Los Angeles, but has spent his school years studying in China.  He is going to stay with his parents in Los Angeles for a month before attending Berkeley in the fall. He’s a very bright 18-year-old kid who plans to do a double major in mechanical engineering and economics.  He chats with me a long time about his plans and I’m very impressed.  When he talks to the boy on the other side of me, they speak over me in Chinese.  He says, “I hope you don’t mind us talking over you.” I say, half-jokingly, “I don’t mind but I’d rather you switch seats with me!”  After several hours, he luckily takes me up on my request and gives me his aisle seat, which I’m very happy about, although even that is uncomfortable on a 10-hour and 20-minute flight.

When we arrive in Vancouver at noon, the Chinese boy and I take off together toward our flight bound to L.A.  We come to a bottleneck where about 25 people are standing in a slow-moving line.  First, an Air Canada attendant asks us to identify our bags on a TV screen. One of my bags is visible on the screen, but the other isn’t, so she tells me to go sit into a room until I can verify both my bags.  I tell her we have a very short connection, but she doesn’t seem phased.  The Chinese boy has to wait to identify his bags as well.  When we finish, we are finally able to get into the slow-moving line, which has gotten longer while we’ve been held up.  I tell one of the officials from the airline that we have a very short connection, but she says, “There’s nothing I can do about it.  It’s U.S. Customs and I have nothing to do with that!”  The line is moving slowly and the boy, who is about 3 people behind me, and I are commiserating about how we’re never going to make our flight.   Suddenly he starts to go to the front of the line and I follow him.  He says, “I called my mother and she told me not to talk to the officials.  She says I should depend on the kindness of strangers.”  He goes to the front of the line with his bag, and I (who can’t stand people who cut in line, and would never do it myself under ordinary circumstances), follow him.  We beg the people at the front of the line to let us in so we won’t miss our flight.  Luckily, they kindly allow us to pass, although the poor people behind them have no say in the matter.

When I get to U.S. Customs the officer asks me where I’m staying, and where I live.  I tell him and then mention that we have a very short connection.  He says, in that way that people in positions such as these like to flex their power, “You can’t rush me, lady.  I will take as long as I need to take.”  I say, “Fine!”  Then he asks a few more questions and releases me.  I won’t mention the name I call him to the Chinese boy when I’m out of earshot.

At that point we see our gate #83 is at the far end of a long hall, and over the loudspeaker, I hear my name among a list of names for “last call.”  I panic: “That’s us!  We need to run!”  The boy and I go tearing through the airport, and barely manage to board the plane. The airline stewardesses close the door behind us and we take off as scheduled at 1:00 p.m.

I make it to LA right on time, by 4:00 p.m.  My sister Stephanie is waiting to pick me up right after I pick up my bags, and we head directly to dinner at a cozy sushi place.  We celebrate by drinking hot sake followed by cold Sapporo. I am happy to be with my sister on American soil after one of the longest days of my life.  It’s still Wednesday, July 15 when I arrive in LA around 4:00 p.m., having left China at 6:30 a.m. that same morning. 🙂

During our dinner, and after a few sips of Sapporo and sake, Steph asks what I’d like to do next.  I say I’d love to find my way to Morocco or Ecuador.  She says, “Oh. I wouldn’t want you to go to Morocco.  I wouldn’t want you to lose your head or anything like that.”  I say, “Well, yes, I really would prefer not to lose my head. Of course. I don’t think it would be in my best interest.” For some reason, maybe it’s the sake and Sapporo, but we find this hilarious and have quite a laugh over this ridiculous conversation. 🙂

Thursday, July 16:  We have quite a lazy day today, eating a healthy breakfast and lunch together, running out to Trader Joe’s, and watching movies and TV series.  Stephanie gets me interested in the Danish political series Borgen, and we watch a coupe of episodes.  After meeting her good friend Yvonne for more sushi, sake and Sapporo at another favorite sushi restaurant, we watch the The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I’ve been dying to see. In my opinion, it isn’t nearly as good as the first one. 🙂

I really needed a day of rest!

