This blog post is the story of my first trip to China in 1992. This was when I worked for Hughes Christensen, an energy technology company. HC sent three of us to China for over 3 weeks. The purpose of the trip was to complete a technology transfer with the National Oil Company of China.
The trip was one of the most interesting experiences in my life. As I look back on the trip almost 30 years later, I don’t remember it being as bad as I had documented it in 1992. However, everything I wrote on this trip was my feelings and experiences at the time.
Before adding this story to my blog, I softened some of my descriptions of the people I worked with in China, compared to what I first wrote in 1992. Over the past 10 years, while working with Becton Dickinson, I have worked extensively with other Chinese citizens. My experience with them was the complete opposite of those I worked with in 1992. It may the be difference of Chinese government employees vs. private company employees. Or the difference of people from the big cities (Suzhou) vs the rural areas (Jian Han). Probably the biggest difference is the changes in Chinese culture over the past 30 years.
I don’t take a lot of pictures on this trip, as it was long before the days of digital cameras. My camera was a compact 110 mm film camera and the quality was not very good. I also lost one roll of film before it was developed.
November 2, 1992
Day one of the China trip
I got out of bed about 5:45 am, showered and got ready for Allison to come and get me. She picked me up at 7:30 am and took me into work. I can hardly lift one of my bags because of all the food supplies that I packed. I will learn later that I should have packed some more.
After I arriving at work, I hurried around to get everything ready. I needed to put a lot of files on the laptop to take to China. While loading the files I called Eva in Texas to say goodbye. But because I was so busy with work, I said I would call her back before I left for the airport. However, I was too busy and did not get a chance to call her. I had Mike Gentry take me to the airport and had just enough time to check-in, get some travelers checks and jump on the plane. That is the way I like to travel. I also met up with Rick and Richard at the airport for the flight.
The first leg of our trip is from Salt Lake City to Anchorage. We were able to fly first class on this leg. The flight to Alaska was nothing special, however, I do like the service they give in first class. We got to Anchorage later than planned. If we had tried to make the connection to Hong Kong on that day we would have missed by 20-30 minutes. However, we had planned to spend a day in Alaska. We checked in at the Regal Alaskan Hotel. It is very nice hotel on a lake, that in the summer, serves as the busy seaport in the world. However, in the winter it was frozen solid and all the planes are parked on the side of the lake. There must be thousands of small planes in Anchorage. I would like to live in Anchorage and learn to fly. I think that is the only way to get around to some towns in Alaska.
The hotel is real nice and I would like to stay there some time in the summer, but I think it costs over $250 a night to stay in the busy season. We all went to our rooms to unpack a few things and shower before going out to eat. I called Eva and talked too long, so I did not have time to take a shower. By the time we went to eat it was already dark and very cold. I think it was about 17 degrees. And the wind was blowing. We were cold, but we could see that the Anchorage natives were all wearing either no jacket or a light jacket.
November 3, 1992
The next day we got up and drove to see the Portage glacier. It is about 50 miles from Anchorage. We drove along the Cook Inlet highway for most of the distance. The weather as we drove there was terrible. It was raining and very dark and dismal. When we arrived at the glacier it was raining so hard that we couldn’t see much. But we were able to see ice burgs from the glacier floating in the lake. They were a beautiful blue color. I was shocked by the color and beauty. We could not see the glacier very well because it was across the lake and it was to dark and dreary. However, it was well worth the drive to see those icebergs.
After our drive to the glacier, we drove to the airport, boarded the plane and headed to Hong Kong. The flight was not too bad, considering we were on the plane for 13 hours. The weird part for me was boarding the plane on the afternoon of November 3, and getting off 13 hours later, and it was the evening of November 4. Because we crossed the International Date Line we lost one day. Because of that I have lost track of the days.
November 4, 1992 — The Hong Kong experience
Landing the plane in Hong Kong was quite an experience. They have to make a hard right turn just before landing as the plane flys between the skyscrapers. Hong Kong is the most exciting city I have ever been to. From what we could see, I don’t believe there was a single building less than 10 stories tall. The population density is over 5000 people per square mile.
It was 10 pm by the time we got checked into our hotel, and then Rick and I went out to the shopping areas. There are thousands of different shops. I didn’t buy anything because I didn’t want to carry it to China and back. I will probably buy something when I return on the way home.
