My flight was pretty great, I had a couple of good books (You guys, how did I ever do long flights before ereaders?) and a seatmate who was the right amount of chatty for a 16-hour flight. We landed in Guangzhou, where I needed to go through immigration and customs before switching to a domestic flight to Yangzhou.
I waited at baggage claim for a while, but my bag didn’t turn up, and after the waiting crowd dispersed and the belt was empty, I had to admit it wasn’t coming. I wasn’t entirely surprised that my checked bag was missing, since I’d been rerouted a couple times, but I was still hopeful that mine was just going to be the last one off the plane.
So I waited in a couple lines and filled out some forms for my missing bag. It was pretty troublesome because I just landed so I didn’t have a phone number. I needed to get through customs so I could buy a SIM card and get a Chinese phone number, but I couldn’t go through customs without my bag. And by the time I’d finished sorting that part out, I’d missed my connecting flight to Yangzhou.
The airline rebooked me on the next flight, which would be leaving the next morning, and comped my hotel, which was lovely but didn’t really make me feel better because I was still going to have figure out my way to the hotel, navigate check in, using a hotel voucher, get myself fed in a strange city, make my way back to the airport on time and check back in for my new flight. Also I would need to sort out a SIM card or wifi, hopefully both, so that I could let my school and my family know that I was just missing, not actually dead. Trial by fire for my Chinese skills. (I’m actually not terribly worried about my bag, since airlines have lost my luggage before and it always turns back up in a day or two.)
Before I came, I thought a lot about how it would feel to be back in China, and what differences I’d notice and all the expat adventures I’d have, but when I left the airport, I was just glad the airport shuttle wasn’t too crowded and that the driver had agreed to tell me where to get out. It turns out that Guangzhou is a lot more tropical than I was expecting, with gorgeous bright flowers and palm trees. Unfortunately, I was dressed for an overly air-conditioned plane ride, so at the hotel I stripped down to just one sweaty layer and sink-washed the rest and left them drying in my room. Then I set off down the street, looking for food and/or wifi, when I noticed a familiar logo.
And that’s how I spent the first night of my Chinese adventure eating in a Pizza Hut in the wrong city.