My journey from St. Louis, to Salt Lake City, to Seattle, to Shanghai, to Jinan, was pretty uneventful. During my overnight to Shanghai I sat next to a guy named Nate, who is from Wisconsin. He has been in China for four months teaching in another city, and was traveling home for a break and then back to China. It was great having him there and made the 12-hour flight so much shorter. He gave me some tips and weird culture advice that have already came to be true. We exchanged WeChat information and hopefully will meet up again some day. That’s one of the things I love about travel, crossing paths with people from all over the world who simply are floating along like you are, and for some unexplained reason you bump into each other in the course of your life. Maybe you’ll see each other again and maybe you won’t, but for that moment in time he or she passed into in your life if nothing else for a good memory or to help you find luggage carts in the Shanghai airport.
My flight from Shanghai to Jinan was a little different, considering I was one of very few of my ethnicity on this flight. The Sprite concoction (some sort of 7Up I think) had no ice, and orange juice seemed to be everyone’s drink of choice. Once landing I thankfully corralled all of my luggage on a cart and to my surprise, school officials were waiting for me right on time exactly where promised.
I finally met Shane, my foreign affairs person from the school who has been helping me all of these months. I was a little scared when we got to the car and they said, “You get in first.” I’m thinking this is where I get sold on the black market. However, once we were driving, Shane served as my tour guide, telling me about the highlights of Jinan and asking me about myself. I could tell he was wanting to make a good impression, because the passenger guy fell asleep and Shane said, “Yes, I know it’s late, but it’s more important at this time to make a new friend.” I knew then I was going to be OK.
It was an hour to my apartment from the airport, and once we arrived at my apartment it was almost 1 a.m. Monday morning, a full two and a half days with the time change since I had left St. Louis. Shane showed me around the apartment, and it was 10 times greater than what I had pictured. (Photos attached to this blog.) And, I was due to be at lunch with officials the next day at 11:30 a.m. No rest of the jet lagged.
I noticed at the Jinan airport, which was touted as in international airport, that there were no women’s toilets, just holes in the ground with porcelain foot places. The smell was unbelievably bad. And, I also noticed that our vice principal chucked a water bottle on the ground outside before walking in, instead of waiting to throw it in the trash. Little did I know these two things were foreshadowing what I would see when the sun rose the next day.