It took me a few days to get a stable internet connection and access my illegal blog site, now that I’m here in China. Behind the Great Firewall is a different world. I’ve spoken to a few locals about what they think of the censorship, and answers are evasive. People here don’t seem to mind it much, apparently under the impression that things are being kept from them for a good reason.
Well, they couldn’t keep me out! Take that, Asia. After waiting so long for my contract and visa to come through, I could finally set off for my new life in China.
It would be a long journey – over 24 hours – and was beset by problems from the beginning. The train ride to Manchester Airport was cut short due to some problem down the line, so I was forced to disembark at Piccadilly. An uninformative and unhelpful person at the Information Helpdesk couldn’t be sure another train would accept my ticket. I decided to risk it anyway and made it to the Airport, delayed. There were the usual long queues at Manchester, and off I flew to Heathrow, where – unbeknownst to me at that time – my check-in baggage was quietly and mischievously slipping into a black hole.
I don’t know what cosmic, transformative adventures were had by that slightly overweight maroon suitcase. All I know is that it tumbled through dark dimensions untold, and was clawed at by space-goblins before re-emerging into our plane of existence somewhere in the vicinity of Beijing three days later.
The suitcase doesn’t talk about the experience, and I don’t ask.
I met a peculiar man dressed a little like a classic Dr Who who was off to Shanghai to judge a bonsai tree contest. He was apparently well regarded for his knowledge of stunted trees. Despite this he proved a little too clingy and wanted the ticket lady to seat us together, so I ditched him on the pretense of taking a pee-pee. He might have pruned me in my sleep.
As it happened, the 10 hour flight from Heathrow to Beijing was probably the best time I’ve had this last week. I was placed next to a thoroughly pleasant gentleman from Japan named Ishiro, who was a stage actor and director donchuknow, and we chatted about our home countries and theatre and anime for a while until he got to sleep and I didn’t. It wasn’t even spoiled by the in-flight film, which was Johnny Depp’s “Transcendence” and should be avoided if at all possible. Just … awful. I can’t even. Don’t watch it. I watched it twice and it actually got worse.
Then the adventure really started. I landed in Beijing and wandered about for a bit, wired from total lack of sleep. A lady insisted that I didn’t need to collect my baggage and that it would be transferred to the domestic connection to Xi’an, even though another person at Heathrow told me that I would have to.
When I discovered three hours later that my luggage had been lost, I blamed that young lady for its disappearance. This was wrong of me. The black hole had opened up in London, not Beijing, and although neither Young Lady or I knew it at that point, the fate of the suitcase had already been decided by the fickle gods of international travel. If I ever see Saint Christopher here in China I will sock him in the jaw.
[To be continued…]