After so much planning and packing, it’s hard to believe I’m actually HERE! The past 2 days (is that really all it’s been??) have been a complete whirlwind, but I am in Chengdu! Let me give you a recap of my past 48 hours…
After some tearful goodbyes, my flight took-off from DC on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, the flight took off about an hour late. This was a problem for me because my layover in Beijing was already short (about an hour and a half) so I really could not afford to lose this hour. It’s a terrible feeling to know that you are going to miss your connecting flight and not be able to do anything about it while you are in the air for 14 hours. Talk about anxiety!
How I felt when I realized I was going to miss my connecting flight
Two extremely lucky things happened on this flight. First, the seat beside of me was empty! I was able to stretch out more which leads to my second good thing: I actually got ~7 hours of sleep on the flight! I know, who does that?? This would prove to be very helpful as my journey continued on.
When I landed in Beijing, I sprinted through the airport in the hopes of making it through customs and to my next flight within 30 minutes (spoiler alert: that didn’t happen). I tried to connect to the internet to look up my gate and alternate flight information, and quickly realized that I didn’t know how to function without Google. I started asking for help and everyone in the airport was INCREDIBLY nice to me. Security guards pulled me to the front of the customs line, flight attendants looked up gate information for me, led me to the right trains, told me where to get off, and eventually pointed me to the information desk when it was obvious there was no hope for getting on my original flight. By the time I got to the gate for my new flight, I only had about 10 minutes to spare!
The Beijing Airport can be very confusing, so I was extremely grateful to everyone who helped me navigate it
I landed in Chengdu after midnight and headed to baggage claim with a feeling of dread – if I had barely made it on a flight to Chengdu, what were the chances that my luggage had made it? My fears were confirmed when the last bag came out and it wasn’t mine. After almost 24 hours of traveling, it took my best efforts not to burst into tears. I filled out a missing baggage claim form and hoped I would be reunited with my suitcase soon.
All I had when I arrived in China was the contents of this backpack – so, mostly snacks
I arrived at my hotel around 2 am, quickly informed some people that I was safe, and attempted to sleep for a few hours. I knew the day was going to be busy!
When I went down to breakfast in the morning, I finally met all of my CSC teammates. We’ve been getting to know each other via emails and conference calls for the past few months, and it was great to finally meet them all in person! Everyone was SO nice and generous, offering to let me borrow clothes and make-up and whatever I needed until my luggage arrived. After finishing breakfast we got on a bus and headed to see….PANDAS!
Pandas helped me realize that the travel journey was going to be worth it
We watched multiple pandas eating and sleeping (what else do they even do??) and also saw red pandas and peacocks. I learned that baby panda season isn’t until the summer so we were a little too early to see babies, but here are some more adorable panda pictures:
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the neighborhood around our hotel. We ate a lunch of noodles and dumplings (for only $1.50 per person!) and went to a local market to check out the vegetables and spices.
The soup was pretty spicy, most of the group had tears/runny noses after just a few sips
Our group enjoying lunch in the street
When we got back from lunch, my suitcase was delivered to the hotel! I think I scared the guy who delivered it to my room with my squeals of excitement.
For dinner, we went to the Wide and Narrow Alleys in Chengdu. The streets were recently renovated to reflect traditional Chinese culture and architecture, and they were so cool! I could have spent hours walking around and exploring all the shops and food.
Even the Starbucks blended in with its surroundings
We went to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner and it was amazing! They brought out at least 15 courses and they displayed all of their foods in such creative ways. My favorite was the dessert – surprise, surprise 🙂
This cute dessert was stuffed with whipped cream and mango
We had a private room on the top floor of the restaurant
After dinner, we decided to call it an early night since most people were still recovering from jet lag. Although it was a somewhat bumpy journey, I had an amazing first day and I can’t wait to see what this month has in store for me!
Our CSC group
PS: I am now using an international SIM card, which means you can no longer contact me on my normal phone number. Please stay in touch via email, Facebook, Instagram, or WeChat!