The adventures begin in Yueyang, Hunan, China!
After leaving Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) at 6:25 pm on Sunday, August 22, 2010, my husband, John, and I arrived in Yueyang, Hunan, China on Tuesday, August 24th at 2:30pm via stops in Los Angeles, CA; Guangzhou (pronounced Guangjo), China; and Changsha, Hunan, China. It was quite the trip. The flight to LA was delayed, but still short (only 4 hours). Then we had just enough time to navigate the LA airport to find and board our 16 hour flight to China. That flight was rough. The seats were the most cramped seats I have ever seen on an aircraft, and the flight took longer than expected. After arriving in China, we had time for “breakfast” in the airport before our final flight that was approximately a little over an hour (quite the reprieve after the night’s excruciatingly long flight). Even though the flights left something to be desired, namely personal space in which to stretch, I can’t really complain because we were fortunate to even have seats since we booked our flights for just under $900 a person the Friday before we departed.
Once we arrived, we were warmly greeted by the driver, the president of the university at which we are to teach, and one of the current English teachers and our translator Diana, along with our initial contact Lily. They whisked us off to lunch at the best Chinese restaurant near the airport in Changsha (complete with private room) before driving us about 2 hours to Yueyang. Thankfully, they recognized that we were tired and let us sleep at our hotel upon our arrival. We were told to be ready at 5:30 for a “mini” welcome banquet in our honor. This banquet was in the restaurant of the hotel, again in a private room, and consisted of more traditional Chinese food thrust in our faces while we were introduced to almost every single important person and director in the university and its affiliating company, Sinopec.
On a side note, the Chinese really do use chopsticks for every meal. While I am decent at chopsticks due to a lesson from my father in using them by picking up ice cubes from my water glass at a Chinese restaurant when I was young, John was only okay them on Tuesday. His lack of ability broke the ice so to speak at our first awkward meals by giving everyone something to joke about. He has in the past few days greatly improved his chopstick using and is as good as I am now.
The first day ended shortly after dinner. Diana took us to the beautiful South Lake Square to walk around for a bit, but graciously recognized that we were exhausted from the long trip and the 12 hour time difference and took us back to the hotel. We crashed immediately and slept for 12 hours. It was glorious, even though the Chinese only believe in hard beds. Not firm mattresses, my friends. Hard mattresses. Like imagine sleeping on a board with a few blankets over it hard.
All in all, the day was good. It was a relief to finally be in China after all the talk of plans and the long trip. Even though it is a different country entirely, it still felt like home in a sense. This is where I am supposed to be, at least for right now. I still don’t know why, but it is what it is. And it is Yueyang, Hunan, China. A “small” city of 600,000 that features a Walmart, a KFC, and a McDonalds mixed in with the local culture and history.
I have many, many more thoughts and adventures to share, but this post is long enough. Look soon for more! And while I would say goodbye in Mandarin, I only know hello…