A 23 minute journey

Note: This post was written as a response to the final exam essay question for the writing and editing course I am currently completing. Each of us had to reflect on the work we had completed this semester. 

In 1903, the Wright brothers did the world a solid by inventing the first successful airplane. Orville and Wilbur took the thrill of travelling across countries, continents and seas and transcended it into a different zone altogether. 11 years later, the first commercial flight took place. It was a short 23 minute long flight between Tampa and St Petersburg in the United States with the plane flying only 15 meters above about 30 kilometres of bay waters. It was short, but this 23 minute journey completely changed the face of travel.

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Living the high life

I hate flying.

That’s a lie. The up-in-the-air part I can handle; it’s the take-off and landing that turn my stomach into a cesspit of anxiety.

Earlier this year, I experienced the worst landing of my life. As Emirates flight EK 306 approached the landing strip at the Beijing International Airport it descended down as unpleasantly as possible. When I was younger during thunder storms, I was quite the wuss. My aunt Maggie would calm me down by telling me that the big bangs were simply God rolling potatoes down the stairs. “Why would God be doing that?” I would ask. She didn’t have an answer but it soothed me none the less. During that landing it felt exactly as if the plane was one of those potatoes bouncing its way down through the smog-ridden Chinese sky.

That flight made me even more of a nervous flyer (Well, take off and land-er).

My ambition in life is to be a travel writer and travel usually involves flying (unless I’m resigned to travelling by foot, car, camel and/or boat— actually don’t even get me started on boats. That’s a whole other post). So, you may ask, how the heck do I plan on making the ‘travel’ aspect of my ‘travel writer’ plan work? Continue reading

Day 4: Beijing to Xi’an

Transition day.

This morning brought an end to the Beijing portion of the trip.

We had another Chinese lunch (with a lazy Susan. Supliiiise) which was nice although I feel like I’m just getting a bit tired of Chinese food. Never thought I’d say that :O

After lunch we visited the Chinese Ministry of Magic Foreign Affairs.

The speaker explained China’s journey from initial independence to its growth as a super power today. I didn’t agree with everything that was said, especially about Chinese business not being an economic threat to local communities that Chinese nationals emigrate to, but he was open to answering any questions and adorably friendly. It was all very informative and interesting for me but not for a lot of travel blog readers so I won’t go into detail.

That visit drew our time in Beijing to a close.

Then it was on to Xi’an (say it like shee-ann).

The Beijing airport is redonkulously strict. Every single person got beeped going through security and had to be patted down. Even the little kiddies. But hey, can’t complain about extra safety.

And then there was the flight.

I thought landing in Beijing was bad but as the great Robbie Ray would say; heeeeew doggies! Never in my life have I experienced such horrific turbulence. My hands were sore from gripping the armrests so tightly. My iPod decided to die just as the worst of it started so I had no way to distract myself and all I could do was stare out of the window and watch the horizon jiggling about while the plane bumped it’s way through the Chinese sky. A kid sitting behind me put it succinctly when he said: “this shit is not okay”

*~~***>spoiler alert (again)***~~>*
we made it.

Xi’an seems cool. Feels a bit less claustrophobic than Beijing but a heck of a lot more smoggy. I’m most definitely going to have to flush my sinuses out after this. sorrynotsorry for the overshare.

Scoured the streets near the hotel trying to find a Maccie D’s. We eventually did and they had run out of chicken burger patties. Like what did I even leave my room for then. Get your shiz together Xi’an McDonalds.

On a side note: I’m becoming more and more concerned about my accent. Apparently the South African accent sounds Australian/newzealandish/British/Alien. There are soooo many Americans on this trip and only five South Africans and people don’t understand what we try to say most of the time. Also, apparently ‘phoning’ is not a thing- you call people. What? When did this happen? And we say “ass well” instead of “as well”. Errrm…

‘Mericans.

Day 3: Beijing. Straight ballin on the Great Wall(in)

Today, I saw a man having a poo on the side of the road.

Despite the traumatic start to the day when my eyeballs were forever scarred by the sight mentioned above, day three was one of the busiest and most anticipated days of the trip; it was time for us to visit the Great Wall of China.

Friday kicked off with us visiting a traditional tea house and experiencing a traditional tea ceremony

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I was wondering how the Chinese look so good for so long and survive in this godforsaken smog but now I know; miracle tea. Traditional Chinese tea can hook you up dude. From needing to rejuvenate after a rough night out, wanting to look younger, needing to clean out your bowels (heyooooh) to “keeping your eyes bright for long hours of computer play”, the Chinese have got you boo.

