By T.J. Budd
Sorry about the delay in getting this blog going. I haven’t had internet access my first few days, and then I found out that I couldn’t update my blog while I’m over here. So, I’m going to e-mail my entries back to the States where they can be posted.
This first post is basically a chronicle of my trip getting over here, it will be one of the longest posts, in the future I’ll have shorter and more frequent updates.
I thought my trip to Beijing was going to start on Wednesday morning in Lexington, well, that was the first of many times I thought wrong.
I arrived in Blue Grass Airport sometime around 6 am on Wednesday July 23rd. I found out just minutes later that my flight had been canceled. The fine people at the Delta Airlines Desk got me another flight to Atlanta, where I was supposed to fly to in the first place. That doesn’t seem so bad, catch another flight just hang around for a few extra minutes, I was still doing ok. Then I found out those few extra minutes would be spent in a cab going to the Cincinnati Airport, paid for by those fine people at Delta.
After Max (my cab driver and a real nice man) dropped me off in Cincy I figured this all was simply a minor setback in my travel plans and still nothing to cause concern. The lady at the desk in Cincy was very nice with me but sure was upset with the people back in Lexington. Apparently they hadn’t finished the work they were supposed to do with my ticket, and that made a lot more work for her. Once she got it taken care of I was off to catch my flight to Atlanta.
On the plane to Atlanta I sat next to these two older ladies and one of them happened to mention that airfare to Beijing was now costing around $8000. I paid a good chunk of change for my flight, and I remember waiting and trying to feel out the prices back in March. A few of us from Asbury were wondering if prices might drop in the next few months. Well, obviously they didn’t. I’m really glad I got my flight when I did even if it was to cause more problems later in the day.
In Atlanta there were more problems with my ticket, apparently booking with Orbitz was a bad idea this time. After a good 30 minutes or so everything was fixed and my visa was cleared so I was good to go. Now the fun begins. A 14 hour flight to Seoul, Korea. As soon as I stepped on the plane and found my seat I thought for sure this can’t be that bad. Every seat had a blanket, pillow, toothpaste and toothbrush kit, a bottle of water, and the kicker a touch screen right in front of them.
The choices were seemingly enough to get me through the next 14 hours. There was an endless amount of music, movies, games, and TV shows. Well I quickly learned the games weren’t that much fun and somewhat hard to play, the TV shows consisted of an episode of Friends, Two and a Half Men, and some show I had never heard of. The movie selection was actually not that bad, and actually quite extensive, over 30 new or newer movies. I am no movie buff like my friend Tyler is, but I thought the movies I picked were quite good: “21”, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, and “Dan in Real Life.”
The flight was long, but it didn’t seem to last forever. The flight attendants, and there had to be about 20 of them, came by seemingly every hour with drinks and we were served two meals, which weren’t half bad. With the movies, TV shows, a few naps here and there, and the service the flight wasn’t bad for 14 hours. Sure it was long and cramped, but luckily for me there was no one on my right. We landed in Seoul and I had about 2 hours to kill once I walked to the other side of this mega airport. I mean this thing was absolutely longer and bigger than anything I had ever seen. There was a gate then about 3 or 4 shops before another gate. It was like a mall that you could also from to different countries from.
After a nap in the airport I boarded my final flight of the day, on course for Beijing. I immediately fell asleep and stayed that way until we landed. It was refreshing.
Now up to this point I wasn’t nervous at all, I was dreading the length of time it would take to get there and excited about being part of the Olympics so I just didn’t save any space for nerves. Once we landed I became nervous. These weren’t nerves from being in China itself but rather being in a completely different country with no one that I actually knew (yet) and not able to speak a lick of the language. (There was also this minor detail that I didn’t have a place to stay that first night. My flight landed Thursday around 8 pm local time and I knew once Friday rolled around I was good to go for lodging, it was just a matter of making it through the next 8-10 hours that was going to be the issue.)
I had thought that I would just try to sleep some in the airport or hang out there for a few hours before I could take place in my permanent housing. Well once again what I thought was wrong. I went through customs and before I got to baggage claim someone was pulling me aside and telling me what to do next. I picked up my luggage and went to accreditation where they told me they weren’t expecting me. For some reason my company wasn’t expecting for a few more days. Thankfully they put me in a 4-star hotel for the night for what ended up being free to me.
In the morning I had to go to the International Broadcast Center (IBC) to figure out my lodging. Let me tell you this building is absolutely huge, it houses all Rights Holding Broadcasters. The means all companies like NBC from around the world that have paid for the rights to broadcast the games have their headquarters in this building. They all have their offices and studios. The building also is where all of the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Company employees have their offices. There is also a Main Press Center (MPC) where all the writers have a place to work, which is right next door.
Everything got straightened out quickly after I finally found the office that I needed to go into. I went back to the hotel and checked out and was finally on my way to my permanent housing and more importantly to where three of my friends were already checked in. It will be nice to see some familiar faces and be able to speak the same language.