Feb 13, 2008 was really a two day adventure for me as it was a 36 hour trip from Milwaukee to Nanning. I remember getting off the plane in Hong Kong and realizing a few things. First, having never been outside of the United States short of Canada, and since I don’t speak or read Chinese, I had no idea of where to go to find help. Second, I really wanted coffee.
But I digress, this adventure starts in Milwaukee with me sitting at the gate, waiting for a flight to Chicago, with a small window to hop a flight to LA where I’ll have 4 hours to kill before leaving for Hong Kong. I sat in the airport, thinking to myself,” dude, you’re going to China, you don’t speak the language, you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, just grab your stuff and go home, your friends will give you a lot of crap, but just go home.”
I was terrified at that point. I worked myself into such a tizzy that I missed the announcement that my plane was delayed. This was a problem, because I didn’t have much time to catch my flight to LA. I talked myself into continuing with my journey, looked at my watch and ran to the gate, thinking I was a little late. Ok, the time for my flight to LA taking off passed while I was in the air to Chicago. I frantically ran through the airport, like the family did in the “Home Alone” movie, trying to find a phone to get a different flight explaining that I had an international flight at 11:00 pm in LA to HK. It was 2 PM and I was still in Chicago.
I got a different flight and made it to LAX with about 2 hours to spare. Ok, never been to LAX, didn’t know that there’s a different terminal for flights to China. That would’ve been good information for my travel agent to tell me. After 30 minutes of wandering, I finally found some Asian people that got me to the correct terminal. For me, it was like being in China already.
I found the Cathay Pacific check-in counter, made my way through security and on to the plane for my 16 hour flight. Fast forward, I’m now in HK and clueless! The upside, I have about 10 hours before I go to Nanning. Time for a smoke and find my way around, let the adventure begin. I’m in China, no turning around, nothing left to do but relax, eat, go shopping and enjoy the calm surroundings of Hong Kong International airport.
I had to kill three hours before that China Southern gate opened so I could get upstairs and relax. Fast forward to boarding, small lady finds me, “you Steve from USA?”, “yes”, “you come with me”. Ok, I’ve been in China for a few hours, bought a few things in the duty free shop, had a couple of beers, some noodles and spoke with some others traveling around the globe, how the hell did I start an international issue?
Turns out, they wanted to make sure my luggage, was mine. Disaster averted. Now the adrenaline is pumping, one hour to go. I was the sole westerner on the flight to Nanning. I got some looks, met some very nice people. Communication was pointing and smiling. Upon landing in Nanning, I noticed the military fighters on the tarmac. Off the plane, passport in hand, entry/exit card filled out and ready for entry into China. I Get to the stall, man looks at my passport and visa, no problem, hand my entry/exit card. PROBLEM! He looks at me, very sternly, and says “no red ink, you go back.”
WoW, I just got kicked out of China and I don’t have anywhere to go. Xiuwen and I are in the same building and I’m not going to see her! Ok, I find the cards and fill out in black ink, back to the same guy. With a look of discust, he stamps my passport grunts me through the queue. It’s down the stairs and I can see her standing past the swinging gates with her sister, the first glance in real life, I’ll never forget it. I had little miscommunication with customs trying to declare some electronics, but got through it, walked up to them, shook hands and said “hello.”
Stay Tunes For Part 3…