November 5, 1992
We got up and ate our last good meal. The Kowloon Hotel has a great breakfast buffet. It was full of American food and I ate several plates of it. At this point we still didn’t know that eating in China would be very bad. After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the airport. The taxis in Hong Kong are very cheap, but they drive like maniacs. Things are not too bad on this trip so far. However, when we got to the HK airport things quickly started going downhill.
We flew on China Southern Airlines into Wuhan. Their check-in gate is in the run-down part of the airport. The line was full of pushy, crowding Chinese. My bags were overweight so I had to pay extra to get them checked. I was worried that I may never see my bags again. After checking the bags we went to the gate. It was in a part of the airport that made me think that we were not in Hong Kong anymore. It was what I thought China would be like. But I found out that this was a paradise compared to China.
We had to wait about an hour for the plane to come. When we finally went out to the plane I was scared to death when I saw it. It was an old 737 that was probably 20-30 years old. The inside of the plane was one color on one side and another color on the other side. It looked like they took parts from two wrecks to make one plane. The colors were straight out of the late 60’s. The overhead baggage doors were either falling off their hinges, or were not even there. They pushed all the seats closer together so they could add additional rows of seats. My seat had less than six inches of legroom. I could not sit in the seat and put my knees together. I sat on the entire flight with my legs spread apart, jammed in the gaps between the seats in front of me..
By the time they had brought the meal around I did not feel at all like eating. The smell of the airplane and the look of the food killed my appetite. The tray table had dried up food all over it. It was the weirdest flight I have ever been on. The people were not in their seats as we taxied down the runway and took off, and the flight crew didn’t care. Before leaving, I had changed seats so I could look out the window, but the window was so scratched that I could barely see out. I was concerned that we might crash or at least have an emergency landing somewhere. I had a was a real uneasy feeling about this flight and the whole trip.
I mostly read and slept a little on the flight. When we got close to Wuhan we could see the Yanzee River and the rice patties that surround it. It was quite a pretty sight from the air.
When we had landed things just got weirder. We were now in communist China and it looked stranger than anything I had ever seen. The airport looked abandoned. There was grass growing through cracks in the runway. They only have one runway and our plane stopped right on the runway to unload. The terminal building looked like it had been abandoned in the 1940’s. After disembarking the plane, we had to fill out a lot of papers in order to get out of the airport and get our bags.
When we exited the airport there was a group of Chinese from the manufacturing plant waiting for us. They put us in an old broken-down looking bus and we headed for Jian Han. It took us about an hour just to get out of Wuhan. It was the dirtiest, most filthiest place I have ever seen. It was dirty and scummy beyond imagination.
As we drove through I saw some guy vomiting on the sidewalk. It was ten times worst than East Germany, and 20 times worst than anything I have seen in Mexico. There were people everywhere you looked with trash and broken cars all over the streets. The bus ride was the worst ride I have ever been on. The driver continually sounded the horn and was swerving all over the road trying to avoid cars and people. The road had to be the roughest paved road ever made. This bus trip, like everything on the trip, is beyond description. It is impossible to convey the feelings I had on this trip.
It took us four hours to get to the hotel in Jian Han. The road was the same the entire trip. All the buildings were dilapidated and looked like they would fall down. If Russia is like this, then I can see how an earthquake could cause so much damage. If there was ever a slight tremor in this country, the whole place would be a pile of rubble. Even the new buildings and those under construction looked run-down. There were piles of rubble along the road the entire route.
There were also people all along the road. It was amazing how many people there were. I think the people just hang out on the road. They just sit there and talk or walk or sleep or eat on the road. The cars just honk their horn and swerve around them because they do not move out of the way. The road is filled with people walking or riding bicycles. There are also water buffalos, tractors, rickshaws, wagons and handcarts continually on the road. It was funny that all the tractors were on the road and none in the fields. I don’t think I have seen one tractor in the fields working, but they are all over the road. The also have a contraption that look like Troy-built tillers with a two wheeled wagon attached to the back. The would sit on the wagon and steer the tiller. This was a major mode of transportation.
The one good thing I saw was the gardens. They have the prettiest, greenest gardens I have ever seen.
During the entire ride to Jian Han I was thinking that I want to get out of here. I just wanted to turn around and go back to Hong Kong. And when I got to the hotel I really wanted to get out of there. The hotel is another one of those things that words can not describe. You have to smell the smells and get the creepy, eerie, clammy feeling. From a distance it doesn’t look to bad, but like everything else, it was dilapidated, dirty and falling apart. It is amazing how they go to the work and expense to build something and then before it is complete it starts falling apart.
