As I reached the bottom of the stairs of my airplane, I hoisted my over-weight hand-carry up one stair at a time. I’ve never had to walk up the stairs of my flight before. I felt like a celebrity until I got up to the top entrance of the plane where I’m supposed to look back and wave at the paparazzi. I looked back, took a deep breath and said to myself, there no turning back – you’re going to Beijing…
As I sat waiting for other passengers to board the flight, I glanced around trying to look calm, controlled and content, thinking to myself “Seriously, who fly’s on the 1st of the 1st? It a public holiday!” A middle aged man politely excused himself, as he reached into his seat next to me. It was a full flight. The Captain announced to his staff to get ready for takeoff. This is when I started to panic. I asked myself “What am I doing here?” “Why am I going to Beijing?” “Is my Mandarin good enough to work in Beijing?” “Why are there people flying on the 1st of the 1st?!? Why are you even here?” Mind you this was the first time I’ve ever travelled alone. I shut my eyes and gripped on tightly to my seat until a few moments later an airhostess handed me an arrival card. I started filling in my details until I realised that I had not printed out my hotel address properly nor translated it into Chinese characters as it only resembled a few Pinyin words that did not make any sense to my outdated Chinese vocabulary at the back of my mind. How would the taxi driver know where my hotel is? I started to get nervous and desperately glanced around. After some failed attempts to grab the attention of the airhostess, the gentleman next to me, turns and asks me “Are you okay? I’m a local from Beijing, do you need any help?” That was the moment of relief. He filled in all the required details in Chinese and wrote my hotel address in Chinese characters so I would be able to show the taxi driver. From that moment on, all my doubts about my trip to Beijing faded.
As I pushed my trolley full of luggage towards the taxi gate, a large swarm of people rushed through running towards the taxis. There were many of them, parked in all different directions honking at each other with half open doors and potential clients screaming on top of their lungs trying to bargain for the best price. I’ve heard about black taxis which are a common mode of transport in Beijing, however to see that many of them with people lunging at them at every possible second, I had no chance. It was night time in the freezing cold as well. I just stood there clinging tightly to my luggage hoping that if I waited long enough, the crowd would eventually go. But it didn’t.
A tap on the shoulder, it was the gentleman I sat next to on the plane. He had already managed to successfully hail a taxi and offered to share it with me as my hotel was on the way to his workplace. My mother always told me to never get into a car with a stranger… I weighed my options. To get into a taxi with a stranger who is a local in Beijing and knows where they are going and already has a taxi on standby or to stand there in the freezing cold attempting to hail a taxi with my five bags of luggage, and try to bargain with a taxi driver who might take me to who knows where. I got in.
Twenty minutes later I arrived at my hotel; the gentleman refused to take my share of the taxi fare and even handed me a few boxes of famous souvenirs he had brought on his trip and then he leaves.
As I progressed through my month in Beijing as a foreigner this is one of many examples of how awesome and nice people in Beijing are. Even though there were many differences in culture and values, the one thing that stood out to me were that the people were always willing to help. My internship went very well which I’ve definitely learnt a lot which will help me in the future. I will never forget this life changing experience.