I felt very alone as I headed to the airport in the early morning. It was dark, and I was going to be by myself for a while without a guide. I did not speak Mandarin, the driver did not speak English and suddenly I needed to be completely
self-reliant and at the same time it was a lesson in trust. Thankfully I made the journey to the airport without incident. In China you cannot check in online, you must check in, show your passport and get your boarding pass in person so
they know you are actually in the airport. This is done for domestic as well as international flights. After getting my boarding pass I headed toward my gate and then I got stopped at security and was told to go back and check in my extra bag.
It was an international flight and I thought I was allowed two bags. I was told to go back and ship the other one. I never could understand why I could only have one bag. This was all communicated with gesturing from the guard as I did not speak Mandarin and
he did not speak English. I have to say the message was universal and the meaning unmistakable; the guard pointed at my bag and pointed back toward the check in counter. I went back through the check in line and informed the agent of what happened.
She checked my bag and took my ticket and told me to go to another counter to pay my bill and then she would return my ticket. I was beginning to feel very vulnerable, and suddenly scared of all the bureaucracy. My bags were gone, and for
the moment my ticket was confiscated and time was ticking. I had no choice but to do what I had been instructed to do. Luckily, I paid my bill quickly, got my ticket returned and cleared security without incident. I felt alone and a
bit shaken by the experience and called home for reassurance. The sound of a familiar voice was all it took for my eyes to start welling and my voice to crack. It was calming to hear my husband’s voice so far away; it immediately made
me feel safer. I knew it was illogical but I did not care; it helped. I am pretty sure it was not reassuring form him to have me upset so far away and there was absolutely nothing he could do but listen. I was thankful it worked to settle
me down and I felt better. I could not talk long as I had to get on the plane soon. With my strength renewed, I proceed to my gate. As I was heading down the walkway to get on the plane, I was pulled out of line and my computer bag and purse
were searched and I was asked more questions. I took note of who was pulled into the special line. I was the only American woman traveling unescorted. Every other person in line was traveling alone as well and all were from other countries.
All the extra procedure made me wary and it was very unsettling. I was immensely relived to be airborne and heading to someplace where I could at least speak the language.
As I sat in my seat on the plane, I reflected on my experiences so
far and realized how lucky I was to be traveling for a large company. I had just had a private tour of several beautiful cities in China, with attentive kind native guides, in a private car. It really does not get better than that. I do not like
going on guided tours where I have to follow someone with a flag and keep pace with a group. I had met so many people who expanded my perspective and my mind in ways I never have imagined. I had stayed in very nice hotels with many amenities that allowed me
to have enough privacy to recover from the hectic schedule. So far this had been perfect for my style of traveling. I knew if I had not gone to China for work I would never have seen this country without out going on a tour. I
am so grateful to have seen some real slices of life, and to be with people who actually live and work in the cities I visited. Overall it had been a successful trip work but personally it was a rich, rewarding and immensely growing experience.
plane to Singapore I am served spaghetti and some kind of pork. Generally I love pork but I had had enough and I simply could not eat anymore, I needed some variety. Luckily the noodles were separate and there was a pat of butter.
Buttered noodles … I felt like I was in heaven. I dreamed of parmesan as I savored every bite. I settled in and relaxed knowing when I woke up I would be in Singapore.