The room is horrible; I did not like spending time in it. The first night I pulled down the bedding and saw a big blood stain on the sheet. So spent the first few nights sleeping on top of the bedding, until I could get them to change the sheets. The food is terrible; I do not want to eat it. I want to go home. This was the longest day of my trip.
November 6, 1992
This was the first day of work. The plant is just as run down and dilapidated as the rest of China. They have a huge plant with quite a few buildings. We were all assigned interpreters and we started working. My main task is working with the engineers to train them in oil drill bit design and how to use software for automation.
The plant bathrooms are quite interesting. The bathrooms are in a separate building that is sitting in the middle of a green grassy/swampy area. Since this is winter, everywhere else the foliage is dead, but the bathroom island is green and growing, so we can guess where the sewage ends up. To get to the bathroom you have to walk on planks about 20 ft, from the dry ground to the building.
Inside the bathroom the room is fully tiled, with three stalls along one wall. There is a water tank mounted to the wall at one end of the room. When you flush, the water flows into a trench that runs down the floor of all three stalls before draining through a hole in the wall to the outside. To use the bathroom you just put one foot on each side of the trench and squat down. If you are lucky you get the first stall, otherwise you get to see what the everyone upstream had for dinner as the “refuse” runs down the trench through the other two stalls and out the hole in the wall.
I think the interpreters are supposed to keep an eye on us and keep us out of trouble. I went to their computer center and they made us take off our shoes and put out slippers. I don’t know why because the floors were filthy and scummy. But work did go pretty fast, mainly because we take a two and a half hour break for lunch.
November 7, 1992
Another day at work. Fortunately they work six days a week, so we don’t have to spend Saturday at our hotel. The Chinese people have to be the laziest, most unmotivated people I have ever seen. We have the hardest time getting them to do any work. You give them a job and when you turn your back, they slip off to another room to either smoke, or stand around talking to someone. The also have to be told every single detail and cannot think for themselves at all. Tonight we did have a banquet and I can say it was the best meal I have eaten since I came to China.
November 8, 1992
It seems like we have been here for 6 weeks. This has been the longest time of my life. Today was Sunday so we did not go to work. The hotel is like a prison. We cannot leave without the interpreter and there is nowhere to go anyway. Jet lag is still with me so I wake up at 2:00 am every morning. This is going to be a long day. Fortunately, we did get a VCR and have watched movies. We burned up 5 hours today watching movies. I did also get to call Eva. That was the high point of the day. However, I don’t want to call again, because it makes me too homesick.
Today the weather turned really cold. They have no heat in the building so the temperature inside is about 40 degrees. The entire building is built from concrete, so when it gets cold it does not warm up.
I heard later from Eva, that after I had talked to her, she got another call from China. It was some Chinese guy that talked to her for about 10-15 minutes. She was worried something was wrong, but we finally decided that it was just someone in China that took our phone number and wanted to practice English. To make a call to the US we have to give the phone number to the interpreter and they go to the operator and arrange the call. We are sure that they are listening in on our call.
November 9, 1992
Today we got up and Richard told us he has kidney stones. He spent the whole day in hospital and in his room. The nurse was with him all day. After work we went to check on him and the doctor was with him. The doctor was giving him some medication, but she had our interpreter ask me to read the drug label. I was confused as I thought the doctor would know what medication she was giving. When I got the bottle of pills to read, I found that the label was in French, so I was no help with telling the doctor what the drug was.
Again it is freezing cold. It seems like we have been here for several weeks but it has been less than one week. I keep thinking that Eva is already home, but it will be a while before she and the kids get home from their trip to Texas. I miss them a lot.
November 10, 1992
Richard is still sick and did not work today. Rick and I wanted him to use this opportunity to go home, but yesterday he was in too much pain to travel, and we have not seen him today. There is no way that he will be able to finish his part of the project now. These people are so lazy and slow it is impossible to get anything done. They always act like they know everything, but they won’t do anything.
I can hear the toilet in Rick’s room running, it is broken and runs continually. Again today it was freezing cold. In the evenings we sit around wearing long johns, our coats and keep blankets wrapped around us to keep warm. We then sit in my room and watch movies and eat peanuts. I am afraid that my food supply will run out long before we leave, so I am trying to ration it out. But today at lunch I was so hungry that I ate two granola bars.
