Archives For fly to China

From my many domestic flights within China, I have noticed a few things that are consistent. It appears to me that if there are many foreigners on the flight, they will all be seated in the middle of the plane. Maybe this is to make sure a flight attendant with strong foreign language skills can speak with us, or maybe they assume we are all friends. I don’t know.

The other seat I am usually assigned is in the back of the plane. I don’t mean near the back, I mean the very last row. This is where I was on my last trip, the last row. The flight was full, and the only foreigners I remember seeing were with me, so in the back we went!mynormal

I will have to say this for the fleet of planes I have flown in China; they are almost always spotless on the inside and look new. The flying experience has come a long way since I first started going to China. Years ago there were no assigned seats, so when we boarded the plane there was a crazy rush of people getting on the plane, because everyone wanted a good seat.

This is the view when you are the last passenger off the plane! If your patience can last that long, it is very easy to exit the plane this way.mynormal2

One of the things that I try to avoid when I am traveling is being in a hurry to get to a flight. On a recent trip through China, I was unable to give myself the additional time before a flight because security took much longer than anticipated. As we approached our gate, we got their only to learn we would have a slight delay in boarding. As I looked around, there were many families also waiting to board. I can only imagine how horrible those words must sound to people traveling with children. I wondered how you can entertain children at an airport? There is limited space, no toys and a lot of impatient people all around.

TravelChildren1Soon I found two young boys that seemed happy about our delay. I thought that it was a great idea for the parents to give them airplanes to play with. If the children had any hesitation about flying, I am sure having planes to play with helped. Also, having the lights with multiple colors illuminating the planes truly caught the children’s eyes. The boys chose an open area to play, and they didn’t disturb any of the other passengers.

TravelChildren2Once we boarded the plane, I introduced myself to my aisle mate. She didn’t seem too happy about having a foreigner sitting so close to her, but I think she eventually accepted my bald head, blue eyes, and big nose. After using a weird looking guy like me for entertainment, her grandmother found another way to occupy the little girl’s attention. Sometimes you don’t need a toy or anything else to hold the attention of a child and keep them quiet.

As you can see in the picture below, sometimes all you need is a window! I am sure a young mind can find many interesting and new things to see at an airport, just ask my new little friend!TravelChildren3

Surprised by Linyi!

February 2, 2016 — Leave a comment

Recently I went through Terminal 2 at the Beijing Airport, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Once I made it through security, there was a hall that led you to your gate. The wall on the far side of the hall had this picture on it!

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I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes

There aren’t many places on the earth that are as special to me as Linyi, China. When I first went there in 2002, the population was probably around 500,000, and it wasn’t considered a major city by any means. In fact, many people would probably think of it as more of an agricultural area than an important city.

The next year I was teaching at the University in Linyi, and I grew to love the city and its citizens. It would be hard for me to think of someone I met that wasn’t nice, kind, and helpful. Believe me, when you don’t speak the language, those are the people you want around you!

My sleepy little Linyi has blossomed and grown into a city of well over a million people, and I am happy for their success. I must give the leadership of Linyi credit, because they have done a fantastic job of developing the city. Where fish camps and trash dumps once were, now you have beautiful parks lining the river, so the progress is very impressive! Here is a picture of the same river you see in the picture above taken a few years earlier.

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I am very proud to say I have lived in Linyi, and it is one of the main reasons I consider China my second home. Congratulations to Linyi and all of the kind hearted and hardworking people living there for getting some well-deserved recognition. I still couldn’t believe the massive sign when I saw it!

On my last trip to China, I had two friends with me, and they have both been to China multiple times. They are both truly world travelers, one is even a flight attendant. All of that is to say that even if you think you know “the system” for packing, you can be surprised.

As we checked in at the airline’s counter at Terminal 2 in Beijing, we were stopped. Apparently something in our luggage had caused a problem, and we had to wait for a person with more authority to come and tell us what was wrong. When you have a connecting flight to catch, have already had to go through customs, get your luggage, exchange money, take a shuttle to another terminal, and get checked in for your flight, you don’t want any problems. Oh and did I mention the 14 hour flight we had already taken just to get to Beijing? So, you might say my state of mind wasn’t the best it could be, and now we had to wait for the security guy to approve their luggage.

