I fell right asleep my last night in Seoul but getting up to make an early flight is one of my most stressful times. I awoke to my Screaming Meanie alarm clock as did the whole building at 5 am. Then caught the 5:30 bus and was checked in and on the way to my gate by 7:30am. China Southern boarded at 7:40 and arrived in Beijing around 9:30…10:30 Seoul time.
I got through immigration really quick and was impressed with the airport but disappointed with the lack of signs, tourist information, maps and directions. I struggled to communicate my questions with guards and guides that spoke little English. The ATM was very friendly, though all in Chinese, I had to guess what the responses were..and felt like I won the jackpot when I guessed right.
I bought a ticket for Beijing on the Airport Train and bought a T (travel card) from an English speaking tourist on his way out. Got screwed out of $6. I added more money on to the card at a kiosk then boarded the train. It dropped me in the center of Beijing at one of the main Subway Stops. There were no maps available but one posted at the station. I had to find John Campell’s subway stop Jis Hua Tan. Amazingly it jumped right off the map and his subway stop was on this line. I boarded the subway and was at the stop 30 minutes early but 5 flights of stairs to get to the top where we were to meet.
I struggled with the bags climbing my way to the first landing when I turned and there was a Chinese man doing the same…but it was no struggle for him. He saw me stop to catch my breath and regain my strenght and stayed with me with a big smile as if to say…you can do it and I will be here to help. We did the other four flights of stairs together and he waited patiently at each landing until I was ready to do the next. I felt very welcomed and thought his gesture was sincere and certainly appreciated. We bid goodbye at the top and I drank two bottles of water then sat on my bag waiting for John. He rode his bike over from his apartment Hi Rise and we walked back while he gave me directions and landmarks along the way.
We hit it off well and after settling into his nineteeth floor apartment, taking some photos of the view, we went for a walk in the neighborhood and stopped for lunch. He had taken the day off to meet me.
He ordered a lot of food and liked it spicy but got a lot of noodles and dumplings out of consideration for me. We talked a while about his life. He worked for an airline that after 10 years you get lifetime flight benefits. So at that time he quit and took a job teaching at a language school in Hanoi. The school closed after two years due to lack of interest. The interest was in Chinese so when they opened in Beijing, John was there with them, teaching Chinese History.
He gets liberal time off and vacations where he can take advantage of his flight benefits. Last month he flew back to the states to visit his children via Europe, USA then China..around the world. He doesn’t need to own a car and rides to work on his bike and the subway. I have to say I envy him. Who wouldn’t. He worked for it and he is a wonderful person.
We went out for dinner that evening and I tried a few spicier foods…and survived. He went to bed early and was gone when I got up. My day was planned around Tin’imin Square and am leaving shortly to get some breakfast and sight see.