Nov 19, 2010 by Krysta
As my long awaited vacation approaches, my motivation to go to work is dwindling. Normally I'm thrilled to escape Dubai for fun overseas adventures, but time has come to a grinding halt the past couple of weeks.
I was less enthusiastic than usual as I got ready for my flight to Beijing. I wanted to pack my suitcase and fly to Canada. I wanted to be one of the 400 passengers rather than be the one serving them. It took awhile, but I finally accepted that I had to go. I coated my lips with my hideous red lipstick and headed for the airport.
Let me give you a little picture of what a flight to China is like. 90% of the passengers are Chinese, and of them, 99% speak little to no English. For the entire duration of the flight we struggle with great communication barriers, suddenly realizing the importance of body language. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, but on this particular flight, it seems that every single person takes their shoes off. When you think about it, it's kind of cute. They make themselves at home and place their feet on the floor on a mat made of the plastic packaging that their blankets came wrapped in. The novelty wears off fast as the cabin fills with the odour of 400 pairs of smelly feet. Gasping for air, the crew subtly spray air freshener through the aisles as they walk through. At the end of the flight, it takes extra long to disembark as I suddenly become a model, posing for photos with every 2nd person to walk past. I wish they'd do this at the beginning of the flight, when my hair was still neatly done up and my makeup hadn't melted off of my face. Regardless, I suppose I should take it as a compliment.
On this particular day we landed into Beijing and I quickly gave up on my tiny hope of visiting the Great Wall of China. A thick layer of smog filled the air, limiting visibility of nearby buildings. It's really quite sad to see the level of pollution. My eyes were burning after only a few hours, and I could only imagine the impact on the health of the people who live there.
It was early evening and I wasn't ready to call it a night. Some of the crew discussed going to the Silk Market for some cheap shopping. I opted for Newmarket instead, remembering the aggressive sales people at the Silk Market. I managed to convince 2 crew members to join me... both males who said that they were just going for something to do. I was the one in need of shopping, they were just keeping me company. 2 hours later I left with one purchase as they both hauled tons of purchases that had cost them their entire allowance. Good thing I'd saved enough for a taxi back to the hotel! Back to my purchase... I grabbed an awesome pair of fake Ugg boots that look real and feel just as cozy as the real ones I'd splurged on in Australia. I need to point out that I bargained for a good price, all by myself! Normally my guilty conscience gets the best of me, but my extreme fatigue and desire to own those boots took over, and I bargained until the frustrated sales lady finally accepted my lowest price. I probably could have paid even less, but at $20 Canadian I wasn't about to complain. I'm now set to visit Canada, with warm toes! We went back to the hotel, dropped off our bags and walked over to the grocery store. I didn't need anything, but I'm always amused by random findings in the Chinese supermarket. We wandered through the seafood department, saddened at the sight of a tank full of turtles. I imagined a family sitting around the table feasting on the poor little reptiles. It was getting late and I'd been awake for close to 24 hours, so I paid for my jasmine tea and went back to my hotel room where I slept like a baby until early the next morning.
I went downstairs to meet a gay Lebanese guy who was so much like my friend Jake from Canada that it scared me. They share the same inability to stop talking and the same love for their own reflection. I knew I was in store for an exhausting day, but I was prepared for it. We'd agreed to visit the Summer Palace, and I was in tourist mode when he said "I think it's too far for today, let's go to the market again and we can go visit this temple that is nearby". I stared at him, trying to plan my words so as not to lose my temper. Too often I'm a pushover when it comes to my layovers, settling for what others want to do. Take for example my last trip to Beijing, when the girl who'd agreed to go to the Great Wall with me bailed at the last minute. I was not going to back down this time. "I'm not going back to the market, and I've been to the Lama Temple. So either we go to the Summer Palace, or I'm going back to bed" I announced. I immediately wished that I could take the words back for fear of upsetting him, but to my surprise he replied "Oh okay, I don't mind going, that's what we said we'd do so let's do it." Shocked with my victory, I smiled as we walked to the metro station. Forget taxis, we were feeling adventurous! It's a good thing that my fellow adventurer was confident in his ability to navigate, because I was admittedly quite intimidated by the map of the Beijing Metro lines, written entirely in Chinese. We caught the train and to my relief, emerged at the gate of the Summer Palace. We paid for our tickets and stepped inside, instantly switching to photographer mode. It seemed that for every photo I took, I took 2 more of my self-absorbed travel partner. He had to be in every single one of his photos, and I explained to him that I'd take photos of the beautiful landscape first, and photos of him on his camera phone second. I hated to seem rude, but I wanted to take my photos and he'd pose all day if I'd let him. The place was beautiful, even with the pollution creating a grey haze throughout the air. There were gardens, lakes, temples, and trees! We walked for hours, up steep hills and through beautiful buildings. Eventually we grew tired and decided to head back to the hotel.
I packed my suitcase and crawled into bed for a pre-flight nap. It's hard work being a tourist in such a short time frame! Back to Dubai we flew, on a dramatic flight filled with arguments and general unhappiness amongst many of the crew members. Meanwhile, I was back to my usual perky self. Just another day in the crazy life of crazy me.