• That Global Community

My First Night in China

When my family and I first moved to China we did not speak an ounce of Mandarin, and had not even the slightest clue as to what to expect of the country we would soon call home. For most of us, this was our fist time ever leaving the United States, and none of us had ever been on a 12 hour flight before. So this was going to be an adventure for everyone. I cannot imagine what my parents were going through, taking four kids, the oldest being 11 and the youngest being three across the world. But I can tell you what was happening from an 11 year-old’s perspective. My parents were tired and so were we. Each of us had two check-in bags, two carry-ons and our backpacks. Lugging all our belongings in those 18 bags, we did not have any shipments heading for China, we didn’t even have an apartment yet! When we finally finished getting all our luggage checked-in and got ourselves through security we looked for our gate and waited (what I remember to be patiently but my parents might remember it differently) for us to be able to board the airplane. When we got on we were amazed that there were televisions for every seat. We would get to watch movies and play games, how exciting! This was our first time seeing anything like that. Before taking off we each said a prayer and that was it, we were off to China!

When we landed everything was a blur. We were all extremely tired, a type of tired I had never felt before in my life, to this day that feeling of discombobulation has never reoccured; I guess I have become accustomed to international travel. We were all moving like zombies, luckily the school my mother was going to be working for picked us up and helped us lug all our belongings into a big bus that took us first, to KFC, and then to our hotel. My memories of this time are rather hazy, as I was most definitely exhausted and ridden with jet-lag. But I do remember that my parents hadn’t the slightest clue as to what chicken to order or what any of the flavors were. They told the people who had come to pick us up that we wanted plain chicken, regular chicken. We did not get plain, regular chicken. Now, we are unsure as to why we did not get plain chicken, was it that there was none, or was there a loss in translation, we will never know. But whatever flavor that chicken was, did not match what we were looking for. On top of the chicken being an unfamiliar flavor, my mother had lost her phone. We hadn’t the slightest idea of where it could be. Now, being 20 years-old, I can imagine the stress that losing a phone on the first night of being in a new country may have caused for my parents, but at the time, to an 11 year-old, it did not seem to be a significant problem. I was more concerned with my fresh pack of gel-pens that I had forgotten at the restaurant table before we had gone to the airport. Sadness. When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were exhausted. We were in a small hotel room with two beds, my siblings and I, all being rather small, were able to comfortably share one bed, while our parents got the other. The area surrounding us was silent, no noise came from outside, that was something I had mentioned to my father when we had arrived, that the night was quiet. We said our prayers, thanking God for a safe journey to China, and fell asleep exhausted from our travels. That was our first night in China.

© 2023 by That Global Community

teresa arboleda