Newark Liberty International Airport, in New Jersey, is a godsend for those who don't enjoy standing in line for hours - or even minutes. When I flew out of that much maligned and misunderstood airport at the end of my World Tour of the Americas (OK, only one America, north, but it still counts) it took me about 12 minutes to check my bag in and clear security. At JFK, in nearby New York, it would have taken I know not how long.
So it happened that I was left with much more time on my hands than I had planned for. Would I head straight for the bar, to make up for the drinks we had missed the night before because we had been driving? Or would I visit the airport's Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop and restaurants, where you order your food by iPad (although the waiters still bring the wrong order)?
I did none of the above.
I headed straight to gate 102, where lots of Hongkongers were waiting for their direct flight home, three hours before take-off. I swear some of them were already standing in line.
After two weeks on the road, I was craving Cantonese so much, I just walked up to some strangers and said, "Going to Hong Kong? Let's chat! Say something, anything, in Cantonese! Please!"
The answer came at once.
"Wah, you can speak Cantonese!" which was not totally unexpected.
The craving had started on my third day in Mexico City. My hosts H and L had kindly directed me to Chinatown, a little street full of Chinese fans, Chinese scrolls, Chinese dolls (with tiny sombreros), Chinese calendars and, yes, Chinese restaurants.
But where were the Chinese? Every store was manned by Mexicans in varying states of moustache-ness. My world was thrown into disarray as my craving intensified. I couldn't breathe or speak; all I could do was utter strangled Cantonese sounds.
Finally we saw a real Hongkonger - souvenir shop owner, who pointed with his chin to a restaurant where, gloriously, everyone spoke Cantonese. I ordered kung pao chicken, since they didn't have green beans or lotus root, but it arrived without nuts so my world came crashing down again. And the soi sin tea turned out to be boring jasmine.
"Why the hell do you want to eat Chinese food, anyway, when Mexican food is so excellent?" L muttered, not unreasonably.
What can I say? I'm addicted to chopsticks.