August 7th – It’s 4:40am on Sunday in Beijing. I left for the PDX airport around 4:30am on Friday for my 6am flight. Even though it was only two hours, I had a row all to myself! Yes, I laid down the whole time and tried to sleep. Landed in San José for my 5 hour layover which I was honestly grateful for since it gave me time to just relax for a little bit. I boarded at 1pm for my Hainan airlines flight. This is when I started chuckling inside – I’ve mentioned several times to people that I’m ALWAYS going to get someone who will automatically start speaking Chinese to me and I’ll look at them and be like “I don’t understand what you’re saying…I don’t speak Chinese.” And so it begins! As soon as I boarded the flight attendant asked where my seat was in Chinese and of course I could only respond in English. I do know how to say “Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese” in Chinese but I forget I can use it and English is always an automatic first response. As soon as we sat down everyone was told that the entertainment system was down so the 12+ flight felt even longer. Plus, apparently there’s some rule about using mobile devices in the air? About a couple of hours into our flight, we were all told we could no longer use our handheld devices even in airplane mode and were required to put them away. There goes my music to help me sleep.
So far, that language assumption isn’t a problem but I wouldn’t be surprised if I start getting more and more frustrated as each day passes. Right now, I’m lookin’ at it as motivation/incentive for learning Mandarin intensively. My goal by the end of the year is to at least be conversational. Everyone tells me..”Oh it’ll come back to you..” and although it’d be nice to have the language come back and hit me like a brick and then I’m fluent, I think the reality is I’ll still have to work just as hard as my peers. I don’t mind because I do love language learning. Plus I do have an advantage in pronunciation and having studied Mandarin for year in college.
I will say being on the plane with all Asians made me laugh (in a good way) inside. I know I have a unique perspective by not standing out externally but inwardly, feeling very different. I have the luxury of observing people and my surroundings without being noticed in a way. It’s kind of nice and I’m learning a lot just people watching.
It seems so surreal but I’ve arrived in Beijing! Friends have messaged asking how I feel and honestly, in a weird way, I haven’t felt anything yet. It all feels surreal and I keep waiting for the “sadness” to hit me at some point – but maybe this neutral heart is His way of protecting me from all the emotions. I landed in China yesterday around 4:30pm, went through customs (a breeze), grabbed my luggage and then tried to navigate my way out of the airport. Everything had been easy up until I tried to get out of the airport.
I landed in Terminal 1 but knew I had to be in Terminal 3 in order to grab a shuttle from the airport to my hotel. Taking a shuttle to Terminal 3 was fine but it took me a whole hour to find that little hotel “shuttle station”! Even after asking airport and information people, was not very helpful. Limited english and I’d show them my hotel name and they still didn’t know what I was asking. One airline representative told me to “go straight, go straight!” and pointed across the terminal to find the Information Desk for further help. So rolled my luggage across to “go straight” but realized I have no idea where she’s talking about and didn’t know when I was supposed to stop “going straight”. You’d think the information area would be bright red or neon but it blended in with everything else.
I finally found the Info desk and they navigated me to a two lower levels to grab a shuttle. Was still wandering searching for the “hotel shuttle” station and finally found it after asking a local Hilton Hotel driver who pointed me in the right direction. Needless to say, I was so thankful after finally arriving in my hotel room. It was so nice to take a hot shower and eat dinner (noodles of course :)). Although I wanted to fall asleep in my plate of dinner I was so tired.
First arrival in China accomplished!
For your viewing pleasure, when I arrived in Beijing, I kept thinking of the song I learned in my Chinese class a few years ago. It’s the Welcome to Beijing song during the 2008 Olympics with several Asian celebrities (of course the only person I recognized was Jackie Chan).