Wednesday, May 30, 2012

China: Love in the Middle Kingdom (now with pics!)

So got back from China last night and I'm still hopelessly in love with the Middle Kingdom. It might have just a little to do with the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE service level of San Fransisco airport and frustration with my trip mates. Beijing was amazing and Shanghai was...nice.

So after that completely ambiguous summary, I should probably get to the nitty gritty. I'm going to try and do a few summary posts here and there over the course of the next month about my various types of experiences in China, each one focusing on a different aspect but it can really be summed up with Beijing still feels connected to both old and new worlds while Shanghai feels like Las Vegas and New York had a Ugly Bastard Love Child who gets a new facelift every few years because mommy feels guilty for throwing it across the pacific for boarding school so they don't have to deal with it.
Shanghai via night cruise
Entering Shanghai

I've been lucky and never really had many issues when traveling, but then again I've always been in pretty good condition when I travel and having to travel while incapacitated has really opened my eyes to the way that the service industry tends to treat disabled people and I am completely outraged.

Not the carry out but close in taste.
During my trip, I slightly twisted my ankle twice (once at the Great Wall and once at the Forbidden City) but managed to recover by not going out the night after,but the second day before we left, I stepped off the tour bus wrong though and it all came back to me in crippling glory. So instead of going to the Shanghai Urban Exhibition Center, I ended up staying around the hotel barely able to walk more than a block without crying in pain. Luckily, A was with me and he babied me, adjusted my pillows and went out and got me food as well as an ankle brace. We ended up with a very nice black pepper steak that was very yummy.

But the day we left, A had to take all of the luggage to the bus to go to the airport. This was fine, and they even arranged for a wheelchair for me as well as upgraded both of us to Economy Plus. Which trust me, on an 12 hour flight helps tremendously. It gave me enough legroom to sprawl out and actually sleep a bit. Our problems, as mentioned before, started in San Fransisco. Admittedly, thanks to China's government interference, our flight was 2 hours late in getting started and we only had a 3 hour layover window.

So when we got to SFO, we were in a rush and I was still in a wheelchair...They had 3 people at the gate to push 8 people in wheelchairs. So we ended up playing Leapfrog to get to Immigration. We then got a special green tag that was SUPPOSED to get us through everything quickly. Immigration was relatively painless but then we went to grab our bags that  had been checked because on International Flights you have to uncheck and then recheck bags for domestic flights. A got lost while trying to get a cart so he wouldn't have  to hand carry 4 carryon bags plus our two Checked bags, which he was handling that and my crankiness, pain and such with the best sense of humor of ANY man. (He's a keeper, mum. *grin*), but we looked for the bags while waiting on him.

We found my bag, but could not find his. This was not helped by the fact his bag was black. Just black. No duct tape or distinguishing marks at all except for his bright green address tag. After about five minutes of searching, we can't find it and another flight is being put on that belt so we had to leave. We found A and did another look through. Still no bag. So we piled everything on, and despite having our 'handler' leave, the guy who was supposed to be in charge of the bagging area wheeled me to a place where they could take us to security. Now keep in mind we have these green tags that are supposed to get us through security pretty quickly.

Instead, they ignored us, and pushed me over to the side and made A go through the whole shebang. So he's on the other side of security and I'm on the opposite...and still no one's come to help me. Apparently one lady was just standing there, ignoring the call for her to do her job until A almost literally grabs her and asks her to do her job. She stated then that she was about to go on break and he asks her again to do it. She finally does and it's over very quickly, but this is after I'm sitting there like a bump on a log for 15 more minutes. At this point, this was when our flight was supposed to leave. Luckily for us, there was something wrong and our flight got delayed just in time, and it wasn't for us. xp

But A had to leave the cart and so now he's stuck with 4 carryon bags and 1 checked bags and trying to push me too, since no one bothered to make sure there was anyone to assist us once we got past security.  Finally, someone was about to leave and saw us struggling and when A asked, he was happy to help and then we FINALLY began to book it through the airport, making it to the plane just in time. Then of course, we had to wait a bit more for the true delay before we could take off.

I haven't flown as much as some, but I average about 2-3 flights a year or so over the past 5 years and that is truly the most horrific experience I've had. If I had been a normal handicapped person and been treated like that every day I've flown or gone somewhere, I'm sure I can see how they feel so down on themselves. They are treated like less than human. There was a guy in front of me in security who had an oxygen tank who was still there when I left and he seemed on the verge of tears while people just ignored him.

Even on this trip, with people who do not understand Celiac and gluten sensitivity, I've felt like I was a bit less than human. Like I was some alien because I couldn't drink beer or eat udon noodles. I never want to feel like that again, and if nothing else, this has reaffirmed my resolve. It is not Living Without, it is Fully Living, which includes having a healthy functioning system that does not having me fatigued, scatterbrained and in pain so I can enjoy every food I eat. So what if I can't have a few things out there, many people out there are picky eaters and won't even try different ways. I get to explore and create and that makes me very happy!

First meal I made once we were back in US. So never got sick of Chinese style food. NEVER!

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