by NICOLE BEARD
Upon last writing, I shared the information that after graduating from Tiffin University, I had the rare opportunity to work in China, and for some unknown reason, I decided to take it. Friends, family and random strangers all asked me the same question: “Why do you want to go to China?”
My answers varied, but at the core of each of them was the same sentiment: “Why shouldn’t I go to China?”
That wasn’t really the answer they were looking for, and I wish I had some real answer for them: something along the lines of always dreaming of going to China to explore its ancient history, or feeling a longing to be engulfed by the Chinese culture. Even something as simple as wanting to learn the Chinese language is better than my answer, but it is the only one I have to give.
So I packed up a year’s worth of clothing, which was basically an outfit for each day of the week and a spare, along with some various odds and ends to head off on this glorious adventure.
Everyday someone new would ask me if I was excited or nervous or sure. And once again I fell short answering them. The truth was that until I stepped on my first airplane for my journey to Guangzhou, the reality of living in China hadn’t hit me.
But it only took a 13-hour plane ride, a bad meal and a cancelled flight later for the ramifications to hit me square in the chest. And hit me, it did.
When I was told that my last flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou was cancelled, I balled. Now, let me clarify this reaction a bit. First off, I did not allow myself the chance to mourn leaving my family for a year. Secondly, imagine you are stranded in an international airport, with no way to communicate, no idea of where you are going to stay for the night, no one who understands what you are going through. Tell me you wouldn’t have broken down in the middle of the airport.
Luckily for me, I got myself together, called my recruiter and met up with other travelers who were coming to China to work for the same company as I. As it turns out, two of those people actually lived in Cleveland. Another had ridden on the same 13-hour flight with me from Chicago. Neither of these things I knew until after I had cried my eyes out.
So you would think that after all that headache, there would be nothing left to tell. You would be wrong. We ended up remaining at the airport for an extra four hours, and I’m pretty sure I’m underestimating. After our lengthy wait, most of which I passed feeling sick to my stomach and on the hard tile of the airplane, we learned we wouldn’t be sleeping at the airport/ Finally, we loaded up onto a shuttle along with all our luggage and were taken to a hotel.
We arrived at, to my American eye, a nice hotel. Then again, a cardboard box with a blanket in it would have looked like a nice hotel to me at that point. But we quickly learned it was a dangerous area so we got stuck on the bus for another two hours. I think the biggest challenge was not knowing why we were sitting in front of the hotel for so long. Everyone on the bus had made their intentions very clear; they did not want to stay at this hotel, so we should leave, right? Wrong. We sat and waited because, as we were later told by a Chinese man named Kevin, the hotel wanted money to allow us to leave.
But finally we left and were taken to another hotel, where we sat another half an hour trying to determine if it was safe enough to stay in. The decision was made and our horrific ride through Shanghai had ended.
Because our flight had been cancelled, our hotel was paid for by the airport, and we were given a free meal by the hotel. They provided us a ride to the airport at 6:30 in the morning and though our flight wouldn’t be until 7:30 at night, we were grateful to finally be able to set the whole experience behind us. Except the experience wasn’t through with us, not by a long shot. Let’s just say that the flight we thought we be on was not the flight we took. But that, my friends, is a story for another time.
Check back to The Tystenac for a continuation of Nicole's story!