Advantages of Living In China

As an international teacher who works in China I find the country fascinating and challenging at times. However, if you are planning to live in this country there are several advantages to your journey that you must certainly enjoy.

Free Rent

In most cases, foreign teachers are granted a furnished free rent apartment. I was a little skeptical on what kind of place I was going to live in because I’d heard spaces are small, but they provided a spacious two bedroom apartment with a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a washer! No dryer since in China most people dry out their clothes by hanging them outside.

Free Lunch

wp-1488711494290.jpgAs if staying in a place for free wasn’t enough, teachers are offered free lunch made daily by a chef trained in the west. Menus are varied, nutritious, delicious, and there is always fruit and soup! We have been blessed, because our school has its own farm, so all products we eat are organic and fresh!

No Taxes

Of course you have to pay taxes, but when you go shopping the tax is included in the price of the item. And it applies also for sales. If a piece of clothing has a 40% discount you don’t have to do the whole math of calculating the extra 8 or 10% after the discounted price. Paradise for shopaholics!! Which leads us to…

Cheap Food and Clothes

Almost everything in China is inexpensive or really cheap. You can dine out literally every day and that won’t ruin your budget. And if you buy groceries to cook at home you are saving much more! You can also find good quality clothes and shoes. However, even

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though in the United States I can wear sizes S and M, here I have to aim for the biggest sizes, especially pants, which for me are XXL, but even that size sometimes doesn’t fit me. That made me feel a little self conscious for a while, especially when I was denied to try on a coat because I was too (big), but I understand that they make the sizes smaller because the population in general is short and slim. The other problem is if your shoe size is 9.5 or bigger. “Meiyou”, no shoes for you ladies 😦

No Tips

This is actually a good thing! At least for customers 😉 Restaurants, spa hotels, coffee shops, bars, taxis, manicurists… You name it. No one demands a tip. You pay for what you order then you don’t have to think about that 15-20% tip or how to split this when you are out with friends. Yipee!!

“Celebrity” Treatment

mmexport1475937099457.jpgChina is a country with zero diversity. That’s why people feel enthralled when someone different is around. Anywhere a foreigner goes heads turn, people elbow their neighbors, and cell phones are pulled out to take pictures of you. It’s funny the tricks they use to get your picture taken. They might follow you for a few steps, or if you are at the bus stop or on the train, they shoot selfies with the peace sign, making you the background of their photos.  Now I know how Halle Berry feels when the paparazzi are all over her. Give me some privacy, please!!  😉

Traveling Options

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Thailand

Because one is able to save money, it is relatively easy to travel to nearby countries. I have had the great opportunity to visit Taiwan and Thailand. And if one has more money and time there’s Vietnam, Laos, Korea, Japan, the Philippines… But also being China as big and ancient as it is there are tons of landmarks and tourist attractions, like the Great Wall, and Shanghai Disneyland.

Safety

China might be one of the safest countries on Earth! For starters, no one is allowed to carry guns, and there are cameras everywhere, so if there is a crime the guilty would be identified and get punished without delay. I love to be able to go out for dinner or a late movie with friends, and take a taxi at 1, 3, 5 in the morning. By the way, all taxis are equipped with cameras as well, which makes it safer for the driver as well as the passengers.

Art Lovers

China has a long history of poetry, opera, and visual arts. Chinese love art in all its forms and they are very appreciative when you perform for/with them during their holiday festivals. Performances are an important part of the Chinese and no one is shy when it’s time to demonstrate their talents. Old Chinese women dancers or dama are often performing in the streets no matter the late hours or if they block traffic, and from a very young age children learn to play the piano, the violin, or more traditional instruments like the guzheng.

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Friendship

And last, but not least, you start friendships that might last a lifetime. It didn’t take me long to meet my “besties” at school, and once you begin to socialize and loosen up your circle of friends becomes wider and stronger. And your new friends are always there to cheer you up when you feel homesick, which is inevitable. Expats give their support freely, because we are all on the same boat.

“China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese.”

Charles de Gaulle

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Reflections About My Best Friend

In Colombia (my home country) the treatment of pets is very different than in the United States. Dogs and cats usually stay outside. We certainly don’t snuggle with them at night and we rarely recognize them as members of the family. We do love them, and spoil them at times, but we have it clear we are from different species, therefore we live separately. They are companions, soft to the touch, we take care of them, but their place is outside, in the backyard, or out in the farm, depending on where you’re located.