Friday, July 17:  This morning, my sister drives us to Oxnard where we’re to catch an Island Packers boat to Anacapa Island, one of the islands in the Channel Islands National Park.  Yes, my British friends, we have our own Channel Islands here in the U.S. 🙂

At the Oxnard marina
At the Oxnard marina
me in Oxnard, California, preparing to go to Anacapa Island
me in Oxnard, California, preparing to go to Anacapa Island

We arrive in plenty of time for our 10:00 a.m. departure.  When we left Steph’s house in Reseda, it was warm and sunny, but here on the coast it’s cloudy and very cool.  I’m worried I’m going to be freezing on the boat.  I have no jackets or sweaters as I sent all of those home from China in boxes, thinking it would be hot and desert-like in L.A.

boats in Oxnard
boats in Oxnard

We board the boat with about 50 other people and take off through the marina and into the channel.

boats in the harbor
boats in the harbor
colorful sailboat
colorful sailboat
boat-friendly marina
boat-friendly marina

Luckily the seas are calm this morning, as Steph is worried she will get seasick.  I’m lucky that I don’t often get seasick; I’ve been on many boats in rough seas where people all around me are getting sick into plastic bags but I am just fine.

We pass a big oil rig.

Oil rig off the California coast
Oil rig off the California coast

According to Wikipedia, the Channel Islands of California are a chain of eight islands off the coast of southern California in the Pacific Ocean. Five of these islands are part of Channel Islands National Park.  The Islands were first colonized by the Chumash and Tongva Native Americans 13,000 years ago, who were then displaced by European settlers who used the islands for fishing and agriculture. The U.S. military uses the islands as training grounds, weapons test sites, and as a strategic defensive location (Wikipedia: Channel Islands of California).

Below is my sister on the boat bound for Anacapa Island.

Stephanie and strangers on the boat
Stephanie and strangers on the boat

We see a lot of dolphins playfully following in the wake of the boat, but I don’t seem to have luck capturing any of them in photos.

underwater dolphins
underwater dolphins

Anacapa Island’s name is derived from the Chumash Native American Indian name Anypakh, meaning deception or mirage. The three islets of Anacapa look almost like a mirage in the morning fog. These islets (appropriately named East, Middle, and West Anacapa Islands) stretch out over five miles and are inaccessible from each other except by boat. They are about a quarter-mile wide and have a total land area of about one square mile (700 acres) (National Park Service: Anacapa Island).

First view of Anacapa Island
First view of Anacapa Island

As we approach the island, we can see the lighthouse and 40-foot-high Arch Rock, a symbol of Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park.

Anacapa Island
Anacapa Island
Dive boat off Anacapa Island
Dive boat off Anacapa Island

Our boat pulls up at a dock built into the side of a cliff and after disembarking, we must climb up several hundred steps to reach the top.

Island Outfitters
Island Packers

We are greeted immediately by some of the thousands of seagulls on the island.

seagulls of Anacapa
seagulls of Anacapa

According to the National Park Service, thousands of seabirds use Anacapa as a nesting area because of the relative lack of predators on the island. While the steep cliffs of West Anacapa are home to the largest breeding colony of endangered California brown pelicans, all the islets of Anacapa host the largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world. Western gulls begin their nesting efforts at the end of April, sometimes making their shallow nests just inches from island trails. Fluffy chicks hatch in May and June and fly away from the nest in July (National Park Service: Anacapa Island).

It’s a surreal experience walking through the squawking seagulls and their almost-full-grown grey fledglings.  It’s incredibly noisy and pungent, especially in certain areas.  I feel like we’re the aliens here in a bird world.  Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” comes to mind.

seagulls and fledglings
seagulls and fledglings

The mission revival style buildings on the island are part of the 1932 light station.  They include the lighthouse, fog signal building, one of four original keeper’s quarters, a water tank building, and several other service buildings. One of the buildings is now the East Anacapa Visitor Center, which houses some informative exhibits, including the original lead-crystal Fresnel lens, which served as a beacon to ships until an automated light replaced it in 1990 (National Park Service: Anacapa Island).

the pathway to the museum
the pathway to the museum

We accompany a park guide on part of the two-mile figure-eight trail system to learn about the island’s native vegetation, wildlife, and cultural history. Apparently, the plants look drab and lifeless in summer but come alive with color in the winter.  Vibrant red paintbrush, island morning-glory, and pale buckwheat add touches of color to the island’s palette.

