Stranded in Hong Kong

So, once we finally get to the airport, say our goodbyes, and get on the airplane, you would think that it would be smooth sailing from there. False. We sat on the airplane wondering when we would take off for about 3 or 4 hours. Hong Kong weather was going haywire, and our captain had no idea when we would be able to leave. Heck, air traffic control didn’t know when we would get to leave. Eventually, we got into the air and made it into Hong Kong at 5pm.

We got our carry-on bags and hurried off the plane to try and make it to our next point – someone who would tell us what to do next. As we talked with some of the attendants, another American that was trying to get onto the same connecting flight to LAX informed us that when our plane had landed, our connecting flight had taken off with standby ticket people in our seats.

We followed two different ladies, and our group ended up being split into two separate lines. We moved to the line for Cathay Pacific. Once we got to the front of the line, we were told that they couldn’t do anything to help us because our starting ticket was through Dragon Air, not Cathay. So, we moved to a line at Dragon Air. Some waited in one line, and I waited in the other. Chaos ensued. We all got to the point of..just give us a flight back to the States. New York, Chicago, LA…just get us back there. And give connecting flights to get to where we need to go from there. Just get us back to the States. We almost got somewhere. And then the booking system crashed.

They apologized profusely and said that they would be putting us up in a hotel for the night. We got stickers to put on, and we got to go through customs. Another Hong Kong stamp for our passport. We followed this lady to where the hotel shuttles are, followed a guy to another place where we would wait once again. Our hotel shuttle finally showed up, and an hour later we were in a Royal Garden hotel. It is 9:50pm. We are given meal vouchers for dinner, breakfast, and lunch along with our room keys. They front desk informs us that dinner would be served on the 3rd floor at 10:15pm.

Checking into the hotel

Checking into the hotel

Steph and I went to our room, dropped off our stuff, and then we headed downstairs to meet up with everyone for dinner. Dinner was amazing. There was all sorts of food – good food. And dessert was amazing. Tiramisu, mousse, brownie things, a huge chocolate fondue fountain with marshmallows and cream puffs to dip in it, as well as a Haagen Daz ice cream bar. I think that everyone had at least two plates of food and then one or more plates of dessert. It was a great way to end the night and have all of us relax after a crazy day.

Kaylee, Janelle, Kevin

Kaylee, Janelle, Kevin

Stephanie

Stephanie

Jesse and Chase

Jesse and Chase

We woke up early and met downstairs at 5:30am the next morning. When we checked out and turned in our remaining meal vouchers, they handed us sandwiches and orange juice since we would be missing breakfast on the 3rd floor at 6am. We rode back to the airport, and thus began day two of trying to get home.

Headed back to the airport to try and get home

Headed back to the airport to try and get home

And we don't care

And we don’t care

Chase and I gave up on the lines after a while. We sat on the floor with everyone’s bags and recorded several videos as a form of stress relief.

Working out connecting flights

Working out connecting flights

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Quinn is done beyond done

Quinn is done beyond done

After 4 1/2 hours of running around, being sent in circles, and standing in multiple lines, all of us FINALLY got tickets to LAX on a flight that would be leaving at 12:55pm.

We have tickets!

We have tickets!

We made it through security, got another stamp in our passport, emailed our families, got some starbucks for the wait, and then *finally* made it onto the plane which landed up in LAX on April 21, 2012 at 10:40am. It was an extremely long day.

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Titanic!

A bunch of us went out and saw Titanic in 3D late last night. We met up, ate dinner at different local noodle shops, and headed down to Zhongshan Lu for the movie. We got ice cream, saw the movie, and after it was over we found a bakery that is open 24/7. Since it was such a nice night out, we ended up walking all the way back to campus (at least 3 miles, probably more). It was a fun night.

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Language

I have my Chinese 102 final tomorrow. I’m taking a break from studying right now. I get to update you all after a while, and i get to give my brain a slight rest. Two birds with one stone. Now I just need to switch my brain’s language track back into English at full force. This might take a bit, but I don’t want to get too far away from Chinese. I still need to brush up on my self introduction for the oral part of the final that is in the morning after this.

I was analyzing the amount of Chinese that I now know and weighed it against my knowledge of Spanish. I have come to the conclusion that my level of competency in Chinese and Spanish are about the same. I’m not entirely sure how much Spanish I remember/retained from 3 years in high school and that one semester in college. Chinese, on the other hand, is pretty darn fresh in my mind. But honestly with the amount I can communicate with others (very, very little. 一点点。muy muy pocito.) alongside my ability to grasp an extremely loose grip on what the situation is and what they are saying (provided that the situation is an extremely simplistic one, they are speaking slowly, and I can observe everything around me), I have to say that my Spanish level and Chinese level are about the same at this point.

So, for those of you back home, apologies in advance for the 3 language sentences. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty amusing hearing English, Spanish, and Chinese coming out of my mouth in the same sentence. My brain does a darn good job confusing them. Or I might be looking for a word that I don’t know in the language I happen to be in, so it gives me the word in another language. For example – wo me quiero dormir. My brain keeps mixing up “wo” and “yo”. If it takes me a while to say an extremely simple sentance…This is probably going to be the reason why.

Well, back to my studying. Laterz! (I went through way too many possibilities of saying goodbye…in too many languages. That’s it. Back to Chinese.)

