As promised I am going to blog about my trip to China last year for the Study Abroad program, so much happened and I don’t want to miss too much out so every few days I will try and post the next stage of the adventure. Here goes…
Finally the big day had come! Each part of my journey brought out emotions across the spectrum. Initially, and predictably I guess I was just hugely excited to get the adventure started. This however very quickly turned into despair within a few hours. My flight to Beijing had a transfer at Dusseldorf Airport which was not a worry to begin with until with only an hour between flights I could not find the transfer desk to pick up the boarding pass for the second leg of my journey, even when there was 3 separate transfer desks signposted as soon as I entered the airport. Turns out I was already becoming the idiot abroad and couldn’t read English signs well, god help me in China!
But finally, I found my way and with a little time to spare. Dusseldorf airport seemed to be overheating the hour I was there so although my rush was not comfortable it did give me the opportunity to acclimatize to the temperatures that I expected once in China. I later found that nothing could acclimatize you to it unless you live in a steamer for a few days prior.
So 5 hours from my front door and I was on the long stretch of the day, or that as what I thought anyway. Flying with China Air was great in tonnes of different ways, but its passengers or one in particular was spawn of pure evil. So a great dinner and breakfast kept me going on the overnight flight and with each seat getting its own screen for movies etc. I thought what could possibly be hard about this leg, and then it quickly become brutal and near impossible. The touch screens that once seemed like a godsend for this kind of journey opened up a killer feature. Games. Although I was not interested in the games at all as I figure they can’t be great, the person sat behind me decided he was going to have a go at them. For the entire flight! As I didn’t play any the games I can only assume that the aim of the game was to hit your screen as hard possible at short random intervals to ensure that the person in front (me) cannot get a single minute to get to sleep.
Nevertheless, I made it out the other alive and without having killed anybody! Next stop Beijing West train station described online as a quick and simple shuttle bus away from the airport. Both the greatest and worst description for what I faced. Simple being the ideal word as it was the most basic looking coach packed full of hot sweaty Chinese people (slight dramatization perhaps due to my lack of sleep, turns out the Chinese barely sweat a drop considering the heat). As I said, earlier there is no way you can acclimatize to that! Quick, on the other hand it seems is apparently a translation error from the English for “an eternity!”.
Once again though, without a wink of sleep still, I made it. I got myself a little ride to the station entrance from a woman without teeth riding a tricycle with a little tray on the back for around a pound. It seemed like a fun idea until we were careering across 4 lane traffic crossings without acknowledging any traffic lights. Who needs Alton Towers! Now to get a ticket. Admittedly I was fairly unprepared with only a simple translation to ask for a ticket to Wuhan, my final destination. But after being slingshot from desk to desk for nearly two hours I had to ignore any train station staff and just grab a police officer. Any advice I had been given prior to leaving usually involved the line “Everyone speaks English in Beijing anyway so it won’t be as hard as you think”. Wrong! wrong and treble wrong. So after some mixed hand signals and pointing I managed to get put into the right queue for my ticket. I had the timetable of upcoming trains so once I was in the right place it was no trouble. Only took 3 hours!
I then had another three hours to wait for my train to depart so I sat and started chatting to guy in the waiting room, by chatting of course I mean talking at each other in languages neither of us understood. Nevertheless within 5 minutes we both had laptops out flicking through hundreds of holiday/family photos and just laughing at each other’s photos, this was pretty much the only form of interaction we could manage with the language barrier. He showed me how to write numbers in mandarin and gave me some pronunciation critique on the little mandarin I knew from the top of my head. By this time I had managed to draw a small crowd. I noticed camera flashes beginning to surround me and then all of a sudden I was being positioned with people’s children for portrait photography! Although intimidating when you can’t understand a word anybody is shouting at you it was really good fun and more importantly it kept me from passing out from lack of sleep.
I meet a friend at Wuhan and I have been promised alcohol whether I want it or not and so the 5 hour high speed train is my last chance to grab 40 winks. It sounds clear that it will be a late night and being my first night here it would be a little lame of me not to embrace it. So my first day is almost over and I have unfortunately only experienced a tiny amount of Chinese hospitality so far. Although, some sliver lining shines through I had managed to regain the excitement I held at the beginning of my trip and now really can’t wait to get started properly tomorrow.