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Then I moved to the United States where people share their dwelling space with their pets using terms of endearment and worrying about their illnesses as if they were… people! I found it a little funny and weird that  people referred to their animals as “my baby”, “my lil man”, “my son”…

Then, I hit a bump in the road. A series of jarring circumstances ended up with me renting a room in a house whose owner was a divorced woman who lived with a dog, and a cat. And she LOVED them as family, which I couldn’t understand. A few weeks into living with her she called me one morning excitedly, “I have the perfect dog for you!” Was I asking for a dog? Did I ever show any desire to complicate my world even more by bringing a dog into my life with all the responsibilities it carried? “What? I don’t have time for a dog!” I responded unhesitatingly. “Oh… he is super cute, you’re going to love him!” She continued as if my answer had been, “Yes, when am I going to meet him?” And somehow her wording switched my thinking.boomer15

She brought home a little mutt. “Boomer” was his name according to his birth certificate where it also said he was a chihuahua. Apart from his size I couldn’t see the chihuahua in him. I didn’t like him at first. He was overweight (he had spent his past few years tied to a pole being fed with bread), some of his teeth were green, his breath was… well, terrible, and he was extremely needy. I had been emotionally exhausted for a while, therefore there was nothing in my heart to offer him. So, I looked at him and said, “Hey, I’m gonna take care of you, but I will never love you.”

He wanted to climb to my bed and I pushed him out every time. And less than 24 hours in the house he started getting into huge fights with my landlady’s cat where both of them ended up hurt; he wasn’t potty trained as my friend had assured, and I was angry that I had to clean up his mess every single day. Not a great start for Boomer and I.

Then my father had a stroke and I flew to Colombia thinking this was going to be the last time I was going to see him. It was a stressful emotional time as my father went through surgery and I spent days with him in the hospital and then at my uncle’s house. My father was okay when I flew back to the States, but this experience had left me much more exhausted than I already was.boomer23

When I returned home, I tossed my luggage to the side, I looked down and there it was, little Boomer’s face staring at me, wagging his tail just a bit as if being careful not to upset me. His big eyes so bright, his little body directing all its energy towards me. Only he and I in that bedroom. I couldn’t take it anymore. I hugged him as I cried and told him, “I love you” for the first time. Boomer had torn down my walls. Now we both were vulnerable.

We began jogging together so we both lost some weight, I got his teeth cleaned and though he had three extractions he could start chewing his food better. His fur changed from a dull color to a shiny black. I missed him when I was at work, and if I was a little late he was already howling claiming my presence.

We moved out of that house when I started to earn a full time salary, but we kind of had to move because the fights between Boomer and the cat made the landlady and I fight, too!

boomer11I taught Boomer to roll over, I potty trained him. He had a bed, but I never denied him space in my bed whenever he wanted to jump in. After a hard day, he was there; after an exciting day, he was there; when I was sick, he was there with his little face on my chest… And when my mother passed away unexpectedly he cried with me as he lifted up his little legs to give me a hug. He howled as if something in him had died too.

I never wanted to leave him, now that he had become “my lil man”, “my baby”… But I wanted to travel. I wished for the opportunity to live somewhere else if only for a year. I always thought I would take him with me. Unfortunately, the opportunity opened at a school in China, and there are strong regulations for pets to come here. Also the flight would have been traumatic for my baby, spending almost 30 hours in a kennel in the cold cargo, and being in quarantine at the airport without me being able to see him. That would have been too much for both of us.

For the grace of God, a family in New York volunteered to take care of him and I am humbled and thankful to know they love him as much as I do. However, there is no one day without me thinking about him and all the time, events, jokes, visits, trips, and adventures we shared together.boomer-in-the-park

I also wonder if it is too selfish of me to want him back even though he is being so well cared for by this family of five.

I’m still “stationed” in China for half a year more. Whatever happens, I thank God for the extraordinary gift of Boomer. I have learned a lot about myself because of him. Always in my heart and thoughts ❤

Chinese Fireworks

It was about 9:00 a.m. the first time I heard the bang, kaboom, crackle, and whistle. I was in a classroom and the first boom made me jump a little. My students chuckled. I was puzzled. “What is that? Is somebody shooting?” I asked nervously. My students laughed louder. “No! Those are fireworks!”

