Clare McCullough


My first five hours in Beijing

The year was newly 2018. January was just peeking its head around the corner of the calendar when I got on the plane to live in a country that I had only read articles about and seen in smog-filled photos. When I landed (a day early, a mistake I still blame on my father’s insistence that I keep in mind the time change) I dragged my bright red suitcase behind me. My goal was to find my way to a hotel for that first night. I did not think at the time to buy a new sim card to account for the Chinese firewall and was operating solely on a well-worn stack of papers that I had printed at my parent’s house. Forging ahead toward where I thought made the most sense; the line of taxis outside of the airport. Sweaty palms gripped my small amount of Yuan and I flagged down one and showed them the messy Chinese that I had painstakingly copied down onto one of the pieces of paper that I clung to like a life vest. But what I didn’t understand (besides the Mandarin that covered every tongue and street sign), was that I had made a mistake with my choice of taxi-driver. It wasn’t until I was standing in front of a nondescript building that was most certainly not my hotel without any method of getting back to the airport. I was effectively on my own. But by taking a deep breath and thanking my lucky stars that I had the foresight to download the offline-google translate of English-Mandarin I was able to find someone to call me a taxi back to the airport and I ended the day (if not a little shaken up) safe and sound where I was supposed to be.

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