The issue was the battery charging sticks in their checked luggage. They are frowned upon by the security people in China. Here is a picture of my friends going through their luggage at the check in counter trying to find what was causing the problem within their luggage.

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We were told that the battery charging sticks should not be in the checked luggage. It was necessary for them to be in our carry on luggage. So, on the return trip home at the airport, my friends had their battery charging sticks in their carry on luggage, and they were stopped again! This time we almost missed our flight because it took so long to get through all of the issues the security personnel had in relation to the battery charging sticks. My advice is don’t travel with any battery charging sticks if you are traveling within China!

Recently I spent some time in the Qingdao airport, and a few things stood out to me. The airport was quite clean, and it seemed to be user friendly. I was impressed by that.qingdao1

When I went to the rest room, I noticed a man hard at work cleaning a sink and stocking the dispensers. Also, I noticed how clean the entire restroom was. When I was exiting the restroom, I noticed an area reserved for workers, and this is what I saw mounted on the wall.qingdao2

I am sorry the picture didn’t turn out very well, but as you can see, the bathroom’s custodial team had a schedule and/or a checklist. I like checklists, so this caught my eye. It also looks like the person responsible has their badge with a photograph on it posted. I also like accountability!qingdao3

Another aspect I appreciated about this airport was a designated seating area for someone that may truly need it. As you can see, the list of people represented must truly appreciate this area specifically for their seating.

If your travel plans ever have you passing through Qingdao in the Shandong Province of China, I think you will be pleased with your time in the airport. By the way, Qingdao is where the Olympics sailing events were held during the 2008 Summer Olympics!

One of the things I enjoy most about this amazing airport are the sights.  When you land and taxi to your gate, you can see airlines from all around the world. Some of the jets have fascinating paint jobs.  Also, you may see a new style of airplane there.  I saw my first Airbus a380 there; it truly dwarfed the planes around it.  Thanks to the Beijing Capital Airport, I had my first ride in a 747 and a380.  747s aren’t being used as much as they were 12 years ago. 777s have a nice feature in the entertainment of passengers.  When I first started going to China, there was a screen at the front of each section, and everyone watched the same movie at the same time.  When it was over, there was a big crowd at the restrooms!  Now that people can select their own TV shows, movies, or music, the flights seem much more relaxing!

The Beijing Capital Airport is the second busiest in the world, so there is always something to see.  If you like to people watch, you have a very diverse group to view.  If you like aviation, there are very many planes to see!  If you like to watch the sunrise or enjoy a beautiful sunset, that is easily accommodated as the exterior walls of the airport are made of glass.  Getting a great view is very easy.  In fact, in the summer, you may want to choose to sit on the shady side of the terminal because it can be a little too warm for comfort in the sunshine.

 

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As I mentioned in an earlier blog, it is very easy to find signs in English to help you make your way through the Beijing Capital Airport.  Another good opportunity to help you through the airport are the free luggage carts.  Before you collect your luggage, may I suggest using one of the large carts, which will enable you to transport many normal sized pieces of luggage.  These can be a lifesaver if you have a lot of luggage with you!

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You will find these carts lined up throughout the airport. All you need to do to take one is to depress the handle to release the brake and away you go.  By the way, the airport prefers for the carts to be a couple of feet away from the luggage carousel when you retrieve your luggage.  It can get a little crowded, so a little space is appreciated, especially if you are removing a large piece of luggage from the carousel.

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If you are traveling with less luggage, say maybe a backpack and laptop case, the airport offers an option for you as well.  The carts they offer are significantly smaller, but are a huge assistance just the same.

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Don’t worry, the airport has lots of these carts, and they can be located in many places throughout the airport.  So, if you are tired after a long flight to Beijing, I would like to encourage you to take advantage of the free carts, the size selection is up to you!

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Once you arrive at the airport, if you need any assistance with your movement from gate to gate, or gate to luggage collection area, you have options.  I have seen many people take advantage of some of the offerings the airport provides.  If there is a single person, they may prefer to take the common wheel chair.  These are provided at the gate if needed, and an employee will wheel you to where you need to go.  They know the locations within the airport, so you won’t get lost having them helping you.  As you can see from the picture below, the wheelchairs are nothing fancy, but they get the job done, and from what I have seen, the workers are very cautious and courteous.