gulls of Anacapa
gulls of Anacapa
Anacapa Island
Anacapa Island
Ranger buildings on Anacapa Island
Ranger buildings on Anacapa Island
Anacapa Island
Anacapa Island
Anacapa Island and the Pacific Ocean
Anacapa Island and the Pacific Ocean
Stately seagulls
Stately seagulls

Steph and I leave the ranger-led hike and venture out on the trail to Cathedral Cove.

path to a view
path to a view

Looking down on Cathedral Cove, we can see the kelp forests and sea lions on the beach and the rocks below.

view from a lookout
view of Cathedral Cove
the Pacific Ocean from Anacapa Island
the Pacific Ocean from Anacapa Island

We backtrack along the same trail where we pass by the ranger and her followers.

Path along the island cliffs
Path along the island cliffs
sea gull city
sea gull city

The strange tree sunflower, or coreopsis, blossoms in winter with bright yellow bouquets.  You can see the dormant giant coreopsis below, topped with seagulls.

giant coreopsis
giant coreopsis
seagulls on giant coreopsis
seagulls on giant coreopsis

Stephanie and I stop at a picnic area near the figure-8 crossover on the trail and eat our Trader Joe’s lunch of lentil wraps and cherries.  There are no services on the island, so everyone must bring their own food and water.

seagull in bed
seagull in bed

At the far western end of East Anacapa Island, we stand in the breeze at Inspiration Point, where we can see the other two islets stretching out into the Pacific. Waves have eroded the volcanic island, creating towering sea cliffs and sea caves, where California sea lions droop themselves over rocks, sunning themselves.

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point

We’re glad that the fog has lifted and the sun has come out, but then we find it gets hot rather quickly.  We’re both surprised that there are no trees on the island.

Stephanie and me at Inspiration Point
Stephanie and me at Inspiration Point
View from Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island
View from Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island
view from Inspiration Point
view from Inspiration Point
kelp forests
kelp forests
seagulls as vanguards
seagulls as vanguards

We continue walking back to the east, where we can see the old lighthouse.  The lighthouse blares its foghorn every 20 seconds or so.  The ranger has told us that we’re blocked from getting in near the lighthouse because its loud foghorn can hurt our eardrums.

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When I decide to take a 360 degree video of the island, my sister throws in a little surprise at the end.  I think the seagulls are rubbing off on her 🙂

We head back to the docking area to wait for the boat.

Sailboat at sea
Sailboat at sea
Anacapa's lighthouse
Anacapa’s lighthouse
sea gull and kelp forest
seagull and kelp forest

We board the boat at 3:30 p.m. and are back on our way back to Oxnard by 3:45.

Before we leave the island, we go by boat around the eastern end where we get a better view of Arch Rock.

the arch
the arch
arch at Anacapa
arch at Anacapa

The rocky shores are perfect resting and breeding areas for California sea lions and harbor seals. We can see them lounging on the rocks, but the light is so bad on this side of the island that I can’t get any decent pictures.

the glittering sea
the glittering sea
archway to the California coast
archway to the California coast
sailboat on the horizon
sailboat on the horizon

Finally we return to the marina in Oxnard. It has been a lovely yet strange and surreal day.

back at the Oxnard marina
back at the Oxnard marina

We end our day with beers and dinner at an outdoor cafe overlooking the marina.  Steph gets a blackened snapper sandwich and I have Mahi Mahi tacos with mango salsa.  I am so happy to be eating American food again! 🙂

Cheers!  My sister, Stephanie :-)
Cheers! My sister, Stephanie 🙂
Mahi Mahi Tacos
Mahi Mahi Tacos

We drive back to Reseda, about an hour’s drive, and relax in the evening, watching several more episodes of Borgen.

