Saturday, May 2, 2009

Beijing Airport. May 1, 2009

I must be almost home because I’m incredibly frustrated trying to do something that should be really simple. I arrived about six thirty with four or so hours of sleep. Wandered into the beautiful new airport all but deserted and finally located a bench near an electrical outlet to plug in the computer. Plugged in and found no wi-fi. Not really surprised, I took a nap. Drowsing listening to the background music shift from Parsley Rosemary & Thyme to Fur Elise by Beethoven. There was a nice performance of some traditional Chinese musicians and dancers for a while. The personnel at Immigration and Passport control were efficient and professional. All seemed like it would be a smooth transition.

I went to change the remaining Thai currency to Yuan so I could get something to eat and had to pay the equivalent of seven US dollars for the privilege. Later I realize I could have used a credit card for food and waited until I got home to convert currency. Instead I do both.

I go to an airport restraint promising free wi-fi and order a club sandwich and a cup of coffee. Regular coffee which tastes pretty good amounts to an espresso sized serving in a regular cup. After forty five minutes of slowly eating the OK sandwich and almost warm fries I still cannot get an Internet connection and complain. I’m told they have cables, no wif-fi and am directed to a triangular shaped desk with two connections per side. I’m given a cable and sit down at a vacant space and plug in. After over five minutes of trying to get on line I notice the stickers on the two receptacles on my side both say “broken”. So I sit and wait for one of the others to free up and after ten or so minutes one does and I plug in again. I still cannot get a live connection to the Internet and give up after another ten or fifteen minutes in really annoyance. Decide I will try a land line credit card call since I am never able to get through on my cell phone no matter what I do.

I wander around and find a bank of phones. The video interface is mostly in Chinese but I plow ahead and do the best I can to get a response I can work with. I am told repeatedly regardless of the credit card or way I try to use it that “calls to that number are not allowed”. I’m trying to call my son in Oakland to see if I can get my car left at my house so I can collect my mail and do banking before the weekend starts. Then I try to call each one of his brothers with out success either. Finally I decide the try the most expensive option and try a collect call and manage to finally get an English language interface. Finally after having tried countless times on three different phones on two different banks of pay phones the call goes through. Of course I’m calling at the wrong time and it’s ten thirty at night for my son and he’s not sure he can move the car for me. I feel badly that I’ve interrupted his sleep and that I’m asking for something beyond his ability. I feel like my efforts to get through were mostly an exercise in futility and that I should have done nothing, taken a pill, had a drink, waited until I got myself home and then decided how much I was over drawn or now many bills I’d missed paying in my absence.

Ultimately none of this will make any difference and my life will soon return to the patterns it normally follows with the people that I normally interact with at home. The Chinese cultural celebration display is on again with young dancers on the stage spinning around. That sounds better.

An hour later. I quite feeling so aggravated and resign myself to the future having not a great deal of change from the past. It’s usually so incremental that the differences are marked in degrees of subtlety rather than dramatic contrast for the most part. I may as well accept that nothing is going to change, no one is going to act any differently and that if I want that I need to look elsewhere or within myself.

My final flight takes off in about an hour. The trip has been remarkably free of irritation other than allowing myself to be ripped off early on in Egypt, and some extravagant expenses such as a suit in Bangkok. I’ll have to take myself to the opera this fall to justify the purchase. Of course maybe I’ll learn how to convince other people I’m really serious about doing business rather than just playing at it. It took me six months or more of steady effort to get that confidence as a cab driver so I should allow that this time too. Of course when I was learning to drive a cab I wasn’t alone and that does make a difference. Maybe it seems like it makes more of a difference now because I’ve returned to this state too many times to feel optimistic any more. Just resigned that this is what the cards I’m dealt, have dealt myself for that matter, will amount to and there is nothing more to be said. I need to simply figure into my budget the fact that if I want to tell someone my innermost thoughts I have to pay for it, and if I want to be touched kindly, I need to pay for that too. The expectations of how things are supposed to be are mostly made up in my own mind and resolving to be at peace with the facts of my life is all I can do or else I’ll act out inappropriately again with sex, drugs and other self destructive behaviors.

I’ve been away since April 7, been to three countries and in seven different cities since I left home (New York, Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Seam Reap)and on nine different airplanes and spent my money with far less restraint than I do at home. Hopefully I will enjoy my things at home, enjoy drinking the Arak and smoking the cigars, wearing the suit, the silk boxers and kimono. The bottom line is that I bought things for others that I got great pleasure out of choosing and if they bring others pleasure then that is worth more than the indulgences I bought for myself.

I remember when I left that I was struggling with whether or not I deserved such a trip and I can’t say that I’ve changed much in three weeks. The feelings of privilege as an American are not feelings I am comfort able with. I want to share what I have with others and not feel used or exploited. Those feelings are no different with those I let in close to me at home than they are when I travel and am among strangers. Sometimes the differences can seem blurry as those in other countries are so warm and engaging, friendly and solicitous and ultimately it is about your money. At home the behaviors are a little different and the coin of the realm is not necessarily that of cash, sometimes it is more expensive than one realizes at first.

I’m finishing my last beer in China and going to the gate to take off in forty five minutes. The trip will be over in twelve hours or so and then I’m back to the cool grey fog of home and reality again. Until I can get away.

No comments:

Post a Comment