Day 12 Home

I decided to try the same plan to get myself synced back to my usual time as when I left for China.  I stayed up till about 1:30am and slept for only a couple of hours.  I got my things together and went down to the lobby.  I checked out and met the driver who would take me to the airport.  He was the same driver who picked me up when I arrived in Beijing.  He was supposed to take me to the airport and then help me get to the place I needed to check in.  I did not expect such treatment and sure enough when we got to the airport he loaded my luggage on a cart at the drop off area.  I tipped him generously anyway for his troubles.

I made my way inside and began trying to read the signs and figure out which place I needed to go to.  None of the areas was really open yet but the airport was already busy with people waiting to get checked in.  As I looked around I must have looked lost because a man who spoke almost no English tried to help me.  He pointed me in the right direction and I thanked him and went in that direction.  It wasn’t until I met the next very helpful man that I realized that he was trying to get some money for his help.  The next man that found me asked if he could help and he spoke fairly good English.  I was thankful and amazed at the friendliness of the Chinese, it was very early and my brain had not yet realized that his friendliness was completely derived from the money he hoped to make.  He tried to help me check in using my e-ticket but it would not take it so he helped me get in the proper line for checking in.  I was first in line and the attendants were not there yet to process the passengers.  The gentlemen who helped me stayed around for a few minutes and we chatted idly and I began to think that it was an odd coincidence that he was on the same flight as me and it was then that he asked me for tips.  I finally understood I smiled and said ok and pulled out some money and gave him 10 Yuan.  He smiled and said 20.  Now he was getting on my nerves but I conceded just so he would go away.  I felt like I had been scammed but there was no help for it now and he had helped me find the right place.

I met some interesting people in line including some guys from Austria that had taken a bike tour of some areas of China.  One of which was a famous cyclist who rode in large cycling circuits like the Tour de France.  We finally got checked in and I got my boarding pass.  Then after making it past the security check I sat and waited.  I waited a long time and the early morning and lack of sleep was making me want to nap.  We eventually boarded and it was back to Shanghai.

I arrived and retrieved my luggage and was going to get checked in and use the restroom.  It was 9am and my flight back to Chicago did not leave until 6pm.  I was less than enthusiastic about staying in the airport all day but did not really feel like I had much of a choice.  Part of me wanted to get a taxi and go see some sights in Shanghai while I was there since I had all day, but I did not feel confident enough in my Chinese to get around and back to the airport for my flight on my own.  I found where to check in but unfortunately discovered that they would not be checking in until 1:30pm.  This meant I had to sit with my luggage and since I did not feel comfortable leaving it going to the restroom was out of the question.  I found a spot on the bench and tried to read for a bit but I was getting very tired.  I decided to sleep and so I wrapped my arms and legs through the straps of my luggage and laid down across the seats to sleep.  I drifted in and out of sleep for a few hours.

Finally I noticed the line was building up at the check in gate as 1:30pm approached.  I got up and woke myself up and got in line.  We waited for the attendants to arrive and start the check in process.  The line seemed to move with agonizing slowness.  I finally got checked in and was relieved to have that taken care of.  I went to the restroom and then decided to get something to eat before converting my currency back to USD.  On the upper floor I walked along looking for restaurants and really only found a small coffee house like restaurant that served meals and which had restaurants at every major intersection.  I reached the end and had not found anything better so as I was looking around one of the hostesses of the coffee shop said hello and asked how I was in English.  I responded that I was good but very tired in Chinese.  She was shocked and pleased and we started talking.  She led me in and got me situated.  I looked over the menu and saw that there were some American looking items on the menu.  I decided that I wanted something other than Chinese food for some variety and ordered a club sandwich and some chips and a Coke.  Though it didn’t taste exactly as I had hoped it was still very good.  Having not had any breakfast and having something different for a change I ate ravenously.  I drank two Cokes, and I usually do not drink soda at all.  Once I was done I decided to exchange my currency and go through security to my gate.

The flight was long as could be expected.  13.5 hours is a long time to be crammed in a plane.  This time though the airline had upgraded me to a better seat since on the last flight my headphone jack had been broken.  I was pleasantly surprised when the told me since I had not reported it to the airline.  I chose an aisle seat on one of the outer rows of seats.  I had slept in the airport and with the Cokes in my system felt fairly wide awake.  My intention was to stay up most of the flight so that I would be tired when I arrived in the United States in the evening.  I slept a little throughout the flight but for the most part I did manage to stay awake.  I watched movies the whole flight.  They were the same movies that they had when I first flew over so I was glad that I had not been able to watch them during the first flight.  I was so glad to finally get to Chicago and be able to get up and stretch my legs.

In Chicago I had another long layover so I met with my friend Bethany who lives in Chicago.  She met me at the airport bar and we had a few drinks and got caught up.  It was really great to see her again, since it had been a few years since I saw her last.  It was very odd being back in the states.  In China I had not been able to understand most conversation without concentrating intently on it, so the background noise of conversation didn’t bother me.  Back in the states I could hear the background conversations and I could understand them.  It kept distracting me and made me feel as if I was eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations.

I finally was aboard the last plane that I had to take and headed for home.  I called family before boarding and let them know I was back in the U.S. safe and sound and that I would be home soon.  I arrived back home in St. Louis and was absolutely exhausted.  I got my luggage and was ready to be home.  My friend was coming to pick me up, however, and she was late.  I was so glad when she finally arrived since I was on the verge of collapse I was so tired.  I went home and took a shower and then my body collapsed hard and I slept for the next 12 hours straight.

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