Saturday, July 18: The highlight of today is the cheese platter a la Stephanie. I love cheese, and I’ve missed it dearly while in China.  This one has cherries, cheeses, chutney, watercress, smoked oysters, Japanese cucumbers and healthy crackers. It’s one of the highlights of American cuisine. 🙂

Cheese platter a la Stephanie
Cheese platter a la Stephanie

I’m so happy to be back in the USA!! 🙂

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22 thoughts on “return from china to los angeles & a day at anacapa island

    1. That’s for sure, Lynne! Thanks so much! You’re right, it’s hard to believe the year is over! Time passes sometimes so slowly, and then suddenly something is over and it seems it passed in the blink of an eye! 🙂

  1. Glad you survived a long-haul Air Canada flight! I do not recommend them without a special meal order and two sleeping pills. Sitting between two guys …. no thanks! Glad you could get that fixed better late than never.

    What’s it like to not have 12 million billion Chinese people trampling over every scenic spot in the country?! I freaked out walking around at home just up my own street as it felt so strange to be alone!! So gloriously alone!! Sounds like you could not have had a better reception than to land in L.A.! You are lucky to have Stephanie there and she is lucky to have you as a sister!!

    Beautiful visit, never heard of these Channel Islands!!

    Looking forward to the “last” message on what you really thought about your year in China. Don’t hold back! Glad your tummy has access to nice food again, and I am so glad you are home safe and sound.

    Lisa

    1. I’m glad I survived that flight too, Mona Lisa! It was exhausting, as was my whole China experience. It might take me a full month or more to recover.

      It feels great not to be surrounded by 1.4 billion people, and to have some peace and quiet and to have my car and not have to deal with public transportation! It was great to unwind in California for a week before returning home. Once I get home, I am kind of a maniac; I must unpack everything at once, do laundry, and get organized in the fastest time possible (it’s been over a week now and I’m still not organized, much to my dismay!).

      The Channel Islands are apparently all very different; Anacapa is the nesting ground for all those gulls so the place was very surreal and disorienting, being immersed as we were in the bird world.

      As for my last post about China (and another I plan to do on the pros and cons of working at SCIC), those will come much later, after I finish posting about all my experiences there. I am so far behind, it will take me a good long while. I think you’re going to be surprised/disappointed that it probably won’t be as negative as you’re expecting it will be. Living abroad does give you some understanding of the positives and negatives of another culture, as you know.

      I am definitely glad to be eating normal food again, and healthy food and am working on losing the 7 pounds I gained over the year. So far I’m down 4, as I’ve been walking every day in Virginia’s heat and humidity and eating small portions of healthy food. I’m feeling much better now! Thanks again for everything!

      1. Hi there! I can only imagine how overwhelming it must feel when you feel the pressure of satisfying the demands of your reading public! We are insatiable for more all the time, greedy to the extreme and not always mindful of the time and energy blogging takes. I gave up on mine even though it was only for me because of my need to editorialize my writing, never mind finding photos, though perhaps one day I will return to it just for myself.

        I think my feelings about China are negative enough that I certainly don’t expect others to share them!! Hahaha! I won’t be disappointed whatever you write because it is about you, China is simply the backdrop. Having been immersed in (Tibetan) Buddhism hard-core for 14 years, the way certain things are explained to you on signs meant to clarify are often incredibly incorrect, but apart from taking note that there actually are no “fat smiling/laughing Buddha”-figures in Buddhism (he is a companion figure to Maitreya and his name is “Budai”, which means “cloth sack” and he is a largely Chinese symbol of contentment) I kept and will keep my comments to myself as you were not there to enlighten anyone on its finer points.

        I still am stumped as to why you gained even an ounce in China, when it was so hot, and you were so ill so often. Must be this darned age thing where our metabolism grinds to a halt. I have been quite lazy in my walking but will stick to my “it’s too hot and humid to exercise” excuse as long as the weather holds up and for as long as I do not own an air conditioner.

        xxxxx

      2. You’re so funny, Mona Lisa! My “reading public!” A public of a few people, maybe! It is so time consuming and I love doing it, but finding the time now that I’m home and preparing for that course and doing household chores is a challenge.

        Thanks for the information on Buddhism. I don’t know enough about it to refute what I see on signs or read about, so it’s good you enlighten us on the finer points.

        I think it was the little chocolate mousse squares and the wine that caused my weight gain in China, plus sitting indoors on my behind for long hours because I didn’t want to go out in that heat! I’m so happy to be home and on a regular exercise kick and good diet. As of this morning, I’m down to 142.2 lbs, 10 pounds less than when I returned home!

