Friday, July 27, 2007

Lost in Luggage translation

After waiting hours (and consuming LOTS of Chinese TV cartoons and news)
to board the plane to Shanghai, Ben and I are turned away at the gate, neither
having a ticket for the flight. We held boarding passes and were already
assigned seats, but seems our tickets were never issued when the flight was
changed in Toronto. No one really had a grasp of English (except us) so were
started our long journey of being directed from one part of the airport to the
other, in search of some English speaking help. After realizing we were stuck
in Beijing for the night, we tried to get our luggage pulled from the flight.
Transfer holding, lost luggage, domestic and international baggage…we met A LOT
of people in search of our bags. We FINALLY ran across a “Trainee” that walked
us around the terminal, often pointing at areas we needed to check, but closed
for the night. Somehow, we were able to get our bags, from the original place
we stopped to ask that the bags be pulled from the plane, after a hour or so of
hunting. With all our belongings in tow, we now became a great target for
people to approach us to provide lodging. Ben negotiated a room for the night
and we were stuffed into a van with about a dozen others, taken for a ride

through the night to our “hotel”. After being awake for 40-plus hours, your
standards of living drop off sharply, so I had a feeling our choice of lodging
would be kind of scary. The neon characters on the front of the building looked
nice and it IS gated (but not the sort of gates you would hope for, more like
keeping us in rather than others out), and the 8x12 room served our needs of
getting some sleep before our tour of the Great Wall and more. The smell of
smoke in the room was negated by the overpowering scent of mold, so pretty much
a treat for the senses. The wail of sirens in the distance is often muted by
the buzzing of mosquitoes that are not so distant and fill the room. The
daylight reveals LOTS of construction underway at our hotel, so no wonder we
booked it at night!

It is amazing that we were able to get our bags and find a place to stay (the
original price of 360 Yuan per night was talked down to 200 by Ben… after seeing

this place in the daylight we might have gotten it for less,..) so no telling
what is ahead on this trip. Writing at 6 a.m. while wearing provided paper
slippers, it seems this journey should provide some thrills and perhaps a
glimpse into this country.

Taking a look outside on the foggy morning, a group of workers are moving brick; so I venture out in my paper shoe wear to start shooting photos. The group laugh at my appearance, both in attire and the fact I’m taking vacation photos of men moving bricks from one dirt pile to another. The “Big hall” looks
desserted, but smells of rice and a possible meal motivate me to start the day a
bit earlier than planned.

The smell of rust in the water brings back fond memories of my times at the
Carters' beach house and I’m amazed that halfway around the world things really
aren’t that different. But slightly bigger than the sea wall on Dark Island,
I’m packed up and ready to see the Great Wall.

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