I would like to mention the fact that I am writing this article in 2020, even I arrived in China for the first time in September 2016. And, yeah, I know, 4 years has been passed. But, I swear that none of the feelings I had at that moment had been forgotten. Being able to write about it 4 years later, in perspective, it makes me realize I was an adventurer.
Living abroad, far from your family, your home, your culture sometimes is scary. The fact of going out from your comfort zone and change everything that you were used to is an incredible and pretty scary experience. Especially when you have to start the trip and go to another country where you don’t know anything about it. Even so, you have to take the risk if you want to live your life wildly.
So, I did it. I started my adventure taking a flight from Barcelona to Amsterdam, which was about two hours and a half. Land and wait almost five hours to take the next plane. Eleven hours and a half were the duration of the next flight: from Amsterdam to Guangzhou, in Spanish Cantón. Again, land and wait three hours and a half. Finally, the last flight: from Guangzhou to Changsha, this took about one hour fifteen minutes. Did you count the hours? It sounds … long, and yes, I swear it was.
Landing in China
Once I got to Guangzhou and put my first step on Chinese land, I was nervous. Honestly, since the moment I said goodbye to my family and left them. But, being aware I was already in China for the first time was making me have those feelings that are hard to describe but, without a doubt, we all know the feelings you have when you get for the first time in another place: nervousness, intrigue…
Flights were not only long but also exhausting, so were layovers. It should be noted that during my first layover in China, Guangzhou, I additionally walked around the terminal even I was extremely tired. Undoubtedly, I went to search for a smoking area and once I found it and I entered… ALL the people inside the room were staring at me. It was quite shocking. All of them were men on their fifties. For them, I am pretty sure it was shocking too. I was an occidental, 21-year-old girl, traveling alone and smoking; something not common for them, I guessed at that moment and could verify later on.
China doesn’t allow to enter the country with a lighter. Now you will say, but Miriam, you explained you went to a smoking room at the airport; yes, it’s true. Then, how you light up your cigarette? Let me show you how:
Can you imagine my face? I didn’t even understand how to use it so I waited until someone used it and … I got it! Indeed you just have to press a button and then the resistor turns on. For this reason, as an advice, don’t forget it: do not bring a lighter with you when traveling to China.
After such a long trip I did to Changsha 长沙, which is the capital of Hunan province. Luckily for me, the person that I had been in contact with from the University was waiting for me. I remember it was noon, even I felt disoriented and I didn’t even know which day it was. Everywhere was quite crowded. The sun was something above in the sky, I felt it far. I couldn’t even see it at all. The sky was kind of grey and foggy. I could just follow the University representative and keep having the feeling that everyone was staring at me. Maybe I was looking so confused… or just so different from them.
First moments around Changsha
Firstly, we took a bus to the city center and once there we took a taxi that got us until the place where I would sleep that night. Even the blink of an eye was useless: too busy being focused on looking at everything. Those long, wide and crowded roads, the skyscrapers, lots of buildings on construction, the lights, the sky… Definitely, it left me speechless.
Without a doubt I will write an article about Cultural Shock but, at that moment, what shocked me more was that all citizens were riding motorbikes without helmets and even more the fact that more than 2 people were riding the same bike, even whole families.
We got to the high-rise building, full of apartments. At the principal entrance, I could see the red symbol and I asked about it. The explanation: “A couple who lives in this building just got married”. Nice way to share their happiness with their neighbors, I thought.
I asked to go and have something to put in my stomach. After all the long trip by plane, without resting well at all and without eating well at all either, (for all it is known the high-quality food that is served in the planes, plus, for all those who don’t know it, I am such a picky eater), I needed to eat, take a shower and rest. I didn’t dare to try Chinese food on my first day in the country, so I just opt for a hamburger.
Second day in Changsha
I was told that I had to spend the night in Changsha because the next day I had to go to the hospital in order to get new medical checks. Yes, I got medical checks in Spain but once you arrive in China, you have to get new ones. Luckily, I just had to get one medical check: an echography. Waiting in a long queue were only girls from all over the world.
Going to Huaihua
As we finished the medical checks, it was time to take a high-speed train and go to Huaihua 怀化, where I spent one year as an international student, which would really change my life and I wasn’t even conscious about it…