I arrived at the Weifang airport at 6:30 for my 8pm flight to Beijing only to find a hand written note on the wall (note to self take pictures of stuff like this, dummy) saying the flight would be delayed until 9:30. Finally at a little past 10pm they announced the flight had been canceled and would be rescheduled for 7:30am the following morning. The airline would bus us to a hotel for the evening. After arriving at the hotel a young man approached me and asked if I spoke English. I said yes and he asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing a room with him. What, share a room? What kind of scam is this? Apparently no scam at all. He said they normally put three to a room in these
situations and since he was traveling alone he needed to find two others. He said I could call him Charles. We entered the hotel lobby and there was plenty of shouting going on. To me it always sounds like the Chinese are yelling at each other in conversation. This time it was noticeably louder. Charles said they were arguing about having to share a room with strangers. Eventually the crowd in the lobby dissipated and Charles, myself and two young ladies were the only ones left. One of the ladies was extremely attractive. Sorry, Charlie, you are on your own, I’ll be rooming with the ladies, LOL. The airline employee handed the attractive lady a room key, she shouted something and stormed off with her friend. Charles said she had said she was going to sue the airline. Good luck with that. Charles and I got a key and made our way up to our room. Turns out Charles was from Weifang and is studying mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. He was flying to Beijing to see a specialist regarding some pain he has been having in his knee. Seems like a long way to go to see a doctor.
This hotel, The JinBao, was a little more rustic than the MonteRich. The A/C barely worked. Actually, I think Charles turned the A/C off during the night. I guess he is more acclimated to the heat and humidity than I am. The bathroom was one of those where there is no separate shower. There is a shower head up on one wall next to the toilet and the bathroom floor is angled toward a drain. There were no full size towels either, just three hand towels. Nice. They did have packets of shampoo, tiny bars of soap, and flip-flops. I had been on the go since 5am and felt like a giant grease ball so despite the situation the shower was nice. Sleeping on a bed in a Chinese hotel is a little like sleeping on a concrete floor, extra firm. Charles said it is good for you. I woke up early, as usual. Washed up, got dressed, and checked my email.
For all this hotel lacked it did have free internet. We boarded the bus at 6am for the short ride back to the airport. After checking in and going through security the airline finally provided breakfast. Chinese noodles (essentially ramen noodles only better) in a cup and a packet of “salted vegetables” whatever that is. I haven’t opened it yet. They had four flavors of noodles. I had the chicken and mushroom. It hit the spot.
The flight to Beijing was uneventful, except for the girl across the aisle from me filling up three airsickness bags. I guess she doesn’t like flying. Before and after the flight she looked fine. I picked up my bag at the baggage claim and found the shuttle bus to terminal 3. My flight arrived in terminal 1. Terminal 3 was about a 10 minute bus ride away. No problem, I had plenty of time. My flight didn’t depart until 6:30pm, which by my watch was 9.5 hours away. I would not be able to check my suitcase until three hours before departure, ugh. Fortunately there is a Starbucks in terminal 3 before you go through the security check point. Food on the other hand would be a little harder to come by. There is a McDonald’s, but they only take cash, Chinese cash, and I didn’t have enough to buy a meal. Hey look, an ATM. I withdrew 200RMB, which is almost $30. Much to my surprise, the receipt says the fee was 0.00. I’m pretty sure there will be some fees back at my Credit union. ***UPDATE*** The total fee was only $2.30, not bad for an airport ATM. Oh well, maybe I’ll figure out a way to get that onto my expense form at work.
As I’m typing this I’m still waiting to check in for my flight. I have 2.5 hours remaining before I can do that. I’m killing a little of that time by writing this account. In a few minutes I’ll head back to Starbucks for an after lunch coffee and snack. I had the spicy chicken sandwich, four spicy chicken wings, fries, coke, and ice cream for lunch. From one end of this terminal to the other is perhaps a half mile or so. I’ve already gone from one end to the other twice and I’ll probably make a couple more round trips before this ordeal is over. The ends of the terminal are almost deserted, but there are bathrooms at either end. Since most travelers don’t venture that far these bathrooms tend to be a little cleaner and less chaotic. The best part is my reward for patiently waiting here in the terminal, a 14 hour flight to Washington, DC. Yippeeeee!
Earlier while enjoying my morning Starbucks, I passed some of the time by reading the “China Daily”. It’s an English language newspaper. There were several interesting articles and op eds. According to one article the Local Health authorities in Shanghai are beginning to crack down on illegal abortions. The article said they were doing this to protect the mental and physical health of underage girls. Teenage girls seeking an abortion are advised to visit only licensed clinics when terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Hmm. There was an interesting op-ed piece about the
problem of people begging for money who aren’t really needy, who are perfectly capable of getting an education and a job, but are just using empathy as a way of getting money. And you thought this only a problem in America. There was a somewhat related article on income distribution, headline: “Experts urge fairer income distribution”. Each province in China sets the minimum wage for that province. Almost all provinces recently increased their minimum wage in order to prevent social unrest. Apparently State Owned Enterprises (SOE) pay much higher wages than the minimum and the natives were getting restless. Minimum wage at our factory in Shandong province recently increased by more than 20%.
Ok, fast forward to Friday morning August 6th. I’m at home now. After checking in for the flight to DC I was walking toward the security check and a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was going to Dulles. I thought she said Dallas so I said no I was going to Washington. She said yes Dulles in Washington, DC. She asked if I would make sure her nephew made it to the gate ok. He was young and traveling alone for the first time. I said sure. I never did ask him how old he was, but his name was Kevin. He’s a US citizen, parents originally from China and he was in Beijing all summer visiting relatives. He speaks and understands Chinese, but can’t read the symbols. Very nice kid. I helped him get through immigration and made sure he made it to the gate. I even bought him a bottle of water. I lost track of him for a while, but just before boarding he came over and sat by me so we boarded at the same time. I didn’t see him again in DC.
On the way to DC my TV wasn’t working. I could see any channel I wanted, but the sound I heard was whatever channel the guy in the seat next to me was watching. The airline gave me some kind of apology card good for a free gift to make up for the inconvenience. I chose the $150 e-certificate good toward the purchase of any flight on United in the US. The airport in DC was thrown into chaos because of thunder storms that passed through my flight in would up doing a circle over Ohio to delay our arrival. We still arrived a half hour early. We had massive tail winds all the way from China. My 10pm flight to Indy changed gates twice and eventually departed a little after 11pm. It was a full flight with all the standby passengers from a flight that was canceled earlier due to the storm. I arrived home at 2am. I think I was in bed by 3am and woke up at 5am when for some reason my alarm clock went off. Ahhhhh, the joys of world travel. It’s good to be home. My dogs missed me and I missed them. They were very happy to see me.