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Taken from the web

“Fireworks?” I ran to the window hoping to see the bright lights in the sky, but it was the morning, plus a big cloud of pollution was covering everything. We kept hearing the loud noises outside. “It sounds so close… that’s dangerous. And why are they lighting fireworks so early… no one can see them!” My students continued having fun with my observations. Fireworks in the morning… even for China this has to be a bit odd. “It’s a wedding!” One of my pupils yelled. “A wedding? Really! With fireworks? How romantic!” I rushed to the window again. My students were more delighted than if I were a puppy. “They bought a house!” Another one shouted. “A wedding and a house? Wow… this has to be the best day ever for that couple!” My students found my words amusing. I paused. chinese_fireworks“How do you know there’s a wedding and that they bought a house? Do you know them?” My comments cracked my students up, meanwhile I didn’t understand why my inquires sounded so funny to them.

The same day I heard the fireworks around 3:00 o’clock. I didn’t ask why, but looked out the window with the same hope as in the morning… and again saw nothing. I remembered my beloved North Carolina and all the 4th of July celebrations I attended there. Waiting till dark to see the fireworks was the best part! Hearing the fireworks now made my heart leap with joy. Whatever ceremony or festivity they were having I wanted to be part of it, even from a distance. The kaboom, and the crackle, and the whistle continued, I could only imagine how beautiful those colors decorated the sky for my eyes couldn’t reach them.

I heard them again one night when I was resting in my apartment. I grinned as I levitated towards the window and opened the curtains. Bang, pop, whoosh, crack, badaboom. All these noises filled me with a nostalgic joy… but I saw nothing. I stuck my head out of the window, opened my door, looked at the sky from the hall, I even went outside as if I was hunting a ghost… Nothing. I blamed the tall buildings that surround my school; then I thought about the pollution. It was possible that I couldn’t see the fireworks for the same reason I couldn’t see the stars.

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Chinese New Year 2014 (from the web)

I came in, disappointed that one of my favorite things to see had become a distant, sometimes scarily close uproar. I continued hearing fireworks in the morning, in the afternoon, on weekdays, and weekends; nevertheless, I didn’t ask more questions, until one Saturday morning I was sleeping and the badaboom startled me. I sat bolt upright. My heart beating fast for a minute.

I asked the department coordinator and she said it was because they were celebrating, moving to a new house, or something. Weeks later a friend clarified this for me. “The fireworks are to scare the evil spirits, the same way as when they hawk and spit on the floor, they are expelling the evil spirits from their bodies.”

They light fireworks so the noise scares the evil spirits. They whoosh away the bad luck and the demons when they buy a house, when they get married, when they start a new business, when they graduate, when they have a birthday… The list is interminable. But in this case I have to agree with my Filipino friend who once said jokingly, “The Chinese make it so noisy outside the evil spirits fly back inside the house!”

It’s an interesting tradition though, and they make it happen even when it’s raining, seriously!

Light the fireworks in your heart…

Xīnnián kuàilè 2017 dear friends!! ^_^

When You Lose Your Debit Card In China

I was feeling blue. The end of the year caught me almost off guard. I woke up crying and hadn’t eaten much. It was December 31st, and my mind was divided between the USA and Colombia… I couldn’t focus on any task as simple as this would appear.

I needed cash for a taxi because I was going to attend an end-of-year party at Shangri-La Hotel that night, so a little bit against my own body I took a bus to the mall. Traffic was awful. Even though the Chinese New Year date is different from the Western New Year, everybody was out and about making the streets and transportation more crowded than usual.

I inserted the card in the ATM, took the cash and left. I completely forgot to take the card back from the slot. I noticed later, when I was almost ready to leave my apartment…

The Bank

January first was Sunday and a holiday so I decided not to go anywhere. On Monday the second I stood at the bus stop for quiet a while. Buses were scarce and packed. Luckily the bank was almost empty.

“Passport please.” The teller looks at me not knowing how to ask, so I tell her, “I lost my debit card.”

“Do you remember your card number?”

“No.” She calls another teller who understands English a little better. She becomes my interpreter.

“Do you want the same card number or it’s okay to have another number?”

“It doesn’t matter. Any card, I just need a card.” As soon as I said this I remembered I’m in China!, and nothing is that simple. “Wait! Does it matter if you give me a different card number?”

“Mmm, maybe, if you have another number your salary will be late or they can’t pay you.”

“But my account number would still be the same (again, Kurma, you’re in China)… Yes, give me the same number, please!”

