Observations during my layover at Pudong Airport and Why I'm Taking a Detour for My Work Visa-Run


Can I go to Colombo now? I've wanted to land there for a while now. I guess I will have to settle returning to Thailand, twice in six months. I'm a lucky gal.

I don't know if its because I've just come from Korea, but Shanghai folk (lemon in tea??! and in a bag? Who are these people??!) seem to be different from Beijingers. There's a (sh...) in their xie xie and they eat a little quieter. And I saw a big line of people, hundreds of bodies perhaps, passing through Domestic, while the line for International was about 3 (me and two others). Just one of the reasons why I left China. But then I see smiling faces and workers tans sharing a meal together and I count myself lucky to have been to the country in the first place.

On today: I got a lot of looks and a lot of praise for carrying my backpack around town and to the airport on the subway. I left the L-Zone cafe in Kyungsung after a great morning of toast, instant coffee, and swapping stories with fellow travellers. I'll take instant coffee anyday if it comes with conversations with fellow travellers. It was like being in Burma again, except I was back in my old home away from home at a totally new hostel. I took the subway to Busan Station and picked up some baking chocolate (for Christmas baking time with little Thai kids, of course!) and a few Korean souvenirs for the road, and headed to the airport before sunset, smelling my last of this season's fresh fall air. Autumn passed me by in smoggy Beijing and the land of Seoul, as I wandered around two of the biggest cities in Asia, trying to make a buck, get back on my feet, and reconnect with the Asian life I felt like I'd left too soon. It was December 1st, and I was headed back to South East Asia for a few weeks. Now I'm in Bangkok, on one of the most random decisions I've ever made. I'll be back to Shanghai and then back home to Busan and it will be winter, and I will be almost 31. I always say that there's such a lot of world to see, but sometimes I like to pop my head into some recognizable spots in this crazy world, just to check in on the many places I've gotten the privilege to call home. I've done it many times; returned to the little town in China where I once lived and found a sense of independence in myself that I didn't know existed. I've done it with Busan. A few times, really. And whenever I'm drinking rum and cokes and Bob Marley plays on the radio, I think about returning to Costa Rica. That trip unfortunately hasn't happened yet, but the Americas will call me back when we're ready, I'm sure.
When my suitcase and me first hit the Beijing streets back in August, a taxi driver gave me a thumbs up as he passed by.
I thought of the Australian business man I met once on an L.A bus. I was jet-lagged after 7 months in Asia and was Vancouver bound to see an old friend. I told this stranger my travelling life story in a matter of five minutes before he got off the bus, gave me a thumbs up and told me to, “keep rocking”. Sometimes when I'm unsure of myself, one of the only things that can help me focus on the journey ahead is thinking of the kind words I've gotten from strangers or messages from old friends, encouraging my journey, my writing and my lifestyle. Thanks for helping a gal out, peeps.

So souvenirs and chocolate in hand, on my way to Gimhae airport, I passed this Korean man as I walked towards the subway and my big backpack on my back. He didn't know how to catch my attention so he just started banging his hands together until I looked over at him. He gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. I smiled back and bowed “cum sa hammida!” Then on my subway transfer between Lines 1 and 2, a few Ajoshis and Ajummas asked me what I was doing. They offered me their seats. Some just stared. One Ajoshi knocked on my backpack, trying to figure out what mysteries laid (lay?) inside (a few fleeces, pants, and underwear, really. I hope I packed my toothbrush). I hopped onto what I'm sure was my 10th or 11th flight in six months; all on a budget, all with little or no plans. (I just counted, it's 12).

At the airport I notice signs of the Global Village: Japanese, Koreans and Canadians talking and learning from each other all on a journey.
Koreans ordering food in English to Chinese waiters at the Shanghai airport. French and Aussie travellers talking with me in English. I think of the Shanghai hostel I once stayed at for a week and how there was the English side and the quiet, absorbed in their computer stuff Chinese speaking side. The Chinese girl, Spanish consulate worker, Egyptian engineer and me all sharing stories. The Egyptian guy gave me a proxy server, talked of Yangshuo and taught me “good night” in Chinese. A Toronto born Chinese guy and a few local girls took me out for Shanghai muslim hand rolled noodle soup. Some of the convo was in chinese and some in english. Many people were impressed by our travels. The Toronto guy didn't really know where he was going in life, but really, neither did I.

This world is pretty great, sometimes.
I teach English but I love learning languages and cultures (I just wish I was better at it) but I really think there's something beautiful when the world has one common language. Having one common anything with people who would have been complete strangers, even aliens, a century before makes me think that this century can be a great one. Let's work together to make it so.

People log onto their smart phones and check in and confirm hotel booking and spend so much time doing nonsense whereas my way is: Can I make it to the airport by subway? Which way is the cheapest? Will I have somewhere to sleep tonight? Are my bags in a safe spot? I haven't had a phone for over a month now and it's taking a toll on me. I realize how much it's an essential. I can survive out here without one because I don't have many friends, my friends become the ones who are right in front of me. I couldn't survive in suburban canada without one. Not even a car. That's one of the (main) reasons why I left. I hate being tied down to diesel fuel. We are better than that.
Enough is enough. I'm back in South East Asia. Maybe I'll get to ride a motorbike myself, this time.