      3. That weight loss is amazing!! Good for you!! I do know you work very hard at it, another horror of the female aging process is the slowing down of already sluggish metabolisms. I cannot agree with a single benefit to aging. The myth that oh we gain wisdom and become more tolerant are so not true. Well, yes we gain more wisdom with more experience, but we also lose the opportunities to use that hard-earned wisdom as opportunities for so many things dries up. And I am finding I am far more intolerant in my dotage! It just sucks in general getting older but the alternative is worse. xx

      4. As for the weight loss, I’ve now gained back 5 of the 12 pounds I lost and they do not want to drop off! I hate how the bulge in my middle keeps getting bigger and flubbier!! Yes, I agree that there is no benefit to aging except it’s better than the alternative…. It does suck getting older! 🙂

      5. Hi there, how goes the battle this month? I cannot believe I have gained since Oman, where I was at my all-time heaviest! I have decided since I feel horrible, to start to keep a food journal, with not only times and menus but of how I was feeling at the time. Last night I felt good not going to bed on a full stomach that was a first, plus I started my spring cleaning and washed floors a huge job at my house with so many kitties.

        Our bodies really do reflect on some level our state of mind, and if we are ill at ease with something or we cannot get organized or we are stressed, it also is reflected in how we live, as KonMari teachers us. Now she is like an Oracle! Hahaha! But what a powerful way of thinking about everything in life – to get rid of so much using a simple rubric which makes sense (unlike some rubrics we know and detest! Hahaha!).
        I do not recognize this fat lady in the mirror, and I refuse to let her stay any longer in my home. I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life, and when I see my sister, who is getting much bigger as well, I see myself and this has always motivated me to smarten up when I get a good shock or I see her face in my mirror. I invested in these three books:

        Weights for 50+: Building Strength, Staying Healthy and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle Paperback
        by Karl Knopf (Author)

        Core Strength for 50+: A Customized Program for Safely Toning Ab, Back, and Oblique Muscles by Karl Knopf

        Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise: A Low-Impact Program for Building Strength, Increasing Bone Density and Improving…(on order for May delivery) by Karl Knopf

        Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition Paperback – by Bob Anderson (Author)

        The last one I noticed my physiotherapist who taught me how to walk again used photocopies from this book, which seems to be a stretching bible of some kind.

        I gave away all my unused yoga stuff but now I will invest in a mat, and get going on building core and muscle strenght as walking home 4 km each day does nothing for me. Once it is warmer I will walk to work as well, but you have motivated me to walk a little faster if nothing else. I have a ton of these books all like new never opened. As these were something I can’t really afford, I am trying to ensure that I make use of them because I hate my body, I hate how I feel, and I hate how I look and I have the power to change all three.
        I wish I could do you amazing hikes and walks with Mike, I wish I had someone to do stuff like that with, but if I don’t make some changes, esp to my appearance because this is the world we live in, I will be alone the rest of my life and I cannot afford that nor do I want to wind up like my sister. It is up to me, and yesterday seemed like a good day to start over.

        You know, I was pregnant a long time ago and the child would be 20 this year had it been born. Another reason to try to do something right where life is concerned. I wonder if I had been able to bring the child to term, how would I be? Who would I be? I guess I will never know, but I have to care about myself since right now there is no one else who does, not in a way that matters apart from my parents of course.

        xx

  2. Wow! What a time you’ve had, and such a long final journey home. If I can’t get a window seat, I’m devastated. 😦 It must be really wonderful to be home again. Thanks for sharing your photos of the Channel Islands. That arch at Anacapa is stunning. xx

    1. I love to look out a window seat too, Sylvia, but I don’t like being trapped so that every time I have to go to the bathroom I have to climb over two people. Especially on a long flight where I’m hoping to sleep, I like the aisle seat so I have a little more room to stretch out my feet into the aisle (and accidentally trip people!). It is great to finally be home, but now I need to get a routine down, lose some weight (which I’m already working on) and get settled. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed my surreal visit to Anacapa Island. 🙂

  3. Welcome home Cathy it must be so lovely to be with your family again and look at that blue sky and sea with no people only birds to share it with and NO rain… What a stressful time the flight back was, but it is all just a memory now.

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