a little luck
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I arrived in Beijing on September 5th after a 13-hour flight, with the goal of meeting my friend Linda at the airport. We both had daughters on Team USA. I also needed to find Matt, a swim coach from Michigan and a friend of Linda and her daughter. Matt lived in Beijing and offered to let Linda and me stay in his apartment for the first week while his roommate traveled. For the second week, we had a reservation at the Continental Grand hotel within walking distance of the Water Cube.
I’d been in a few overseas airports before, but Beijing’s airport thoroughly confused me.
I eventually discovered that Linda’s flight should have already arrived at a different terminal. I frantically waited for a slow bus to take me there, feeling lost and late. With no international cell phone and not knowing Matt’s address, I had no way to find them if we didn’t connect at the airport. Could I find them at the other terminal? The worst-case scenario would require me to find a hotel for the first week.
That seemed doable, so I breathed a little easier. I found out later all the hotels were full.
Luck was on my side. Linda’s flight had been delayed. I finally arrived in the correct place and asked where arriving passengers entered the expansive terminal. I held my first of many conversations with language barriers with friendly Chinese volunteers.
I had no idea what Matt looked like, but there weren’t many young American men waiting by the arrivals. My relief when I found him felt tangible, a wave of gratitude. He reminded me of Ben as we chatted during the wait for Linda. Matt told me about his job teaching English in Beijing. When Linda arrived, we traveled by taxi to his apartment. On the way, he pointed out lush flowers lining all the main roads.
The week before the Olympics, blooming plants suddenly appeared in a colossal landscaping effort.
Matt lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment on a high floor in a run-down residential building. From the middle of the bathroom, I could touch all four walls, use the toilet, and take a shower. The water from the showerhead drenched everything in the room and fell into a drain by the toilet. Low water pressure contributed to a sewer smell, and we kept the bathroom door closed. I didn’t mind the less-than-luxurious accommodations. Matt shared the rare gift of seeing the real Beijing.
Beijing sprawled on a grand scale.
Colorful banners hung down whole sides of tall buildings, showing Chinese Paralympians playing their sport. Every element of Beijing contrasted to other big cities I’d seen. The highways with at least six lanes clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic. The hundreds of bicycles in sight at any one time packed together right next to vehicles. The traffic typically was much heavier because they had banned most cars and trucks from the city during the Paralympics.
Impossible to imagine.
6/20/2019 08:15:11 am
Hello 大家好 Cindy. I really enjoy reading your blogs, etc. you are such a great writer!
6/20/2019 07:02:05 pm
Thanks, Jan! Beijing really was the trip of a lifetime for me. Lots of adventures coming up on the blog! :-)
6/20/2019 08:44:18 am
Wonderful to travel this journey with you.
6/20/2019 07:05:05 pm
Hi Esther! This post starts an exciting part of the journey. Glad to have you along! ❤
6/20/2019 09:16:21 am
It has been fun to relive these adventures with you, first through reading your book, and again in your blog. I am thankful we were able to spend that first week with Matt; that is what I remember most about Beijing, other than the Water Cube of course! It was a great adventure, for sure! ❤️
6/20/2019 07:10:42 pm
Hi Linda! It was so nice to share Beijing adventures with you, and with Matt the first week, also. My only regret is that I didn't buy more of the beautiful cloisonné bird ornaments at the market for the equivalent of $2 US for a box of 12. ;-) It really was such a wonderful trip!
6/20/2019 02:02:07 pm
Fascinating and a culture shock all at once. Another brilliant entry, Cindy!
6/20/2019 07:26:19 pm
Thank you, Jason! The culture really was fascinating. Beijing was my biggest adventure!
6/23/2019 06:54:30 pm
Thanks, Val! Though I really wasn't calm, just not completely panicked, since I thought I could get a hotel if I had to. (I didn't know that the hotels were full.) ;-)
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