The school schedule had been a mess since it started so when they announced we’d have one week off in October I started looking for tickets to visit my friend in Taiwan. She told me she’d seen direct flights from Ninbgo, China, but when I began to look I found the prices so high I seriously considered buying tickets to the US instead. Other flights were less expensive but they took too long because they stopped in 3 or 4 cities. Time was ticking. I spent hours every day trying to find the right price and dates. During that time our coordinator announced we’d have to work for 13 days in a row before our little break. My coworkers and I looked at each other in disbelief because that week China was celebrating the Golden Week Holiday, which was granted to the international school, the elementary and middle schools, but not to us high school teachers. I was tired, frustrated, and desperate to leave Ninbgo if only for a week when this ticket popped up. It was only $350, with 2 layovers, Shanghai and Nanjing. Okay, I could deal with 2 layovers. Blood started rushing through my body, it’s now or never! Click. I did it! I printed the flight information China Eastern emailed me. I was exhausted and excited at the same time, and because of these factors my brain decided to process only: Departing Flight. Airline Confirmation. Aircraft. Friday at 3:28. Arrival at 8:00.
I checked it again days later to realize arrival time was in the AM with a 9 hour layover in Nanjing. The night before my flight (after having worked for almost two consecutive weeks) I checked again and found something strange. Under “Departing Flight”, Aircraft: Train. However it also said, “Airline Confirmation” “China Eastern” so I supposed there was a train from the airport and after I checked in I didn’t have to think about anything else until the next day.
Nothing further from reality. Friday afternoon after work I take a taxi to the airport where the security officer points at the China Easter check-in line. The ground attendant tells me to take the train, so I ask, “Where?” She sends me to China Eastern Customer Service where they tell me to take the airport bus, then the subway. I’m trying not to panic. I have plenty of time. So I take the elevator downstairs and when the door opens a group of people start to come in. This guy blocks my exit and pushes me. I yelled, “Wait! Let me out first! ” He might have cursed me in Chinese. I take the bus and when I get off I ask the bus driver where I should go. He sees my printed confirmation and asks, “Fly?” “No, train.” A young man joins us. He tells me to go back to the airport. “No, not fly, train.” I start walking away. At the subway station the security personnel points me to Customer Service. A man and his entourage are passing by, the Customer Service lady tells me to follow him… I end up at the exit and they to their way to the airport.
It makes me feel a little better that this confusion between flight and train happens to other people, but at the same time, I’m still at airport vicinity and need to catch that train! I go back. Security calls somebody from his walkie talkie. A young man tells me to follow him to a ticket machine. All the information is in Chinese so I don’t know what he’s doing. “4 yuan” he says. I ask, “For what? Where am I going?” “4 yuan for subway to train station.” I pay and continue following him. He tells me to get off at Ningbo Railway Station in about 20 minutes. The man sitting next to me is dozing. I still have the flight confirmation in my hand. He wakes up and I notice he’s reading my paper, “Airport?” I get mad at his intrusion. “No! Train!” He tries to explain that if I’m going to fly I have to get off and go back. “No! I’m going to take the train!” He gets off, I continue 2 more stops. I walk to Customer Service at the Ningbo Railway. “Fly?” They ask. “No, train.” I say pointing at the confirmation papers. “Okay follow me,” says a lovely agent.
We ride the escalator, leave the station, I get scared, we come back to the station through another door where we arrive at the China Eastern window line. Everyone is so close to each other that I try to put my luggage as a barrier between me and the woman behind me; instead, she almost leans on my suitcase while talking on the phone practically in my ear. When it’s our turn I give the ticket agent my confirmation papers and passport. She becomes furious, tosses my passport, disorganizes my printed papers, clicks her tongue, asks something to the other tellers still yelling, goes to another window… Her reaction almost calls for an exorcist. I ask my helper, “Why is she so mad?” She just says, “Let’s go to the other window” while this lady gives me back my passport and my now wrinkled confirmation pages. The other agent grants me one ticket, my helper shows me where I need to take the train and says goodbye. The line is long and a guy skips in front of me. I’m a little shocked, but I let go. I’m not going to become like them.
We have to put our bags through the x ray scanner, I forget to put my backpack there too, and when I turn to do so the guy behind me who reeks of alcohol throws his bag on the scanner as so does the young woman behind him, they both push me and go in front of me. I’ve had enough. “Okay! Just go!” I yelled. Only the young lady whispers, “I’m sorry.”
Hey look! I’m still in Ningbo…