At dinner time we sit in the dining room and talk about what we are going to eat for thanksgiving dinner, when we get home. We also talk about being warm and stretching out on the couch without fearing to catch some disease from the furniture. It seems like forever since we have been back in civilization. And it will be weeks before we get back. I miss Evita and the kids a lot. I think about them during the day at work. I have decided that I am going to learn Spanish so I can speak it with Eva.
November 11, 1992
Today at work, things started to get ugly. They want me to give them technology I am not supposed to give them. I already have shared some stuff that I shouldn’t have. I got into an argument with the manager of the engineering department over this. The problem is that if you try to be nice they just take advantage of you and want more. So you have to be a jerk and tell them no more. The real problem is that no one at our company cares if this plant succeeds. We are told not to make much of an effort to help them, beyond what is in the contract. Hughes Christensen just wants us to fulfill the contract and get out of here.
Today went just like all the rest. I wake up at about 3:00 am and then lay in bed and rest or read until about 7:10 am. Then I get up and take a shower. I meet Rick and Richard for breakfast at 7:30. We eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, two boiled eggs, and a bowl of tangerines and a bowl of pineapple. The hotels has a menu we can order from, but they seem to just bring us what they have that morning. We leave for work at 8:00 in a van that pick us up in front of the hotel. More of the daily drudgery tomorrow.
November 12, 1992
Today both Rick and I had to sit through a 2 hour meeting, with a bunch of jabbering Chinese, discussing what are we doing. They still want everything from us and we don’t have much more to give. There are going to be a lot of mad people when we get back to SLC.
Here is more of the daily routine, when we get to work, the van drops me off at the computer center and then takes Rick and Richard to the manufacturing shop. At 11:15 the van comes picks me up and then takes us back to the hotel for lunch. The same food is served for lunch and dinner every day.
The meal consist of cold, sticky rice with some type of breaded meat that is fried. We always have two plates of french fries, however, the ketchup bottle has mold in it, so we have to eat the fries dry. We asked for a fresh bottle of ketchup but have not received it yet. There is also usually plate of fried stuff that I have not dared to eat yet. It looks real greasy and I think they put dog meat in it. On our way to Jian Han we saw skinned dogs hanging from the porches of the houses, so we are sure to look closely at the meat before we eat it.
They also bring us a big bowl of soup. But we have not dared to eat it yet. It does not look too good. One time we did get some pieces of fried beef. It was pretty good, but we did not see that again.
Lunch goes from 11:15 to 1:45. All of the Chinese, that are staying with us at the hotel, hurry and eat and then go to their room and take a nap. A few times we have had to go wake up the driver so he could take us back to work. But I don’t think anyone cares if they are an hour or so late for work.
November 13, 1992
Today we began our struggle to escape from China. The Chinese management team are willing to let me and Rick go home, but they want Richard to stay longer to help them finish building the eight core bits. The problem is that it will take probably 6 to 8 more weeks to finish these bits at the rate that they work. The president of the company came and talked to Rick and I about it and threatened to make Richard stay longer. I told them that they have to buy the tickets for all of us to leave next Saturday. However, we are at their mercy, because they have to make the reservations, provide the transportation to the airport and buy our tickets. We are unable to do any of that. After meeting with the president I spoke with my interpreter. I told him to go ahead and buy the tickets. We will find out tomorrow if he did as requested.
The rest of our daily routine is as boring as the first part of the day. We work until 5:15 pm and then the van takes back to the hotel. We must eat at 5:30. Dinner is exactly the same as lunch. Then about 6:30 pm we go to my room to watch videos. The VCR and tapes have saved us hours of boredom. We probably would have gone crazy if we did not have these videos to burn up the evening. We all get bundled up against the cold and the watch the movie the rest of the evening.
We have to be careful and ration the movies so they will last our entire time here. After the movie, I usually get in bed, because it is so cold, and read the rest of the evening. I go to sleep about 11:00 pm and sleep until about 3:00 am. The other night, we were all woken up by the rats running around in the ventilation vents in the ceiling. My vent has plastic covering it so I don’t think they can come in to my room, I hope so anyway.
November 14, 1992 (I think that is the date )
Today is Saturday, but that is just another day in the worker’s paradise. It was another day of fighting the Chinese on when they will allow us to leave. They just can’t get into their heads that we are leaving when we say we want to leave. The have lied to us and told us one thing, and then turned around and lied and told us something else. They are the most thick headed and stupid people I have been around.
