So I’m in China.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m taking part in the Study China programme put on by the university if Manchester, so I’ll be here for three weeks learning Mandarin and generally getting an experience of the culture, spending most of my time hosted by Shandong university.

Well, I made it. The first thing to remember is that the important thing here is that I arrived in Beijing, luggage all still present and correct, and me still in one piece.

Still, a broken-then-fixed-then-broken plane, a false start boarding and then un-boarding said plane, 6 hours of delay before they begrudgingly cancelled same plane, a promise of a rebooked flight  swiftly followed by the apologetic announcement of a global systems failure meaning rebooking wasn’t going to be possible, a 4 hour wait in a standstill queue at the airline desk along with 200-odd other disgruntled passengers, a missed connection, an announcement that the original plane was ready to fly (some 10 hours after it’s scheduled departure), a group exodus to check in on said plane with a staunch few of us remaining behind at the desk, grimly determined to get where we were going on time, an eventual recovery of the rebooking system, a rush to catch the 5 o’clock flight to Beijing via Copenhagen, and a relatively smooth journey through immigration later, lets just say I was done with focusing on ‘the most important thing’.

Positive things:

  • I only arrived about 3 and a half hours after my scheduled arrival time
  • My belief that Australians are my favourite peoplewas reinforced after many hilarious conversations in many and varied forms of queue
  • We  got given a whole £10 of free food vouchers by the airline after probably 8 hours of waiting (yippee)
  • I got inexplicably upgraded to business class on my flight to Copenhagen (though budget airline business class really ain’t that different except for the free food)
  • I still made it in time to catch the later bus to the university – and all this without having a severe mental breakdown.

All in all, Austrian airlines are not highest on my list of recommended companies to fly with.

Anyway, I was admittedly not feeling very sociable after the whole fiasco, but I met up with the other people headed to Shandong university before we got the coach and they were all very very lovely, and also listening to some of their stories definitely made me regret not having arrived in China earlier with a bit more time to explore. Also if I had done that, maybe I would have avoided the annoying airline situation – but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Either way, after only three days here I’ve already decided that I’ve got to come back, there’s just so much to explore and unfortunately it’s so not possible when you’re in lessons for about five hours every day!

I quickly found out that the two people I’d been sat next to on the plane were in fact on the program too, which might have been awkward but it actually really wasn’t. In an unrelated conversation I also found out that you can apparently get a chair lift up to and slide, toboggan-style, down from the Great Wall of China, so I’m more keen than ever to go and see it now, when I can spare a day. I also met the soon-to-be infamous Frank (whose actual name is I think Vadim), whose first sentence to me was, on seeing my backpack with all of its different flags stitched on, “if I did that I would have run out of room, I’ve already been to over thirty countries” …brilliant.

Anyway. We caught the bus at 4ish and arrived at the campus at about half 10 (having expected the journey only to be about four hours, hmm), and pretty much all went straight to bed – I was pretty much delirious by this point: it had been about 38 hours since I’d set off from my house and my body clock had no idea what was going on.

Three days later and I’ve JUST figured out how to bypass the so-called “Great Firewall of China”, so I’ll leave this blog here as it’s half 1 in the morning, and carry on with the story tomorrow. Never before have I been so excited to be able to get into Facebook. Maybe China, in fact, is the country with the right ideas!