Adjusting to Beijing time, customs and food - Part 1 of 4
October 10, 2006
Once in Beijing, things started to get a bit confusing. We did not arrive directly at the gate, rather, abled passengers departed the aircraft via mobile stairs. Rodney was taken a different direction via a mobile elevator. But he was taken in a wheelchair that was not his own, rather it was one that belonged to the airport. Once on the ground, we shared the same bus to the terminal and the wheelchair attendant navigated us to the baggage claim area. We had assumed that Rodney’s wheelchair would arrive at the baggage claim, but it had not. The wheelchair attendant and the rest of us waited a bit in case it arrived at the oversize baggage claim area. This seemed a bit odd to me, as this wheelchair was not oversize. Eventually enough time passed that it was apparent that our wheelchair was not arriving. After all, we had long since obtained all of our baggage, and we could see that other People to People Ambassadors had obtained theirs. The baggage carousel was empty and coming to a halt. Wayne and the wheelchair attendant went off somewhere to investigate. In the meantime, it was becoming apparent that our group was grouped together and preparing to leave, with the exception of Rodney and me, who were waiting on the other side of the baggage carousel waiting for Wayne and the wheelchair attendant to come back. It was shortly after this, that Rodney and I met our guide, Yan Lixin (Helen), who would be with us throughout the rest of our journey in China.
At this point, I was becoming a bit concerned, as Wayne was off with the wheelchair attendant looking for the wheelchair, and we had a group to connect with. For the time being, I thought I should stay with Rodney, but at the same time, I thought that we should be connecting with our group. Apparently Helen was thinking the same thing, because about the time the rest of our group was starting to way away to the bus that would take us to Beijing, Helen walked over to meet us. I explained what had happened. She took our baggage cart and lead Rodney and me out of the baggage claim and not too far away outside where the bus was waiting for us. After I provided a description of Wayne, she went back to the baggage claim to look for him, but he had not returned yet. She was back and forth a bit, came back, and it was decided that I would try to look for Wayne at the baggage claim, as I knew what he looked like, and in the meantime, she introduced me to Wendy, the other national guide, who would watch after Rodney and our baggage. But I was not able to get back inside the baggage claim area as it was a secured area. Helen then proceeded to ask the security staff (in Chinese) if I could go back to the baggage claim area to look for Wayne. Although Helen was insistent, the staff said I needed a passport, which happened to be in Wayne’s hands at the moment. Around this time, Helen suggested that if Rodney’s wheelchair was not found, we would help him on to the bus, and a wheelchair would be available at the hotel. By this time, most of our group was already on the bus, and then we were finally able to find Wayne. Apparently, the wheelchair had been left behind in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong established a good record as far as assistance at that airport, but now Rodney was without his wheelchair. They would be shipping the wheelchair to Beijing once it was found. At this time, I was already starting to appreciate very much the assistance of Helen and Wendy. And this would be the first of many times that Rodney would climb 3 to 4 steep steps (steep for him, that is) in to and out of a bus.
After all that commotion, it was nice to finally be sitting for about an hour on our bus to the hotel. We had finally arrived and made connections with our group. During the trip, Helen took the time to introduce herself and to tell us much about the country that she lived in, the one that we were visiting. She told us that she had grown up in Beijing, a city with a population of almost 15,000,000, so she could truly give us a local perspective on the city. She also told us about the country of China. We looked forward every day to having Helen or Wendy in the bus telling us various tidbits about China and the particular city that we were in. To me, Beijing was a very big, crowded city with a lot of people. There were some modern high rise buildings, but many buildings were older and not so high. There was a lot of car traffic, it took us some time to get to the hotel. Fortunately, there was also lots and lots of bicycle traffic, I don’t want to think what it would be like if more of these people rode in cars instead of their bicycles.
As we bussed around Beijing and the other cities, we also got to know our fellow traveler attorneys and guests, as Rodney was always the last to get off, giving opportunity for greetings and chat as they filed by one by one getting off and on the bus at every stop.
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