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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

Welcome to the Last Day of Your Life

Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009, at 1:23 AM

(Photo)
Part I

Getting off the plain in Changsha airport, I felt pretty numb. Traveling through 3-4 airports on your way to a different country is a bit strange. Airports are by and large very similar to one another and sometimes you don't feel the change hit you until you step outside of the segregated airport culture. This wasn't so in Changsha.

I remember going through a 2nd customs of sorts even though I'd already been ushered through one in Hong Kong. The problem here was that there was what seemed like a giant stone wall of a Chinese man blocking my passage. I don't know about you guys but I always forget about the customs slips. Not really speaking English aside from guttural grunts, he ushers and points me back to the desk where the papers are located but the place is in utter disarray. It's as if the forms were locked inside of a piņata and were beaten out instead of in organized piles. Half filled-in sheets scattered everywhere and pens are no where in sight. Apparently it's a grave sin to walk through without a magical paper but unless you've brought your own pen, you might as well snap your legs in half because you're not going anywhere. Thankfully, random foreign women come prepared with purses the size of your head. Thank you, dear woman.

Walking through, toting bags in hand and leg, I glanced from side to side. The security guard uniforms I was seeing were green. It felt distinctly communist; at the time it was as if any detachment from the blue was an insidious symbol of oppression. I was nervous. One mistake, I thought. One mistake and I'm beaten with mallets and sent back on a plane for looking at these people wrong. Smile, nod, and act like a pacifist sheep because there's only one chance! Glancing at my passport, they nodded and said that I may proceed. Oh dear Lord, thank you. I mechanically put my bags through the x-ray machine and shuffle forward, almost in a trance, and then I hear, "Excuse me."

Guard: Is this your bag?

Me: Uh..yes. Is there any problem?

Nate's Brain: This is routine, don't worry and don't mess it up.

Guard: Can you open your bags?

Nate's Brain: Just do it. There's nothing wrong.

At this time, the guard starts tearing through my things and then finds what he was looking for.

Guard: Is this yours?

Nate's Brain: Oh God, you better get out of here. Cover your face, now.

Nate's Body: ...Can't move. Bladder...releasing...fluid.

Nate's Brain: This is what you get for failure. You're the most worthless vessel I've ever heard of.

The guard was staring at me because of what appeared to be a black box the size of a small car bomb in my bag. It was my Playstation 2. He couldn't believe I'd bring such a thing. It was a bomb or it wasn't mine. "What are you doing in China?" "So, this is yours?" "So you brought this from America?" "Are you sure it's yours?" "Positive?" I guess I didn't think it was too out of the ordinary but apparently I mugged an old lady while departing the aircraft and I need to be stopped.

I don't know if it's the same at Beijing or Shanghai airports -- I doubt it, but Hong Kong security guards HAVE GUNS. "Well yeah, but every guard has guns," you say. No, those are water pistols. These guys have automatic rifles that they're just carrying around the entire airport. Imagine if one of these guys are having a rough day or someone back talks them at the wrong instant. They simply turn around, kick you in the huevos and start pumping lead into you for the next 5 minutes of your sad, miserable life. I didn't talk to those guys - I normally am nice to every security guard for the sole reason that if I get into a bind later, they might recognize me -- but no, not these guys. I glanced at them, put my head down and walked like the living zombie I was.

But Nate, that gun was probably fake. No, they were huge and I know real metal when I see it. I've seen the fakes when the vans roll around in Xiangtan. Those guards chat idly here while the fake gun ISN'T EVEN PUT TOGETHER. I once watched as a man got out and slowly flipped the back end around and clicked the shotgun together. It looked like the flimsiest thing I've ever seen, the plastic clicking into place and everything. No, the Hong Kong rifles made me feel like I was in a war zone.

Stepping out of the airport, I was relieved. I was stopped a few times, I didn't sleep much and I soiled myself, but it made the Chinese air taste all the sweeter.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

US citizen traveling in foreign lands can be an interesting story to share to say the least. Thanks for sharing what most folks don't know about some overseas travel.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Thu, Mar 12, 2009, at 11:32 AM

Something like your experience happened to my wife and I, in the Philippines, in 1976. Upon landing, in Manila, we had to walk about seventy yards to the terminal between two rows of soldiers manning .30 cal machine guns, plus riflemen. Hong Kong was not an armed camp at that time, being before the 'take-back.'

My wife never challenged my stories about foreign travel again.

Ah, the memories one can cherish through life.

Well described, Nate.

In Messiah, His Shalom, and protection. Arley

-- Posted by Navyblue on Thu, Mar 12, 2009, at 2:55 PM

"Getting off the plain" ... I think that's plane, you get an A-! Nice expos'e about your golden experience in the real world. It's recommended you read the State Departments Advisories before bookin' that "plain" ride to Timbuktu! Whoa.. a Playstation II.. dude, you need a trip to Worst Buy.. now! L8tr -Hugh

-- Posted by Hugh Jass on Fri, Mar 13, 2009, at 8:57 AM

Playstation II is the best console in the history of console's with a possible exception for Super Nintendo II depending on your genre preference. Nice spelling catch :)

-- Posted by natejames on Sun, Mar 15, 2009, at 4:18 AM

Dude.. Playstation II.. Nintendo II.. what planet are you living on? Is Nebraska a third world country? We're gonna have ta take up a collection just so you can buy a GOOD console and join the 21st century! I suppose that you have 2 Trillion (I learned that number from AIG!) PSII games you bought at the flea market is why you don't wanna upgrade? Right? I thought so! LMAO!! I think even the Smithsonian has a PSII. Maybe a better payin' job, so you can get that chick magnet car (I'm assumin' ur old enough to drive?) 'n a PSIII & XBox 360 and play some REAL games. Nuff-0-that. L8tr -Hugh

-- Posted by Hugh Jass on Tue, Mar 17, 2009, at 10:40 AM

Enjoy failing in motion.

-- Posted by natejames on Sun, Mar 22, 2009, at 12:41 PM

Hmm, customs has always been a breeze for me in China. Coming from China and going through Canadian and then American customs, however, is a nightmare. I am surprised you did not investigate and find out that while you do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong (or South Korea for future reference), you do need one for mainland China and thus, you will go through customs once you land in mainland China. Maybe Beijing is easier, as my experience has shown that none of the employees as CSX and fluent in English, but then again, why should be expect them to be. It is China, not America, or some other English speaking country, right?

As culturally ignorant and unprepared as you seem in these first 2 entries, I look forward to reading your experiences with the Chinese squat toilet! LOL!

-- Posted by feisnik on Wed, Mar 25, 2009, at 1:09 PM

I don't need a visa for South Korea? That's awesome. Thanks for the info!

Chinese squat toilet. I managed to avoid them and to this day have only used them in emergency situations.

You'll read about that soon enough :)

-- Posted by natejames on Wed, Apr 1, 2009, at 10:52 PM


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