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Another option available to you is the golf cart.  These golf carts provide you with space for your luggage and, if you have people traveling with you, there is additional room for them as well.  Your airline will provide the carts and the driver as needed.  As with the people pushing the wheelchairs, the drivers know exactly where to take you within the airport.  The golf carts run on batteries, so they don’t have any exhaust to make the air unpleasant within the airport.  Also, the floors are very clean at the airport, so when the rubber tires turn on the squeaky clean tile floor, they make a noise that sound s like a child making a new pair of athletic shoes squeak on a floor.

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Within the airport, there are also trains that take you from the arrival gates to the main terminal or the reverse of that, depending if you are departing or arriving.  These trains run regularly, so you never have to wait long for a train!  At times they may be crowed, but usually not too bad!  Don’t worry, the announcements about where to get off the train are made in Chinese and English, and the signs on the train are in Chinese and English as well!

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Did you know Beijing had another airport besides the famous Beijing Capital International Airport? It is called Nanyuan and it serves smaller cities, which is a huge help for local travelers. When I first used this airport, I had many very interesting impressions. One thing I noticed was that there were military airplanes in multiple areas of the airport. Some of them looked very old, so I thought maybe the aircraft were there to be mothballed. Regardless, that was something you don’t get to see every day.

As we taxied to the terminal, I noticed how much smaller the terminal was than the one at the International Airport for Beijing. In fact, there were no jet bridges coming out to reach the plane’s door for us to exit the plane and guide us into the terminal, so we used a ramp. Then, I noticed how the workers were loading the luggage and cargo on a trailer behind a farm tractor. I watched as the tractor pulled the luggage to a large shed. Everyone from my flight was walking toward the shed, so I followed the crowd. Once you entered the shed, the tractor and trailer pulled in, and people would get their luggage. It worked very efficiently, and I was able to retrieve my luggage must faster than at a large modern airport, so I was impressed.

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When you exited the shed, your luggage tags were checked, and you were directed into the terminal. The terminal itself was small and you could see the exit not too far away. When you exited the terminal, there was a group of taxi drivers there to provide the transportation. Luckily for me, all of the drivers were in a playful mood and were willing to show me some grace, because I didn’t speak their language very well at all. We joked around a lot about the price and my bald head. I wasn’t comfortable with the best price I found, so I just started walking toward the street thinking that someone would meet my price. As I got near the end of a parking lot, one taxi driver did stop me and told me that it was a long way to walk to the main road. I didn’t believe him, but as I looked around, I changed my mind. We negotiated a price and away I went.

Nanyuan has been remodeled and it is much larger now. It is the oldest airport in China; it opened in 1910 as a military airport. Although this airport can now handle many more flights and passengers, I regret the loss of the special uniqueness it had as the old tiny airport not many people knew to use. Another charm that is no longer there is the taxi drivers are now lined up waiting on the fares, just like at the big airports and train stations. You just walk up to the next free taxi in line—and there is no negotiating for the price.

 

 

Water, Water Everywhere

Since my grandparents were great gardeners, I observed a few things while watching the Chinese around my campus work in their gardens.

One of the first things I noticed is that my Chinese neighbors would use lots of water on their plants. The diameter of their water hoses was probably four times the size of a standard hose we would use around our houses in the states. These hoses seemed to usually be about the color of rust, not green like we usually have in the states.

I have seen farmers water each plant individually using a metal bowl with a long handle dipping from a big bucket of water. Yes, that does take a long time if there are many plants. Sometimes, the gardeners would just pick up the bucket of water to water the plants.

 

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My campus apartment was high enough for me to look across the street and over a neighborhood’s wall, so I could see my neighbors working on their garden. This community garden was interesting to me because there was a well in the garden, but a person had to pump the water by hand. Another interesting thing about this garden is that there was an outhouse near it, and I could watch the people who worked in the garden not let anything go to waste from the outhouse.

 

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Everyone living in the compound came to do a little work in this garden. I saw children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents all pitching in and doing what they could do to help their garden flourish. I must admit, they had a very nice garden, and it was fun to watch it grow. I am sure they had many delicious meals as a result from all of their hard labor―and watering!

 

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Beau!

To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!