After having a few days to settle in here in Qingdao, I thought I would share about my experience flying from the US to China. Specifically my journey from Beijing to Qingdao.
My journey to China began in Minnesota and from there I had a few hour flight to Seattle. This flight was fairly typical and everything went smoothly.
The flight from Seattle to Beijing was next and was the longest flight I had ever been on, 12 hours. As I boarded the plane, I thought to myself what in the world am I going to do for TWELVE HOURS!? Lucky for me there were small screens on the backs of each seat and tons of free movies and television shows. I was definitely kept busy. The toughest part of this flight for me was the sleeping or not sleeping part. I found myself dosing in and out of consciousness a few times but I don't think I ever fully fell asleep.
After what felt like forever, we finally landed in Beijing. And this is when everything became difficult, hence the "extra long trip" part of the title. When I landed I had about an hour and a half to go through customs, get my luggage, recheck my luggage, go through security, get to my gate, and load the plane. I'm sure you can already see my dilemma... Going through customs went very quickly, however, getting my luggage took what seemed like a small eternity. By the time I got my luggage and was next in line to check my bags, the man at the counter told me I couldn't check my bags because it was too soon to departure time. Mind you there was still about 30 minutes until my plane was scheduled to leave.
And so the wild goose chase began. The man at baggage claim told me to try to go through security with my two massive suitcases and then have them check my bags at the gate. I knew they wouldn't let me but I didn't know what else to do so I tried it. The security guys looked at me like I was absolutely crazy for thinking I could get through security without checking any of my luggage. They told me to go to the Delta Airlines office and see if they can book me a flight for the next morning. It took about 20 minutes just to find where the offices were and then another 5 minutes to find someone to help me get into the office area, only to find out that they had all left for the day.
At this point I had been awake for over 24 hours and just wanted to get to Qingdao already. With tears welling up in my eyes I sent a message to Carl, the guy from my school who was going to pick me up from the airport. He called me and told me he would find a hotel for me for the night and work to get me a ticket for a flight in the morning. He also assured me that this kind of thing happens a lot and that it is not a big deal. Knowing I was in good hands, but still frustrated and exhausted, I called my mom. I could barely get the word hello out of my mouth before I began to cry. It took me a few moments to finally calm down enough to explain everything to her. I don't know what it is about moms, but even from the other side of the world she still calmed me down and helped ease my stress.
Luckily, I was able to get a hotel for the night, as well as a flight for the next morning. The hotel was really nice and the staff were all very helpful. I slept like a baby that night, which was probably because I was completely exhausted, both physically and emotionally.
The next morning I got to the airport a few hours early, just in case, especially since my luck with this airport was already not the best. And sure enough, my morning did not end up going as smoothly as hoped or planned. I checked my bags but had to pay for them being slightly over the weight limit. So in broken English he tried to tell me where to go to pay for it. I finally found where I was supposed to go and paid for my luggage. Again, in broken English the lady tried to explain where to go to get my boarding pass. If I was fluent in Chinese I feel like all of this could have been avoided, however that was not the case. I was running all over the place trying to find the right place to be, only to find out I just had to return to the same counter I checked my bags at, show the guy my receipt for paying for the bags and then he could hand me the already printed boarding pass...
Thankfully, the rest of the day went much better. Security didn't take very long and I found my gate right away. The flight from Beijing to Qingdao was only about an hour and a half, which after a 12 hour flight the day before felt like nothing. Then FINALLY I landed in Qingdao, where I was able to quickly get my bags and was then greeted by Carl, who didn't look nearly as excited to see me as I was to see him. And that's saying something because he looked pretty excited to see me.
Lesson learned, just because you make a plan doesn't mean life will listen and follow along with whatever that plan may be. I'm just so grateful that when things didn't go as planned I had incredible people around me to support me through it all.