Saturday, September 24, 2016

Flying to the Far East

Somewhere over Iowa (May 19, 2016)

When I was a student in Pisa, I spent countless hours watching the world pass by, from the window of the intercity train that would ferry me back and forth between the city where I was studying, and the one where my family lived in the North of Italy. It seemed a very long trip at the time (about 200 miles that the train would cover in 4 hours), even though in my current midwestern frame of reference it is but around the corner. I relished watching the life of strangers pass-by from the second class window, like an unscripted movie pasted together by a director not quite awake from a surrealist dream. A way to suspend one's own thoughts by borrowing fleeting moments of other people's life.

Des Moines Airport
Since I came to the US, trains ceased to be my main method of transportation. The distances here are much larger than in Europe, and the trains themselves are just a shadow of their past glory, when they opened the Frontier to civilization (our particular variant of it) and genocide (of the people that had already civilized these wanted lands). In the US you either move by car, (the mechanical overlords that control America's suburbia commuters' life) or you fly. I started to fly a lot. To the observatories on top of remote desert mountains where I would use giant pieces of glass to pierce the sky (or, most often than not, the hated clouds) in invisible light. To far away cities where I would meet like-minded astro-obsessed individual, where we would discuss in conference the mysteries found in these observations. Even though the pace of my travel has decreased since moving to a University (teaching commitments) and since I started to use space telescopes (you don't really have to travel to space to use them), I still fly a lot. In about a decade I clicked over three quarters of a million miles, on just one of the many airlines that had been ferrying me around. This is more than 4 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

The next few posts will be about one of such trips. Mid-May this summer, as soon as the classes ended and the students were given to know their fate after the final exam, I packed my carry-on luggage and drove to the Des Moines airport, ready to fly to Beijing via Chicago. This was my first time in China, a country I had been always curious about, but never visited before. As I was traveling light, I made the objectionable choice of leaving my DSLR camera home. All the photos you will see in this series, including the ones in this post, were therefore shot as JPEG with an iPhone 6, and subsequently processed with Lightroom on my computer. In the next posts I will talk about the conference, and the places and people I visited in the trip. I hope you will enjoy coming along!

Chicago O'Hare Airport (May 19, 2016)

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