China gave me a fitting farewell. It showed me both that it was glad I came AND that it had not changed a lick.
I was picked up from the hostel in a cab, as requested, that was to take me to the airport. When I opened the front door of the hostel I was dumbstruck. It looked like a towncar! Black and gleaming, nice interior, tons of leg room and a young and attractive driver playing nothing but American rap and hip-hop. It was everything I could have hoped for! And I had forgotten what good brakes and a nice suspension can do for the ride.
Once I got to the airport they were playing mostly cartoons with no dialogue (so I could understand just as much as everyone else) and videos of fashion shows (albeit last season). Finally, things I could appreciate on TV! Even the folks I sat by on the plane were great. When I came and motioned that I was the window seat, one of them even got up! Granted, I still had to climb over the other but at least the one moved! That's more than usual!
Once I arrived in Guangzhou it was time for China to show me that it hadn't changed a bit.
Heading to the taxi stand I was approached by a man offering his taxi services. He asked where I was headed, I showed him the address that Mr. Wei had written out for me. He barely glanced at it and said, "Yeah, sure. I take you." Knowing that he was probably a scam artist I asked him how much (knowing it should be no more than 100 yuan). He said 250! I have him a ridiculous look and said, "Absolutely not!" He frantically followed me, "200! 200! It's very far away!"
Me: No, it isn't.
Him: What you pay lady?
Me: Certainly not more than 100. And I know that for a fact.
Him: No no no! Very, very far! 200!
I left him on the curb with a flip of my hair and a withering stare.
Next up was the man actually standing at the taxi stand acting like he was associated with it. He asked the same question, I showed him the same paper and he said, "Special price! 350!" I instantly laughed in his face harder than I have in a long time and said, "Are you crazy? No f-ing way man." Who did they think I was?
He looked shocked, shot a glance at his friend who laughed and shot back a look like, Not as dumb as you thought, huh?
This man persisted. "Okay, okay, for you I do 300."
Me: I happen to know it's no more than 100 and it's not more than 20 minutes away. Do you think I don't know where I'm going? Try again pal.
Him: Okay lady, what you pay?
Me: No more than 100.
Him: Oh no no, you very confused is very far....
And it continued til I got my own cab who charged me...100. I couldn't help laughing at how easy they thought it was going to be to scam me and how impossible it actually turned out to be.
Then I got to the hostel. I booked it because it was the closest to the airport. When I got there the girls behind the counter didn't really speak English and, though I confirmed my reservation by phone and email they claimed I didn't have one and demanded I pay 300 yuan (even though there was a huge price list right behind their heads that showed that nothing in the entire place was that expensive). I looked at the sign and demanded the cheapest price (150 yuan) saying that I was promised it in my reservation (which later I realized was a lie--they quoted me a much higher price. Gee. I feel awful too). After much drama and annoyance (about 35 minutes worth) they gave me the price I wanted, I was escorted to the room by two people who showed me how to use the light switches (they flipped on, then flipped off....rocket science), I showered then put on my makeup for the next day. I got dressed in my clothes for the flights to follow, got under the covers, turned all the lights on, set my mobile phone alarm (I finally figured out how to use it) and put my iPod alarm on as well. I was not taking any chances. I would not miss my flight. I even chanted, I will wake up at 5am tomorrow until I finally got to sleep somewhere around midnight.
I left by 5:30am and was forced to find my own taxi in the completely dark backstreets of Guangzhou. The girl at the desk had 'promised' to call a taxi for me but I had the sneaking suspicion she was just paying me lip service. When I checked out in the morning, the man behind the desk really seemed to think I was speaking absolute gibberish so he was no help. He just smiled and laughed at whatever I said. Just for kicks I decided to test him and as I was walking out I said, "Okay, I like toast! You're a big gray elephant!", with a big smile on my face. He smiled back and nodded and said, "Yes of course! Have good day! Thank you!" Luckily, a cab full of drunken college-aged Chinese kids pulled up and stopped by me on the street. They all got out and started shouting, "Hello American Woman!!" I thought, Oh God. Not now. Not this morning. Turns out they were just friendly. They gave me their cab, helped put my bags in and waved goodbye shouting, "American Woman!!" until I couldn't see them anymore. Go figure.
Now, after nearly 36 grueling hours of travel (except for the part with the sleeping pill on the way from Beijing to Seattle--thanks Kathy [as in Kathy I stayed with in Macau, not some random stranger--as if!] it worked wonders!), and one slightly unnerving trip through US Customs (they simply couldn't understand that a single girl, unemployed, travelling alone for a month in China did little shopping AND paid for the trip herself) I am finally back on Maplewood, sitting in my room in my lovely apartment. Having watched an episode of the Golden Girls, eaten an English muffin and caught up with Patrick, I figured it's time to consider trying to sleep. But in reality, I'll probably start unpacking and loading photos on my computer. Don't worry, there will be many. Or I guess, if you don't like photos...you should worry a lot.