The fruit tea was my fave. It was bright red and tasted like jungle juice. Took me right back to my childhood and I felt hella cultured because I was chilling in a Chinese tea house sippin on some tea from these little bad boys:

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The tea house had a huge shopping area where you could buy tons of tea and tea related paraphernalia. I ay or may not have picked up a few gifts 😛

After the tea house, the diplomacy 2 bus took us on an hour long journey to the Great Wall at Badaling.

We were served a super nyum lunch at the snazzy Badaling hotel.

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Chinese restaurants absolutely loooooove lazy Susan’s. With the amount of meals we eat at Chinese restaurants, at the end if this trip these table utensils should be renamed overworked Susan’s who just need a break to put their feet up and watch ‘say yes to the dress’. (Because this definitely rolls of the tongue so fluidly).

The Beijing beef (I think it’s called that. If it’s not then it should be) was amazing. For reals. Its a game changer.

With a belly full of sticky rice and Beijing beef, I made my way up to the wall (Sounding like Game of Thrones up in here).

The wall really is incredible.

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The view isn’t too bad either.

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Of course I had to get a stereotypical awkward tourist photo

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I made it to tower four! We had to climb up the steepest, scariest steps ever of life. The side walls are so short that the only way I could make it up was by clinging to the center handrail. What a baby.

All in all the wall (rhyme) was a pretty incredible experience. It’s amazing that something built so long ago out of dirt and egg whites (apparently that’s what was used to stick the bricks together) has lasted so long.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Olympic green. It was late afternoon and it was madness. Dwarfs were singing karaoke, men painted gold were dancing and people were flying long ass lines of kites despite there not being a lick of wind (I suspect magic) and vendors were selling everything under the sun. I may or may not have bought one of those waving Chinese cats. (I did)

The birds nest stadium is amazing! It’s such a unique and unexpected design but it’s weirdness makes it super cool.

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I had so much hope for the water cube! I thought it would be a legit cube full of water with like fish and few mermaids in it. But it’s just a big blue box. Meh.

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And then the sun shone on it and it look pretty fly

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Beijing you have been beautiful. Last morning tomorrow and then onto Xi’an.

Stare dolce

Day 2: Beijing. Let’s get diplomatic

The first day in Beijing was pure tourism euphoria. Day two saw us international relations and diplomacy peeps get suited up in our professional gear and bus over to the Polish Embassy in Beijing.

Embassies in China have to build their own premises and the Polish were straight up thug about it. Jokes. But the embassy was incredibly posh and larney with huge chandeliers, mirror walled ballrooms and gardens that stretched from the embassy to their residences, tennis court and private hotel. Must be nice Poland.

Speakers included the head of the political division, the head of the economic division and a dude that worked in the media section. All were very friendly and open to answering questions. They emphasizes how after now, after about 15 years of being pretty much dormant when it came to relations and interacting, China and Poland have started engaging in mutually beneficial political and economic trade and diplomacy. Nothing too controversial or scandal worthy.

In the afternoon, we visited the Beijing Foreign Studied University. Dr (I didn’t catch his first name) Xie from the university gave a lecture on ‘The China Dream’ which is basically meant to be the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation achieved through diversity in harmony (very poetic). It was cool to hear about how far China has come since the fall of dynastic rule at the beginning of the 20th century and how much more it’s aiming to gain.

The talk was followed by a tour of the campus given by students who are part of the school of English and International Studies. Our guide was June and she was the sweetest :’) the campus was relatively small but really beautiful.

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^the outside of the BFSU library which is home to thousands of books that cater for the 54 different languages that the school teaches.

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^the entrance to the university. Cool big Flintstonian rock with the schools motto on it.

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^statue in the BFSU gardens

The one thing that’s still super confusing about China is the bathroom situation. It’s a country that is leading the world economically, technologically and pretty much intellectually but there is rarely ever any toilet paper or soap on the bathrooms. It’s like these are not a thing here. Also, if you find an actual toilet it’s time to rejoice because majority of the time, you’ll run into the bathrooms with your bladder bursting at the seams, swing open a stall door only to be greeted by a hole in the floor. It has been dubbed the “squatty potty”. Asian ladies must have thighs of steel after using the long drops/ squatting toilets. Yoh but the toilet struggle is real.

Diplomacy day was both intellectually and sweatulectually stimulating. This city is haaaawt; especially when dressed in professional gear (which for me was all black errythang. Rookie error).

Hopefully day three brings along some clouds and reprieve from the sun.

Stare dolce