Saturday, January 14, 2012

I arrived in China

I got to the airport three hours early. I could smell the beauracracy wafting out from behind the raised ticket booths. Lines made up lines around the China Eastern Airport. I made myself loud and clear but china eastern had not rebooked a flight for me, I was on standby. I made a friend. Then I got in. The connecting flight was no longer the same day so I would stay the night in a hotel in Kunming.

Frustration is adhesive and good leverage to start talking. I made friends with two girls from Canada who would be staying overnight in the hotel with me on their way to Laos. They just finished their MD residency and were taking the summer to travel the world. After the flight we found the shuttle to take us to the hotel, waited at reception for 1 hour, convinced the manager, no I could not double room with a random (probably male) stranger from the plane, got my room key and went up. The Canadian girls and I went out into the cold night exploring fruit stands and saying hi the stray…pug dogs. A man told me to get on his motorcycle. I declined.

We couldn’t find any food stalls open so we ordered room service and ate our bowls of noodles and watched fun Chinese game shows and bonded like a bunch of girls in a foreign country.

I arrived in Beijing and found Muzi with a large glittery purple sign that said “Chelsea!” We hugged and jumped in a circle for a bit and she gave me her mom’s big down jacket so I would never have to set foot in the bitter Beijing air without being properly swaddled. She also brought my bridesmaids dress which I tried on in a bathroom stall.

She fed me a Chinese noodle lunch and I was off again heading toward Shanghai on the fastest train in the world. The world went by so fast it made my eyes hurt. What should have been a 10 hour train ride to Shanghai took only 5 hours. When I reached my station the train warned me to “not leave any passengers behind or take any passengers by mistake.”

My hostel was voted the best in the world by Lonely Planet Guide. My double room had a pitched ceiling with intricate molding and rickety old wooden floors.
It was 10pm but I was starving. I followed a visibly smoky scent down the block and into a bare Chinese restaurant. The menu had pictures so I pointed and waited. My first night in Shanghai, alone at 10pm, I ate a big skillet of sizzling beef.

My hostel had a bar downstairs and I shared a scotch with some other travelers, ate some roasted chestnuts out of a brown paper bag and went to sleep.

Zai Jian,

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