Over here in China, blogger.com is absolutely unaccessible to me, except for the home page. So if you've missed my introduction, please read it at captain-merry.blogspot.com.
I have written on a blog for 10 days so I've left you all with an empty gap of the beginning of my journey in China. I must say it's been eventful and uneventful. So bear with me as I try to highlight every part of my journey up to now.
Aug. 19 -21
My plane left at 8 a.m. for L.A. The night before, I had been still packing up until 11:30 p.m. I was definitely feeling stress and I packed all my absolute necessities, but when I lifted my luggage, I was so shocked. I had to take out my shampoo, lotion, and college brochures. I really miss some of those necessities. At L.A., AFS was having our pre-departure orientation. I got a chance to make new friends and meet people who were going to other countries such as Japan, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. It was so nice to see a variety of people. My roommate, for example, lives in England but she went to an American school. I had such a long orientation that covered information about safety, AFS’ history, and some general information about our specific countries. I found out some people had been studying Chinese all throughout high school. For example, Yony from Philly studied it all high school and he told me he was better at writing the characters than pinyin. Pinyin tells the pronunciation of a character. After dinner, we had a toast and made a pledge to be good kids. I met everyone that was going to Harbin with me. Their names are Zach, Matt, Nancy, and Diane. Each one of them is interesting and I enjoy their company. We all went to bed as soon as we could because all of us heading for China had to be checked out by 4:30 a.m.
In short, the uneventful part of this beginning was feeling sick. I had felt nauseated when I entered the L.A. hotel where we stayed. When I woke up the next morning, I felt unusually warm and I had a little bit of breathing difficulty. My upper body muscles, especially my shoulders, were so sore (I think from my backpack and dragging my heavy luggage). I had my temperature taken and it was 99.5˚ F. I came dangerously close because if I went over 100, to not getting on the plane. We took a coach bus to get to the airport. On the bus, I talked to this very nice girl from Phoenix, Arizona named Jing. She was adopted when she was 18 months old from Nanjing, China. We became really good friends, especially after we got to Beijing. She’s going to Jiamushi, which is 3 hours away from Harbin, my city. I spent some time talking with Jing and Yony. Our 8 a.m. flight would take us to San Francisco for a connection (dumb, isn’t it?) before we boarded the cursed United 889 for Beijing. All the while, my heat and breathing problems never went away. On the plane flight to San Francisco, I sat next to Ben, a very cute guy from Portland, Oregon. Nancy had the aisle seat in our row, but we both helped him with his Chinese. The scenery was beautiful and it reminded me of a time when I took a family vacation from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I fell asleep for most of the plane ride because that was when I didn’t have to fight with my body aches.
After arriving at San Francisco, we headed for the international terminal. Now this part was gorgeous. There was a Gucci, Coach, Burberry, and a Duty Free Store (DFS) Galleria that had items from Chanel (my favorite!!) to Godiva to Shiseido. I went around taking photos before we had to board the plane. I waited until the last minute to board the plane because of my shoulders. I had seat 35G but another guy named Ben wanted to switch. I think it was because the guy next to his seat (37G) was Chinese and he probably didn’t feel comfortable. I had no trouble switching and I actually talked to the man for quite some time. He warned me about the traffic and the cold. Both of these things I’ve heard so much from my grandparents, but I could see many people cared about my safety and health. For the next 11.5 hours, I spent it pretty miserably. My stomach felt like someone had punched it. I could never feel comfortable with the temperature; I was always too hot. Being cooped up in a plane for 11.5 hours meant that I developed more muscle pain. As always, my breathing difficulty never went away. I drank plenty of water and orange juice. Most of the plane ride was spent with my eyes closed but music always playing in my ears. I managed to watch most of the movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner. At meal times, I hated the food. The man next to me always asked for seconds and I always asked for more drinks.
