I was woken up at 3 a.m. by a train steward who hit me on the leg and mumbled 江北, the name of my stop. We were late and didn’t arrive for another hour, though, which gave me plenty of time to watch the sun rise over Jilin Province.
The sun being up made it slightly less miserable to get off the train at 4 a.m., lugging a suitcase and two backpacks through the streets of an unfamiliar city. I had never been to Jilin, had no friends or place to stay, and 15 hours until my plane took off from the next city over. Awesome . . . not.
I took a taxi to an internet bar, where the manager and I reenacted the scene from Hunchun. I asked to get online, he asked for a form of ID I didn’t have, I threw a fit, and he claimed to have no power. He was sleepy (I had just woken him up) so I thought I might win, but the best I could do was get the name of another place where you can borrow ID cards. There you go, China – I knew there had to be a shady way to get around this stupid rule!
Aforementioned other place was not as described, so I went one step further. I flagged down another taxi and, before getting in, explained my situation to the driver: “I want to go to an internet bar, but I’m a foreigner with no ID card so I can’t get on. If you’ll take me there and swipe your card for me, I’ll pay you more!” He instantly agreed, the workers at this place were willing to overlook his the obvious way in which he signed me on and then left, and I was able to spend two hours catching up on emails and news.
Shortly before 8, I took a taxi to the Jilin Catholic Church, easily spotted from its huge spire. By the time I walked in, at least 10 minutes before the service started, there were no seats left. I took a spot near the back, where I had a great view of the people who continued pouring in as Mass started. China doesn’t have many Catholic churches, and they don’t offer many Masses, but I will say that I’ve never been to one that looked empty. My church is probably the least populated, but even then there are only spots left on the second floor.
Today is Trinity Sunday. ‘Trinity’ is really easy in Chinese – 圣三, or ‘holy three’ – but I had wondered how they made the distinction between 1 God and 3 Persons. Turns out, they say 三位一体 – and now you know.
After Mass I went on another adventure looking for foreigner-friendly internet. I called 114 (China’s information line), tried to buy a wireless card, visited a Western restaurant hoping for wireless . . . all without success. Finally, I got a taxi driver to help me. He suggested a hotel, by which I thought he meant a nice place with a restaurant where I could eat and use their wireless.
Apparently not. I say this because I’m writing from the “Love Her Fashion Motel”, in a room that I have rented for four hours. Looking around, I’m pretty sure I’m in a love shack. There’s no desk or anything – that’s not what the businessmen come here to do, probably – just a large bed, a nightstand with a large variety of condoms, and a bathroom with see-through glass doors. Sweet.
When my time was up, I grabbed lunch in a nearby . . . shack? for lack of a better word. It was malatang, but apparently “Sichuan-style”. Basically, it was noodles, and hot. I asked for a little little bit of hot and could just handle it; the other guy ordered extra hot and didn’t seem to have any problems.
I didn’t see a single foreigner the entire day. Oddly enough, though, I still spoke a lot of English because, lacking a Chinese friend to chat with, I spoke to myself in English. I noticed this when I was nearly hit by a car and yelled “WTF?!?” at the driver. Two days ago at the night market, the same thing happened but I yelled “Aiyaaa!”. I even yell in Chinese now (most of the time) and exclaim “Waaaa!” instead of “Wow!” when something impresses me.
I thought I had oodles of time – over four hours – to get to the airport in Changchun, but I steadily made my way there. Taxi to the bus station, then a bus to Changchun. The cities are pretty close but this sort of bus ride always seems to include 20 minutes of meandering through the first city, 1 hour (the cited time) on a highway, and then another 40 minutes of meandering through the second city.
When we finally stopped, I got in a taxi and asked how far to the airport. When the driver answered “one hour”, the exact answer I’d gotten two hours before in Jilin, I was surprised. It turns out that the airport is in between the two cities and I’d basically wasted money and a bunch of time taking the scenic tour through the twin cities. Dear Mr. Jilin Taxi Driver – when I told you of my plan to take a bus to Jilin and then a taxi to the airport, you might have mentioned this little geographical oddity. Thanks . . . for nothing.
For once, I was thankful for the ridiculous way people drive in China. By driving into oncoming traffic, cutting off people by turning at utterly inappropriate times, and speeding like a maniac, my driver got me to the airport JUST in time. Just in time to find out that my flight was delayed two hours, that is.
Trips home are always like this for me. At this point, I’m unhappy to have left where I was and impatient to get where I’m going, but there’s ALWAYS a problem. Each of the three times I’ve come to China before, the only delays have been on the last leg of the return trip, when I’m in America but not home, and it just seems cruel and unusual. This whole days has been an absolute waste and an incongruously disappointing end to an otherwise amazing trip.
There are people I love all over the world and there is no small number of places I’d like to be . . . but the Changchun International Airport is not one of them.