The teller makes copies of my passport while I fill out the “lost card” form. Then I remember, for some reason I had taken a picture of my debit card (Yes!) so I show it to her. She types the number, gives me a bunch of forms to sign, and asks me to enter my password.

“Huh… You have to pay 10 yuan.”

I’m getting ready to give her the money, when she interrupts me, “Sorry, sorry, it’s 20 yuan.”

“Okay, here you are.”

“Your card will be here in 7 business days. Come to this bank with your passport and this form.”

Wow. They’ll pay me the 10th, my card will be ready on Wednesday the 11th, and I’m leaving to Thailand the 13th… Oh God, please, make everything go smoothly this time.

“Thank you. Can I withdraw some money now?”
“No, you need your card to take money out of bank.”
“What? But I’m here, this is my passport, I gave you my card number, I need some money now.”

“Sorry, you only can take out money with your card. Wait 7 business days.”

Oh boy, almost two weeks without access to my money in China. I’m still able to use my American credit card, but then to transfer money there is a hassle.

Happy New Year to me… 😡 😦

The 2-Hour Trip that Took Me the Whole Day (Conclusion)

In my previous post I was talking about how China Eastern Airlines sold me a flight where according to them an “aircraft” is a train. I was at Ningbo Railway Station swimming in the rivers of people of China. Hoping. To get to spend the week in Taiwan with my friend. When they announced our train number, passengers piled in uneven lines like little iron spheres attracted by a magnet.

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Ningbo Railway Station (China)

I boarded the train pushed by a giant wave, located a seat, stood trying to lift my carry-on to place it on the overhead compartment. The Chinese guy who was sitting there stood up, and for a minute I recovered my faith in humanity, thinking, he was going to help me. Instead, he moved to the adjacent row, laughing with the other passengers who in turn moved their luggage from my side to their side of the aisle. A voice behind me brought me back from this burning hurt. “Let me help you,” said an expat lifting my bag as he gave me a sympathetic look. I sat down still hearing them laughing, still seeing them pointing at me with the corner of my eye.

Were they laughing at my darkness, or they were laughing because I’m taller than them. I had to make a conscious decision to ignore ignorance. I prepared to enjoy the view and relax, now that I was finally going somewhere.

The landscape was passing in front of my eyes in fast motion. Lots and lots of rice fields and little houses, mountains, abandoned buildings, buildings in construction, old factories, garbage, temples, houses like castles, rivers, ships, tall bridges. In order to not fall asleep I started to pay attention to the names of the stations, Hangzhoudi, Hainingxi, Jianxingnan, and finally Shanghai Hongqiao.

Shanghai Hongqiao Station welcomed me with many more people than Ningbo Railway. I knew the drill though, find the ticket window, show my confirmation flight, get a ticket and get inside another “aircraft-train” to Nanjing. The people from customer service kept sending me in circles, and my backpack started to feel like “Monster”, that’s how author Cheryl Strayed called her backpack as she completed her hike throughout the Pacific Crest Trail. Monster was making itself heavy, as my dog when he didn’t want me to move him from my bed. I walked the whole 1st floor four times until I saw an arrow that directed me to the second floor. That window ticket was closed, but there was a sign saying to go to another one a few steps ahead. Again, long line, and when I arrived the woman sent me to the first window. I told her that one was closed, she ignored me as another passenger was asking for his ticket. A Middle Eastern woman stopped me to help me find my way “I speak Chinese,” she said, and let me pass in front of her as she explained my situation to the attendant, who sent me to a window, downstairs… downstairs… once again. Monster acquired its own personality and started giving me a sharp pain on my lower back. My carry-on had the palms of my hands in pain, too. Luckily I found the window and I had to push and threaten (in English) the ones who tried to pass before me. I had to defend my territory! If they tried to interrupt my transaction I yelled “Wait!” They didn’t understand because they kept talking, but I thought my body language spoke by itself.

I got my train ticket and went to “celebrate” with dinner at KFC. I ordered the 2-piece chicken combo, but they gave me a shrimp sandwich instead. What the freak!? Resignation. No more worries. I was only about 12 hours away from Taiwan.