Richard was sick again today, but he does not seem to want to go home, so I have not put up to big of a fight to have him go. If I were him I would have left a week ago. It seems like we have been here for months, and the past week has been the longest week of my life. Tonight I called Eva. The hotel was supposed to arrange the call at 9:00 pm, but the call didn’t get through until 11:30 pm. I was so tired that I didn’t feel like talking much, plus the phone was so screwed up that I couldn’t hardly hear her talk anyway.
November 15, 1992
Sunday is the only day off in this place. We went to a city called the ancient city. They have a museum that has a mummy that is 2000 years old. It was interesting but not worth the 2 hour ride on the roughest paved road ever made. We ate lunch in the city and then headed back to Jain Hun, arriving back around 2:00 pm.
On the way back they took us to the local bowling alley. It was just a building with a single bowling alley sitting in the middle of a big room. We think someone must have seen a picture or video of bowling and they tried to copy what they had seen. They knew that you changed shoes for bowling, but they gave us brand new rubber soled shoes to wear. Not too useful for bowling. The bowling pins were at the end of the alley, but they had ropes tied to to the top of each pin. After knocking down the pins they had a guy pull the ropes to stand up the pins. The problem was that the ropes were too short to actually knock down the pins, so there was no chance to have a real bowling game.
After getting back to the hotel we watched movies the rest of the day. There is just nothing to do in this place. The drive today was interesting; they spread their rice on the road and then the cars drive over it to husk it. There are too many other weird and disgusting things to mention.
November 16, 1992
Since they have been threatening to not allow us to leave China, we have been doing our own threatening. We communicated that we will not do anything that is not specifically in the contract. They keep holding up the contract to us so we shoved it back at them. I am starting to enjoy yelling and fighting with these Chinese. It sure makes the day a lot more exciting and fun.
We are to the point that we are sick and tired of the problems and crap that we have to put up with. I stopped several days ago trying to be nice and cooperating. They are the most ungrateful, disgusting, obnoxious, gross and uncooperative people that I have ever seen. At some point, I made a conscientious decision to stop trying to be helpful and nice, and decided to be mean and ornery. At times, I was afraid that I would end up punching one of them in the mouth. But now I look at it as just a game, and I am having fun being antagonistic with them.
Last night was a terrible night. The rats kept me awake most of the night and caused me to have bad dreams. This hotel room is as disgusting as the people in the country. We have decided that this experience must be just like prison. We are trapped in the hotel except when they take us to our work detail.
November 17, 1992
Today is Tuesday. Today Al James arrived and we had a meeting with all the company big shots. It was a big battle. They do not like Al very much and I don’t think he likes them. We had the president of the Oil Ministry of China, Madam Wong, in the meeting, but she didn’t have much to say. Mr. Mae and my interpreter, Mr. Wang, did most of the talking. The best thing that came out of it was that they were satisfied with Al staying two weeks to complete the eight core bits. I do not think that he will finish, but that is his problem. It is mostly his fault that this project was not right to begin with. They were happy with my work, so I decided not to do anything else, so they will not have a chance to find new things that they think are wrong.
I spent the afternoon looking at their CMM and working on the milling machine with Rick. I also helped Al by trying to keep some of their guys working. In this government company they are all guaranteed jobs for life, and so they do not work hard. They can miss up to 15 days in a row without calling in and still keep their job. They are at work for 6.5 hours but they are lucky to work an hour or two. The company provides them with their housing, transportation, medical care, recreation and everything else they need. It is a true communist society, and it operates like one.
November 18, 1992
Today I worked, or tried to work, with the CMM operators to help them measure a mold. They have to be the most incompetent, lazy people I have worked with yet. It was the most frustrating day since I have been here. The worst part was, they still don’t understand, and I may have to do it again tomorrow. I think I will tell the boss that they cannot measure molds until they hire competent people. They also took Rick and I on a tour of the rock bit production plant. It was interesting, but definitely Chinese.
The food is tasting better, but I am sick and tired of eating the same thing day after day. It looks good that we will leave for Wuhan on Friday afternoon. I turned in some clothes to get washed today, I hope I will get it all back by Friday.
November 19, 1992
Today was the most amazing day of all. In the morning I went to the shop to do a few things. I was intercepted by Lou and a QA engineer. I was utterly amazed by the incompetence of this engineer. I had to explain basic mathematics to him. I spent all morning trying to explain how to calculate the error between a measurement and the cutter data file. It was just addition and subtraction. After spending an hour explaining that, I spent an hour arguing with him about the process we used to measure the mold on the CMM. Finally I told him that was my advice and that is what they paid for, but they can do whatever they want, and then I stormed out of the room.
