Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beijing Airport...Still.


And here I am at my new home! Oh…wait…this is the Beijing airport…still. 
So, we had a tight layover in Beijing.  And our plane from L.A. was late getting in.  And we had to collect all our luggage and walk with it through customs.  And it’s a major capital city of a huge country airport, meaning correspondingly huge.  If any little thing goes, wrong we could miss this flight…

Well, of course it did.  Oddly enough, it was the first group of us who got our luggage who missed the flight.  Somehow, we missed the place where we were supposed to return out luggage for the flight to Wuhan, and ended up out in the main part of the terminal.  We went to the check-in desk, but were sent to another, then to the ticket counter.  Oh, and in the middle of this, we had a Chinese man trying to be helpful and leading us in circles.  The long and short of it is, nine of us missed the flight.  Those who had taken longer to get their luggage and were behind us did not go the wrong way and made it, go figure.  
There was another flight an hour later, but it only had one free seat. Kevin happened to be first in line, so he decided to try and run for it.  Apparently he made it, because he never came back; we waited in the same area for a good while just in case.  Unfortunately, there were no more flights after that until the next day.  We managed to change our tickets to one person at 12:30, three at 1:30, and the last four at 5:40.  By the time we finished all that, it was 7:00 pm.  So…eighteen and a half hours to go for me (1:30) and even longer for the last group.  Definitely qualified as longest layover I’ve ever had… To make it even more fun, we were stuck for the night, with all of our luggage. 

We piled all the luggage together around a group of three seats near the ticket counter; a few people stayed to guard it all while a few of us did some recon work.  Laura found that we could get passwords for the free airport wifi from the information booth.  Kelly and I went exploring downstairs for a better home base; we found a quieter bank of chairs with plenty for everyone, and also the hourly lounge, which had beds and showers.  In the end, we all cheaped out and stayed out of the lounge.  We set up home base on the last row of seats.  It turned out to be nice that there were so many of us; we could take turns guarding the luggage, sleeping, and wandering off to find food, shop, etc.  Samuel found a row of outlets around the corner, where we could recharge our laptops.  

Although no one was particularly excited at another night in an airport, we made the best of it.  I got to know teachers who would be at different schools, who I probably would never have made much connection with otherwise.  We played balderdash.  We ate some particularly unappetizing Burger King food (my last meal in the U.S. and my first meal in China were both Burger King…sigh; I’d hoped for at least a Taco Bell in L.A.), we sponge-bathed, we took exploratory walks, and skyped relatives.  We watched a group of window-washer rappel from the roof, cleaning the glass wall of the terminal as they swung back and forth. Finally, I got through to Ed, so he could inform those who were supposed to be picking us up our new arrival times; however, most of the schools were ahead of us and had already called the airport and got the information themselves.  Sigh, the things you can do if you speak Chinese… 
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And finally, we did make it to Wuhan.  And all of our luggage made it with us.  And you know the funny part?  The group who made the original flight didn’t get their luggage until the next day—it waited to fly with us!  So, an adventure either way around. 

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