by Afia Yeboah, Greenheart Travel Homestay Teacher in China
Ni Hao! Dear Family, Friends and new friends! This is Fifi from the United States. I am happy to share that I have arrived in Beijing safely! I will be blogging my entire experience so please be sure to stay tuned. A special thank you to Greenheart Travel and to my family for making this possible for me.
On Sunday, April 3rd at 12:40pm, I flew from IAD Dulles International Airport on a nonstop flight to Beijing, China. I made sure I had snacks for the flight and I also ate a burger and pretzel (interesting combo) at the airport because I didn’t want to be too hungry mid-flight and I knew that it would keep me full for several hours. It did.
A key specific for this flight was that I needed a visa to travel to China. The airport checked for a valid visa in my passport twice before I boarded. I obtained an L visa from the DC Chinese Embassy earlier in March.
An L visa is a tourist visa, which will allow me to stay in China for up to 60 days and it allows multiple entries. This means I am allowed to revisit China multiple times until my passport expires in 2025.
My nonstop flight to Beijing, China with United Airlines was 14 hours long. “14 hours!? Sheesh, that’s a long time” you might say. Yes, a long flight indeed, but it wasn’t too bad at all.
United Airlines provided great service, there were drinks, meals, and snacks served every few hours, and equipped on the back of all the seats were individual TV screens. Personally, I think technology is so cool these days.
I remember when flights only had TV screens overhead, not on every row, but every few seats. With these individual TV screens, I could opt for music, movies or TV shows, free of charge, and watch and listen to any selection with my personal headphones. During the flight I watched “Concussion” starring Will Smith and “The Revenant” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Both movies were great in their own respect and I highly recommend them both if you haven’t seen them already. Of course I cried during both films because quite frankly, I’m a big wuss. Don’t judge me, but typically I can tear-up during any good movie that isn’t a comedy. hahaha
During the 14-hour flight, besides the movies, I napped a bit, listened to music and I didn’t get restless until about 12 hours into the flight. Then I forced myself to sleep for the remaining 2 hours, until it was time to touch down. Overall, I definitely enjoyed my flight. The only thing I can say that I didn’t like about this flight was the person sitting around me who kept letting out gas. They were the silent but deadly ones. I think it was the guy sitting in front of me. So the United “Safety Card” pamphlet became my fan and my best friend. Other than those unfortunate smells, great flight!
So we land and the first thing I had to do before going through customs was stand in the “Foreigners” line which checked passports and visas. Funny story: I had on a black “ Hunger Games” t-shirt that said in big white letters on the front: “I volunteer as tribute” and had the “three-finger salute”.
These are all references to “The Hunger Games” movie. This was the most comfortable t-shirt I could find to wear on the plane, as I like to be comfortable on flights. Well, I forgot I had this shirt on until I heard a faint whistle; it was the slow four-note mocking jay whistle from the “Hunger Games” movie. I looked up and I made eye contact with the girl who was was teasing me, and we both started laughing.
In “Hunger Games”, the four-note whistle was the sound that the mockingjay bird makes, and also the tune that the main character Katniss Everdeen would whistle. In the movie, the mocking jay was a symbol of rebellion and the whistle was a symbol of hope. So she was teasing me in line by whistling this sound because of my shirt. Anyway, it was such a funny moment and it put me at such a sense of ease in this new country!
I made it through the line and I got my passport and visa stamped. On to baggage claim, and I find my checked bag on the conveyer belt in literally no time.
By this time it is 2:30pm in the Bejing Airport. I am exhausted. I met a nice lady from South Africa who allowed me to use her phone, and also showed me where to buy a sim card for my iPhone. I suggest anyone who wants to use their iPhone in China to unlock it before coming, and you will be able to text over wifi.
I got in contact with Chao He, my contact person and representative for this program, and from the airport we checked into my hotel and grabbed a bite to eat at a local food restaurant chain, Beef and Rice.
After chatting with Chao He for a bit about our different cultural experiences, I returned to my hotel and slept for 12 hours straight. Clearly, I was exhausted after that flight.
Today, I will be going to Greenheart Travel orientation, sightseeing, and meeting my host family. Thanks for tuning in.
Until next time,