On the airplane quite a few things amazed me. First, the chairs were red! Second, those incredibly dorky neck pillows that I see people wear at airplanes, not so dorky in my mind now. They are incredible! Really, if you are ever planning to fly a flight that you need to sleep on the plane then you should definitely try this. (Excluding of course if you are Macallan who can fall asleep anywhere, anytime.) I guess these pillows are proof that you really can’t judge something you have never tried. This may have to be a mantra for me as I explore Beijing; although I don’t think chanting this will get me to eat dog or anything of the sorts. The third thing that astonished me on the airplane was the kindness of my seat-neighbor.
My mom will be happy to hear that I met one of the nicest people. Tom/Ming (my neighbor) has started my trip off to an incredible experience. He not only helped me figure out what to give the taxi driver, but also advised me to conquer Chinese by returning back to the state of a child. A child doesn’t think about what to call the action or object, but simply accept that the color is “红” (red). I think I will use the phrase “我什么说中文说？” (What do I call this in Chinese?) so much that I may run the danger of forgetting how to ask the question in English. I am ready to approach the world through the eyes of a little girl again. How often does one get a chance to be 2-3 years old when you are 19? Not often in my experience..
Tom/Ming has gone past mere assisting and advising; he offered both his assistance as a translator if I ever need help during my stay in China and his cell phone to borrow while I am in China! I am just supposed to send it back to him when I get home. Someone being so caring shocked me, but he went a step farther to help the “girl” (who was and still is struggling to remember her Chinese) by waiting with me for a taxi and telling the driver where I was going.
I felt like the silly American that I was in the taxicab as the driver spoke Chinese to me and I just sat there, no idea what he said. My goal: on the way back to the airport to be able to not only understand my taxi cab driver, but try to hold a conversation with him. That goal will definitely keep me busy while I am in China.
I have been blessed with people to help me from the start of this trip: Starting with my mother being incessant about making sure I have absolutely everything that I would need and reading so much information that I feel she is wise enough to write the book, “How to Send Your Daughter to China and Survive". I so appreciate my parents and grandparents in supporting me in my desire to engage in such an adventure; Yoojin and her roommate for so generously having me stay with them in their dorm before my program starts, Tom/Ming for his help, the taxi cab driver for being so kind when I was struggling to understand him, and the two boys who walked me to Yoojin’s dorm so I wouldn’t get lost on campus. (I did try talking to one of the boys although we didn’t get past our names and me offering up I am bad at Chinese and him responding in English that his English is bad too). I feel so lucky to have been shown so much kindness already.
As for China itself, I feel like I have finally answered the question of what it is like to live in a cloud. It is pretty hot, but it feels more like being in a blanket with a humidifier on. As for the reported smell that I would experience when I walked off the plane, I don’t think I experienced it. Must be from being around sweaty male athletes working out hard day after day. Who knew that experiencing male athlete smells would be training for anything?
As for today, it will consist of me studying my Chinese with the ferocity of a beast. I am already tired of standing there with a blank stare as people speak in Chinese to me.