Three hours before we landed, I saw a girl named Tristen had called a stewardess over because an AFS student sitting next to her had thrown up. I think there was something wrong about the plane food or the plane ride. Finally, the plane ride was over and I was definitely in a bad state. My temperature must have been high enough to be considered dangerous. Therefore, I was taken aside to have my temperature taken. They gave me a thermometer and told me to stick it in my armpit. I obliged, and I think I heard them say 38˚ C, which translates to 100.4˚ F, but I’m pretty sure I was higher than that. I was taken to another temperature checkpoint to have my temperature taken again. By this point, I was freaking out and I didn’t want to be quarantined. I didn’t tell them about my muscle pains—because I didn’t want to qualify as being ill, or worse, having swine flu. I kept quiet and I passed the temperature test. I went through customs and took a free shuttle to the baggage claim. Looking around, the Beijing International Airport had changed so much since the last time I came, which was in ’07. There was more glass and moving sidewalks. I definitely liked the change because it was letting the outside light illuminate the inside. AFS China came to pick us up and took us to the cultural village where the rest of the AFS students were as well. The bus ride was an hour long. We checked in and I brought my luggage to my room. My roommate was Nancy. I wanted to lay down so bad just to shake off that muscle pain, but I figured I probably should go make new friends like the rest of the AFS students were doing. I walked out of the room and was greeted by a huge group of AFS Thailand students. I mean, surrounded by the Thailand group. They were friendly and genuinely interested in me. I saw an AFS Germany student named Katarina who was also going to Harbin. I went to go get water with her and we met a girl named Lizzy who just came from Australia, but she was studying in Thailand. We all went to dinner together and I sat down with Kat and another Germany student, three from Italy, two from France, and Lizzy. I became good friends with Thomas and Samantha, who were both from Italy. After dinner, I went for a walk with Samantha, Thomas, Lizzy, and Cecilia (a girl also from Italy). When we went back to the table, Lizzy and I sat with all Italians. The thing about sitting at a culturally diverse table is that most people will speak in their native tongue for comfort. Everyone introduced themselves by saying where they were going. Afterwards, I went back to my room to sleep.
August 22, 2009
My stomach hadn’t felt any better, except for the last hour before I was woken up. I had breakfast and that was really exciting. I watched this guy named Patrick, who was from AFS USA spread bread jam over some peanut cookie. He also took a ton of salty vegetables that are commonly eaten with porridge or congee. After breakfast, I went to orientation with Nancy. I saw Jing there and she came up to me to stand in line because we had temperatures checked constantly. Thankfully, I passed and entered. Orientation was extremely boring and the worst part was that they made us practice the morning exercises. My poor stomach could barely keep up with our instructors. The morning exercises consist of kicking, stretching, and jumping jacks. Some of the AFS volunteers were taking pictures and they liked to have the camera focused on me. Maybe it was because we were placed in the front row. Afterwards, it was lunch. I sat down with my former roommate Alex and a sweet girl named Pausha. To Pausha’s left was an extremely handsome French guy, who I think his name was Arterie—but that’s probably wrong. After lunch, all the USA students had to be quarantined for the rest of the day because some of the people had fallen sick. All of us headed back to our room. Jing and I spent the whole afternoon together talking about everything from guys to Korean dramas. We became such good friends because we had so much in common. And the best news of today? My stomachache went away!! Finally, the uneventful part of my journey was over, and it was over for good.
August 23, 2009
Today we went to the Great Wall. I climbed 3.5 towers. It was unbearably hot. Oh yes, I recommend that anyone who visits China in the month of August to bring enough summer clothes to last you for at least a week. I made the mistake of not bringing enough summer clothes. Jing was so nice to give me a pair of her black shorts. I trekked most of it while going up with Jing but coming down, I went at my own pace. I took plenty of pictures of the Great Wall and I saw a sign from a recent past: Beijing 2008 One World One Dream. Huh, that’s really something that reflects AFS’ mission to unite all the countries together in understanding each other’s culture through one dream: world peace. That dream is definitely achievable. Each one of us can do our part to represent ourselves and our country well. I didn’t realize that the 2008 Olympic motto would show its significance. I think it’s really funny that I’ve been hearing people sing “One World One Dream” on television and radio and it just never clicked with me! There are symbols everywhere supporting cultural exchange, and now it’s time for me to spread that One World, One Dream.
I’ve written so much but there’s definitely more I still need to cover as soon as I have time!