Posts tagged flight
Posts tagged flight
Tuesday was my day off, and I spent most of it down at Air China offices being thrown around between the help desk, website, and call center. During the process, one of the people at the Air China desk had me fill out a form online that he said would quote me how much of a refund I could get. I finally managed to get them to give me a number for how much more an early flight back would be. And that number, for getting back to USC a week early, was out of my price range. So I was going to Vietnam! I was actually pretty stoked, and had completely committed to going down to Ho Chi Minh City and making the best of the rest of the trip.
Well today I found out that Air China form I filled out wasn’t for information – it was an irreversible refund request and I got an email about 2 hours ago telling me that money had been successfully sent back. Dammit. So after trying my hardest not to yell at the call center lady because she like I was very clearly powerless about it all, I learned that it was very much set in stone and my original tickets are gone.
So I’m not going to be going to Vietnam at the end of the trip to see my uncle as originally planned, and buying the new tickets is going to set me back. I’m pissed because I had decided it was too expensive and had already committed and was looking forward to Vietnam, but the silver lining to this is that I’m heading back to USC earlier than I expected! So to all my USC friends, look to my coming on first light of the 18th day (of August). At dawn, look to the East.
I am trying my hardest right now to get an early flight back to the US. There’s a couple things that contribute to this decision and they all add up.
Travelling to Vietnam would be cool. But right now I’ve travelled well enough, and the idea of yet another completely foreign language in another country just does not appeal to me right now. I’m going to broaden my search for tickets from the one weekend I was looking at to a 2-week spread, and go down to Air China offices to see about a refund rather than moving the dates (because Air China, while it had legroom, is pretty damn pricey in comparison to the other trans-pacific airlines). It has been a good trip over all, but right now I’m having a horrible time, there’s stuff I need to do, and I’m ready to call this a wrap.
After over a full day in the air and multiple super-special TSA patdowns, we finally landed in Beijing. I had met up with five other members of the USC group at the gate in Los Angeles, and we were huddling together like sheep, navigating our way through customs until we found our bus waiting for us outside. We had made it, and there in the sky was a sign greeting our welcome – a solar eclipse! Very rare and very cool, and I like to think it was an auspicious omen.
You may also notice in that picture the infamous Beijing smog. I am sorry to say that it lives up to its reputation – the air isn’t physically hard to breathe or anything, but dear god is this place polluted. Probably because of all the people - my second impression of the city was the sheer number of skyscraper apartments we saw. Hundreds of 40 story buildings of nothing but apartments, they almost reminded me of termite mounds. Our own housing is a little bit nicer:
It’s surreal seeing Chinese spoken as the only language around here. The most disorienting thing is when you see European guy unleash a torrent of perfect Mandarin. I had heard that everyone in Beijing will want to practice their English with you, but so far, no. There goes that lifeline! The motivation for studying Chinese has taken a radical shift for me. While before it was a neat language that had a fuzzy ‘this might be useful’ association, learning the language now is a matter of being able to have the basic conversations and interactions you need to get around. What do you know, Chinese is actually useful.
The food here is absolutely delicious! And all of it tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before. Case in point, here was my lunch today, which contained the single strangest thing I’ve ever eaten:
See those little peppercorn-looking things on the stem on top of everything? Those are called huājiāo, and when you chew down on those they cause a strong numbing/buzzing on the inside of your mouth. Have you ever put your tongue on a 9-volt battery? It was kind of like doing that while drinking fizzy soda. Absolutely nothing I’ve ever had has tasted like this, and I think I’ll try to bring some back.
Fun fact, none of the bathrooms in China have toilet paper. It’s not that the Chinese don’t use it, it’s that everyone carries around their own little pack of towelettes. Unfortunately for us foreigners, this meant that sitting around in the dorm was not like sitting on a ticking time bomb that had the potential to be really messy. So our first foray was out into the local supermarket buying supplies, and we all walked back under the weight of huge bags of two-ply. Crisis averted. I think people could tell we were new here.
But I’m enjoying it so far! I like my classmates (there’s ten of us), and China’s immediate relevance and allure is a refreshing, exciting change of pace and perspective. And the culture here is downright quirky. But right now I’m absolutely exhausted from the flight and long day, so I’m going to cut it here.
I am sitting in the airport at Atlanta, jacked up on caffeine and blasting electrohouse because hey – who needs a consistent sleep schedule anyway? It’s the perfect environment to start writing a blog to document my three month stay in Beijing this summer of 2012. Ah! If you didn’t know I was going to China, then I guess that just spoiled the surprise. But yes, for a variety of reasons including wanderlust, a desire to be able speak Chinese, and Peking duck, I am going across the Pacific and not coming back until the school year starts up again in August.
A quick overview of what has lead up to this point: After applying to a range of study-abroad programs, I decided to go with USC, my home institution. The program consists of two months of language classes at Capital Normal University in Beijing, after which I will (hopefully, the details will be worked out when I get there) be interning at a Chinese company for another month. USC’s draw was both its focus on learning by talking with people on the street, as well as its generous subsidies because I was already a student.
So, friends, family, and fellow tumblrs, this blog is my way to communicate with you. I hope you like it, and I equally hope it satiates any need to call or text me at international rates to see how I’m doing. Besides, I really like it when friends tell stories about their fun and exciting trips, and I have every intention of making this trip fun and exciting. I’ll try to post updates every couple days. I think I might also do a series on modern day China’s position in the world – an overview of the economy, government, international relations, etc, to fill out the blog and give some context to my stay there. You know, just for you guys. Leave comments! It satisfies my inner attention whore and lets me know that people are actually reading this thing.
I’ve got my visas, I’ve got my tickets, and all my plans are set. But right now, I’m just excited. I’m going to China! This is me right now sitting in the airport:
It should be a good three months.