Getting onto the second “aircraft-train” seemed a bit smoother as I already knew what to do. Push, get in, and… find my seat? The ticket was all in Chinese and I wasn’t willing to travel two hours on my feet, so though people seemed unfriendly I started to ask,”Nǐ shuō yīngwén ma.” Do you speak English? The first person responded, “A little.” So I pointed at my ticket, “Seat number?” “You have go train 6, this is 4. Find seat number 5F.” “Thank you.” I smiled at her kindness and walked through the train doors with Monster and my carry-on. I asked the Chinese guy sitting in that row if he would help me and he said yes, immediately putting my carry-on on the overhead compartment. He had placed his huge 4 wheeled spinner between him and me so several times it bumped into my leg, but what could I have done? This man had been one of the few who had helped me. I asked him if he knew where the Nanjing Airport was, and very slowly he answered that it was about 45 minutes away from the train station. A taxi should charge about 70 yuan.

At the exit of the Nanjing Train Station a man asked if I needed a taxi so I managed to tell him to take me to the airport by mimicking a flight with a plain ascending hand. He took my carry-on and I was so relief it wasn’t in my hands anymore. But this man wasn’t a taxi driver. I followed him through the parking lot until he found his car. I didn’t care. I was exhausted. I did ask him how I would know how much I had to pay, when he showed me the meter I thought, “Oh well, I don’t think God wants me to die cut into pieces in Nanjing when I’m just trying to take a vacation.” It was later than 11 pm and I couldn’t fight the urge to sleep this time. When I woke up we were about 10 minutes from the airport and once there he showed me the meter again. Total 230 yuan. What? I told him this ride wasn’t worth more than 100 yuan. But there was no point. He didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Chinese. And I was glad I was alive and in the right place.

Monster, Carry-on, and I found the airport hotel, paid the U$85 charge , and rode the elevator to the 9th floor where we found the most beautiful, plushy bed I’d ever seen in the past two months. What a pity I was going to be in it for only 5 hours.

The next day, after I showered I walked to China Eastern where people were already piling up not respecting the stop here sign at the check-in. They weren’t talking, but screaming, and for a misophonic like me, this was torture. After checking in, they put us on a small bus, all of us. I was glad Carry-on was sitting comfortably underneath the plane, but now Monster had to defend me from all these people’s proximity. When we stopped in front of the aircraft (wow, now the word aircraft made sense!) people pushed , bumped, and ran up the stairs of the airplane with their luggage and children. I was just thinking, what’s the point? All the seats have been assigned way before hand. But the pushing continued even inside the plane. I sat; then a couple sat next to me. Another fellow stood in front of our row talking to the fellow next to me. He was showing him his ticket and I understood that he was saying the seats were numbered A, B, C and he was B. The one next to me kept talking in a loud voice finally sending the other fellow to another seat. Had I understood the situation clearly though…?

I closed my eyes while they were showing the safety video, but the flight attendant pocked me about ten minutes later to ask me what I wanted to eat. I opened my little box of food and was about to start when my whole body trembled. All the people on the airplane were open-mouth chomping, and slurping, and hawking, and spitting… Did I mentioned I am a misophonic? The guy next to me was so loud I put my left index in my left ear and continued eating with my right hand. The torture lasted for about 30 minutes after which I closed my eyes again, but when I was about to relax the guy next to me pocked me and started leaving the row without giving time to give him space. He was taking a while in the restroom, but when I finally saw him coming back I stood for him to have enough space this time. However, he passed me by to occupy a different seat 3 rows in front of me.

The lady from the window seat also went to the restroom and when she came back she started talking to me, even though I told her, “Tīng bù dǒng” (I don’t understand.)

Before the plane landed everybody stood up and took their carry-on. I had to do the same since the window lady seemed to be in a hurry as well. She stood behind me so close I could smell her fish breath, then she brushed my sweater with her hand twice, pulled it down, and patted my lower back indicating that it was uncovered. I looked at her trying to speak with my eyes. “Do-not-touch-me-please.” Luckily the line started to move and people -as usual- started bumping into each other. We were put on a bus again. The wait seems eternal when one can’t stand strong smells, sounds, and crowds. Nevertheless we arrived, and everyone ran to the conveyor belt. I took my suitcase not without having to jostle some people. When I left the baggage claim area and saw the happy familiar face of my friend I promised myself to change the return flight even if I had to pay extra. My friend asked me if I needed to use the restroom, but I told her I’d rather wait till we got to her apartment for I hated to go on “squatters“. When she said that restrooms at the Taichung airport were “normal” I couldn’t hide my emotion.

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Restaurant in the foreign area of Taichung, Taiwan.

Welcome to Taiwan!

The 2-Hour Trip that Took Me a Whole Day

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.

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Ningbo Railway Station

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…