This is post I wrote the day I arrived in China 08/31/2012

Well it’s been 20 hours of flying on a plane, six hours of sleep and 8 or 9 thousand miles and I’m finally in Kaifeng. This is the place I’m going to call my home for the next 10 months. Let’s start with the trip itself. I have to admit, I was more than a little bit apprehensive about navigating myself halfway around the world by myself. But I got some encouragement early on. My Ipod was on shuffle and right about the point when it seemed my worries were getting the best of me a song by Sam Cooke (I can’t remember what it was called) came on and he sang “Jesus keep me safe as I’m traveling on.” It was then I was reminded that He is with me and He is guiding me to China and sure enough he got me there safely. Even through the labyrinth that is the Beijing airport. I had to take a train to the baggage claim and from there I had to go on a maze through hallways through customs and eventually to the gate.

Which brings me to a funny thing that I naively let happen. A man came up to me and swooped me out of my wandering around with a dazed look on my face while I was looking for the place to check my baggage. He swooped me out of there and grabbed my boarding pass and asked me where I was headed. Then he proceeded to get me to the baggage check by cutting in front of the line that was snaking from it. Now I knew where this was going but I had no idea how bad it would turn out. I knew the guy wanted a kick back for helping me. And all I had was American money. So I reached for a five. He shook his head in frustration. That wasn’t going to cut it. So I reached for a ten. He shook his head again. Really? Seriously. Ten American dollars for a measly ten minutes of work. To cut to the chase, I ended up giving him 25 American dollars for his services but only after some haggling he wanted 40! Shit son! That’s crazy. And I was on a limited budget because I knew I had expenses when I arrived.

I’ve been talking to this girl in China her name is Wang Hua, she goes by Ting Ting or Tina. We’ve been chatting for about five months and doing video chats periodically. For all intents and purposes she is my girlfriend. Well, we finally met today at the Zhengzhou Airport. When my eyes met hers, as cheesy and annoying as this may sound, something inside me clicked. And after spending the day with her (I arrived in Zhengzhou at 10 am) I have come to the conclusion that there may be a future for us after all. She doesn’t say much, her English isn’t the best, but I found myself actually smiling when her hand touched mine for the first time. I can actually sit in silence with this girl and not be bogged down by the uncomfortable feelings that naturally go with that. We walked through Kaifeng for hours stopping at shops to window shop and I thoroughly enjoyed myself which is saying a lot because I hate shopping, always have.

I had some moments of self doubt and depression today that were washed away, partly because of Ting Ting and partly because China is a good fit for me. These bad feelings came about partly to the fact that it seemed for a moment that I forgot all the Chinese I had ever learned. It seemed as though when people were speaking Chinese to me or around me it came out as a jumbled mess of indiscernible phrases that could’ve been Dutch as well as they could’ve been Chinese. But I know that living here will improve my Chinese. And I have vowed to make a conscious effort to practice Chinese whenever possible, which will be a lot.  But I have peace and satisfaction in knowing that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

In a completely unrelated train of thought I have broken my vow that my last cigarette was going to be in LAX. This is due to the fact that China is a veritable smokers paradise. The vow was broken in the cab on the way to Kaifeng. We were stopped at traffic and the cabby randomly offered me a cigarette. This place is a smokers paradise because first of all you can smoke anywhere anytime and nobody complains. But the biggest factor is the price and selection of smokes you have available in China. You go into a smoke shop and there are like twenty different brands of cigarettes to choose from. They have your classic American brands like Marlboro. But they also have a dozen or so Chinese brands each one differing in price and flavor. Each one is different and the prices range from 6 RMB (about a dollar US) to 25 RMB (about 4 dollars US).

 

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