Being Sick

Can I just point out that being sick away from home is terrible? Being sick when out of your home country puts a whole new spin on it all. One of the biggest noticeable differences is the difference in diet. It’s something that you know is there, but it is even more noticeable when you are sick and don’t have access to the foods you would normally eat when sick. I think that would be the thing that I found the biggest issue with being sick over here with my however many hour flu thing. I’m pretty sure it was a 24 hour bug, because I was playing Frisbee on the beach the next day after class. I’m doing fine now. Just an observation about being sick while in another country. Hey, it was better than “the plague” that happened during Mexico Outreach Spring 2011. I was able to stay in my room here. I didn’t have to go to class and got to sleep off the virus in my room. And now I’m better 🙂

Fair? Ahhh Family :)

Paulo aka Paus (my little brother here in Xiamen) – “I think my teacher is very fair. We get three chances. First chance, you have to stand up. Second chance, you have to stand outside the door by the window looking in. Third chance, you have to stand out by the gate of the school.”

Victoria (his mother, my mom here in Xiamen) – “That does not sound very fair to me!”

Paus – “It is very fair, I think.”

(pause)

Kristen and I bust up laughing.

A conversation that took place last night when Kristen and I went had dinner with our family. XICF (Xiamen Internation Christian Fellowship) started a program for families to “adopt” a student during their time here. Our family is Pastor Gabe, his wife Victoria, and their two kids – Jaisis who is ten, and Paulo who is six.

We’re back!!

We’re back!! No, I’m not back in the States yet. I still have a month here in China. Oh my gosh. I only have 4 more weeks here. Eep! Now that is an odd thought that I don’t even want to contemplate yet.

Well, got up nice and early to register for classes. Curses on the time difference between China and California. I had to get up at about 5:45 to fix my schedule so it would be set for registration at 6:00. After I got everything settled, I went back to bed for about 2 hours. That got me rested enough to start the day so I got ready and got breakfast downstairs. I packed everything up into my backpack and duffel. Yep. Even after buying everything that I did on the Trek, everything still fit in those 2 bags (and my little purse). Score.

All of us were stuffed into taxis and rushed to the airport. It took us quite a while to get there. If ANYONE in the States ever complains about traffic again…just..no. Not even. I’m pretty sure we almost died about 7 times. At least. I wasn’t paying attention to the minor almost accidents. That was the “we almost got crushed by vehicles twice the size of this taxi…We’re gonna die” incidents. But we all survived. We all made it to the airport. And we all got onto the plane on time. And that is all that matters. As Chase put it, “It was an adventure.”

The plane ride wasn’t bad, nor was the bus ride back to Xiada. Oh my goodness, the way everyone was on the bus compared to our first time making that drive from the airport to the university….nothing in common. This time, everyone was stretched out in any way comfortable, joking and totally at ease with each other. This is what happens when you stick a group of 15 people together and then have them travel around China together, experiencing the things that we did. It was kinda funny though.

When we drove onto campus, it was like…oh my gosh, you guys, we’re home! Even more so when walking back into our room. I seriously felt like I was coming home. That I am home. Xiamen is home for us. At least, in China it is. All of us have missed this place. Even better, we are going to get to have an entire weekend to rest and destress (and prepare!) before classes start back up on Monday. I’m going to be taking Chinese 102 in the morning, and EPR in the afternoon (Eastern Philosophy and Religion). I’m looking forward to both of those classes.

Well, it is getting later. I should probably find myself some dinner. I’m also really wanting to head down to the beach tonight. Spend some time alone on the beach, read my Bible, have a chat with God, and simply be. Sounds good to me.

I’ve caught you up on the entire Trek more or less. If you want stories, email me and ask. I’ll do my best to come up with some for you. I survived. I’m alive. And even better, I’m home.

I’ll update you all later. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some more pictures for you to see.

Beijing and Shanghai

So, we left Xi’an and headed to Beijing on a train. We were in a sleeper car. 12 hour ride from Xi’an to Beijing. It wasn’t too bad. We slept away several of those hours. We had to wake up around 4:30/5am though. We pulled into the station at 6am, checked into our hotel, got an hour or two of rest, and then we were off to the Summer Palace.

In Beijing, we had a full full schedule. We visited the Temple of Heaven, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Spirit Way (Ming Tombs). We were there for 5 days. Sunday was our day off. I went to Beijing International Christian Fellowship with some people in our group that morning. Earlier, almost all of us got up before dawn and went to Tian’anmen Square to see the flag raising at dawn. It was a gorgeous day that Sunday, too! There was a clear sky and snow on the ground.

We went from Beijing to Shanghai on a sleeper train as well. This one was a 15 hour ride though. It was a considerably different experience. Seriously, we were in the foreigners car. Almost everyone in that car was a foreigner. I think there was one berth that had Chinese in it. We got to sleep in a little on this one though. We didn’t pull in until 10:30am.

We had 2 days in Shanghai. The day we arrived and, also, one full day. I didn’t do a ton in Shanghai. It was mainly a rest time. I did go out and explore downtown a bit with some people that first day. It was such a nice day that we all wanted to be outdoors.

Until, that is, we ran into this group of super vivacious Chinese that convinced us to go to a tea place with them. Pretty sure we got scammed. We got to try some good tea, learned some about it, too. However, the trade-off of that was some super flirty Chinese. Both the guys and the girls. Can you say predatory? Shudder. It was kinda amusing though. Tiana got proposed to. She ignored the question. Which, for Chinese..that means no. Well, it could have been much, much worse. Halfway through, they asked if we wanted to stop because if we kept going, it would cost more money. We stopped right then. It cost 220 kuai (yuan/RMB) per person. Yuck… But again, it could have been much, much worse. Thank you, God.

The rest of my time there, I mostly stayed around the hotel. I needed a rest day. A lot of the group went to Hangzhou during the full day. I didn’t want to spend that much money, and I was perfectly content to having a day of rest.