China: Frightening but so alluring

When I delivered my neighbour to the airport 6 weeks ago for her flight to Islamabed we had both been pre-occupied with trying to reduce the amout of baggage she was trying to take on the plane (her understanding of English doesn’t seem to extend to the word “limit”), so I had not really noticed any of the other passengers.  Today was different.

Today I went to Glasgow Airport to collect her only to find that her flight was delayed, so I had plenty of time to mooch around and “people watch”.

Emirates Air uses Dubai as a main transit hub for people going from Europe to Asia (and back) and I realised that there were many Chinese people queuing up to check in to the return journey of her plane.  People similar to those I will be sharing a flight with in a few weeks from now.

As I wandered aimlessly around the airport I found myself “picking out” all the Chinese people, quietly studying all the family groups; some making their last minute preparations for check-in, some saying their fond farewells to friends and family.  And each time I thought to myself “What will Amanda really be like ?”… “Will we click when we first meet ?”…

It is not long now until I will be booking my flights, I only have to wait for my hospital appointment with the dentist to come through and then I will know when I will be free to join her.  That hospital appointment is a nuisance, but I have been waiting so long to get the work done… and Amanda may be a little disappointed at the delay, but she is very understanding about it.  She knows how important it is to me.

With everything that has been going on lately in my life this is the first chance I have really had to consider… “What will China really be like ?”.

This is not going to be just a holiday for me.  Sure, Amanda and I are planning on doing some touring around while I am there; hopefully “the Wall”… and she wants to see the “terracotta warriors”.  But this trip holds special significance… it will, hopefully, determine what happens to me for the rest of my life.

There is so much I have yet to learn about the Chinese way of life.  Other than in restaurants the only interaction I have previously had with anyone remotely Chinese was a neighbour of mine down in Wales.  He was from Hong Kong… and very strange.  A great guy…. but strange.

Now I have to be able not to make a complete muppet of myself in front of her parents, who don’t speak a word of English and don’t even know that their daughter has “another” name because nobody from the West can pronounce her real name properly (including me !).

I have to be able not to make a muppet of myself in front of her brothers, only one of whom speaks a little, very little, English.

I have to be able not to make a muppet of myself in front of her daughter.  This is a really scary one ! 😕  It’s one thing to say “Hi Lily” when she passes by behind Amanda while we are camming, but I need to know that this girl is comfortable with the idea of me taking her mother away from her for long periods.  And Lily speaks English well enough to let me know if she is not happy !

I have to be able not to make a muppet of myself in front of her workmates.  Amanda has said that she wants to introduce me to them, wants to take me in to her office…. “Oh Lawdy !” 😕 …. a veritable gaggle of women all eyeing me up and down and knowing they can say anything they like in front of me because I won’t be able to understand a word of it.  Double 😕 😕

And what of “when we are out”?  Amanda has, at least, spent some years in the USA so she understands that Western attitudes are more relaxed.  My problem will be that, no matter how much I read up on it or how much Amanda tells me in advance, I know that I will forget almost all of it by the time I get there.  There is nothing I can do about that: I cannot “fix” my short-term memory problems “on demand”.

This is probably not a good time to be trying to learn about a new, strange culture.  This is probably not the best time to be considering all those airports; all the signs in strange languages, and trying to work out the timings when I have no sense of how long anything takes.

As I waited at the Arrivals channel today for my neighbour, I imagined how I will feel as I go through the doors and search the waiting crowd for my first real sight of the lady upon whom I have invested so much hope for the future.  And I tried to imagine how she will feel, knowing that the man she is about to greet is probably going to take her away to a strange land, with strange customs, new people… and a totally new way of life.

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