By Donnell Gavin
BEIJING, China, 6:33 p.m. — Arriving today in the fancy new Terminal 3 of the Beijing Airport, a few observations managed to squeeze through my post-13-hour-flight delirium:
Thing 1 – The airport was almost startlingly quiet, like an elementary school classroom just as the teacher has finished yelling. There were several gaurds, all of whom stood up overly straight but seemed to be more or less spaced out. When they walked, they walked in a rehearsed-looking tandem, but swung their arms in what seemed like a hopeless attempt as “acting natural.” Of course, the only people to break this code of silence were a group of Americans who, by looks and accents, seemed to be from Southern California.
Thing 2 – Along with being quiet, everything is very very new looking. Almost sticky with shiny newness. Though perhaps that stickiness is as much the humidity as anything (to us, it is “smog”; to them, “mist”).
Thing 3 – People are super passive-aggressive and if you don’t wedge yourself into the person in front of you, they will cut you in line without a second thought.
Thing 4 – Because I am obviously not Chinese, people are very helpful and try to speak English to me (I appreciate that here, whereas in Spain it bothered me, though my Spanish is bad enough that I should probably have been more appreciative). I think it would be depressing if you were Chinese-American and not afforded this luxury.
A fun game to play when you don’t speak the language (and which I seem to play without trying to): Listen to people speaking their language, especially listen for words that sound like words you know. Think that it is funny when they say words that sound like dirty words you know. (This game appeals to me because I have the developed sense of humor and carefully attuned cultural sensitivity of a 6th grade boy. I have just transcended eating glue).