View from hotel room of typical Chinese housing.
Now that I have given plenty of background of my work the next entries will concentrate on the touring part of my travels. On my fist trip to China I sent a daily journal
home to my family and friends. I traveled with a female teammate who was fluent in Mandarin. This is the beginning of the journey.
My cultural awakening started
in the San Francisco Airport. I was one of a few Caucasian’s standing in the Air China check in line. Most everyone else appeared to be Chinese. Honestly, I have never seen people with so many pieces of luggage in my life. The line was
not that long and it took 45 minutes to get through. Each person seemed to have 2 large suitcases, several boxes and multiple carryon items. And I thought Americans carried a lot of luggage!
Once I got on board the plane I was looking at the available entertainment to occupy me on the long flight. Well….. This was an awakening. They were all Chinese made movies, mostly Kung Fu style fighting or Chinese Acrobats or
something by the Communist party. I decided to skip the movies and read my book. My American way of life and sense of space was already being redefined. That 2 feet of personal space around my body no longer existed. I was sitting in my seat
on the plane when I felt someone playing with my backside. I turned to look at my seat mate to discover the woman next to me was fishing my seatbelt out for me. I am sure she saw my surprised wide open eyes looking at her. She smiled and handed me the
seatbelt. I recognized this as a kind gesture and did my best to signal my thanks in return. During the flight the guy on my other side thought it was perfectly normal to lean half way into my seat, so far that I had to nudge his arm out
of the way to drink my “green tea” Neither of them had any idea my “American “ sense of space had just shrunk to zero.
first meal on the plane was fried rice and ginger beef, an American style roll and a green salad with Thousand Island dressing. It was a strange combination and I think it was an attempt to mingle American and Chinese cultures. It is pretty hard
to screw up fried rice. Somehow they succeeded. I took a long nap and was awakened for breakfast, I was hoping for cereal or something at least semi familiar. I was served rice and unrecognizable chicken with potato salad and a roll. I
looked over to see the Chinese woman next to me tasting the butter and then eating it plain. I was not about to try to explain that the bread was the vehicle to eat the butter. The language barrier was huge for me. The food quality has
nowhere to go but up, otherwise I could survive on rice and water.
When we landed in Beijing the man the man sitting next to me said in broken English “Welcome
to the People’s Republic of China.” He knew it was my first trip to China because of conversations with the flight attendants. He was so proud to have me visit his country and it was such a genuine welcome. I was touched.
When we arrived, it was the evening the next day, a truly hard concept to imagine. Everyone transferring to Shanghai was gathered together and we were escorted to immigrations.
This was full of process and procedure and the forms were much more extensive than any other arrival form I had ever filled out going through immigration in any other country. Once the form was approved and my passport and visa were checked.
I was told to go through the “fever “scanning machine. My realization at that moment was “Crap! They quarantine you if you have a high temp.” I could break into a sweat just thinking about that scenario. We were
not allowed to leave the group of people transferring. We were directed through a closed section of the airport and escorted to a gate area to catch the last flight to Shanghai. . They counted everyone at least 4 times. To get on the bus to my
next flight, my body was scanned with a hand held scanner and my carryon luggage sent through security checks. I was glad to get on the plane. This was not an international flight and arriving in Shanghai was a more familiar process
to me. My travel partner and I retrieved our bags and found our driver and were off to our hotel. Needless to say I was happy to arrive at a Sheraton Hotel where I could sleep.