These people are ridiculous as well as incompetent. I then went out to the shop to watch Rick re-measure the mill. We were able to eliminate the majority of the error because the Chinese set up the mill incorrectly to begin with.
As we left for lunch they told us that we would not be traveling to Beijing until Sunday, instead of Saturday as promised. Well that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After lunch Rick and I went and laid into Mr. Wang. We were yelling at him, and of course he was yelling back louder, I kept telling him to shut up so we could talk to him. I think I got hotter than Rick during this session, but the next session Rick got the best of me.
The reason that we did not get a flight on Saturday was because they lied to us about a flight on Saturday. We ordered the tickets 2 weeks ago and they lied and said they only needed 5 days to buy them. A course they did not try to buy them until today. They had just given us the run-a-round for 2 weeks. We were pretty mad. The problem is that we have already bought our tickets for the flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and that flight leaves on Monday morning. So we will have to fly to Beijing on Sunday afternoon and then fly to Hong Kong Monday morning. However, we are going to try to get on a flight tomorrow night.
After resolving this problem, we went to the shop and got into a bigger battle. The past week have been nothing but battles with these people. They are writing a memo that they want us to sign, that is supposed to be a report on our work. However, they are trying to write it as an extension of the contract to provide them with all kinds of things that were not in the original contract. For example, they want us to provide a lathe post processor for mold profiles and shanks. They get this from a line in the contract that says we will provide lathe instructions for 2 bits in the next three years. This was the first that we have heard of this.
Another part of the memo was that I had not provided CMM programs, procedures, tolerances, etc. All of this because I said I would do them a favor and look at their CMM and try to help their incompetent staff. It has been like this the whole time, if you try to do a little extra and do a good job, rather than get some thanks, they just complain that you didn’t do enough, even though it was not required. The CMM is not even mentioned in the original contract.
Well, the meeting turned into a big shouting match. They were making up all kinds of lies, and we were very frustrated. If they would have got in arms reach, we would have probably belted them. They finally all went into another room and we stayed where we were. At 5:15 Al and Richard came in to the room. We decided to leave the building and start walking the 3-4 miles back to the hotel.
As we were walking towards the plant exit gate, the van with the interpreters pick us up, However, when we got to the gate, they stopped us again. This time the guards with machine guns came out and stopped the van. We sat there for an hour until they finally agreed to let us go.
The van took us to the hotel and they basically threatened (again) that if we do not sign this memo, then we could not leave for home. So Rick and I went back into the room and we worked until 7:00 pm rewriting the memo so that we could get agreement. Or at least we thought we were had agreement. They would take the memo to translate it and then they would bring it back to our rooms for review. When they came back to our rooms, the memo was completely different from what we had previously agreed to. So we spent time with Lou and we were able to hack out something that is close to the original agreement. But we will see the final version tomorrow, so who knows what it will say.
I think I did a pretty good job negotiating on this memo. Their management team operates like a bunch of bumbling idiots. There vice president in charge of the entire operation is not very bright at all, of course none of them are Einstein’s. It is amazing that Hughes ever worked a deal with them.
I am amazed at the way we have been treated on this trip. I told them that they will probably never get another person from our company to come there again. I ripped into them pretty good at the end of our meeting. Actually the fights and arguments have been frustrating, but they have been a good way to burn some time. Well it is 1:06 am and I better get to bed.
November 20, 1992
Well it’s finally Friday. Today Rick and I packed our bags into a Cherokee that took us to Wuhan. However, we did have to go to the plant to sign the memo, but surprisingly that was very easy.
They didn’t change any of the memo since the night before. We signed it and then started our trip to Wuhan. It was the usual 3.5 hour trip with a Chinese driver. We saw several wrecks, and two dead pigs. These people have to be the most idiotic, rude, inconsiderate drivers ever. They do more stupid acts per mile than American drivers do in a year. Several times during the trip I thought we would end up in a wreck. The Cherokee we rode in was made in China, so it was only slightly better than the bus we took on the way to Jian Hun. But there were three of us jammed in the back of the car, and we could barely move.
We arrived at Wuhan Airport at about 11:00 am. Then it was the same old thing of not telling us what was going on, and the Chinese being the jerks they have always been. We went to some dumpy restaurant for lunch and about three bits into the meal I found a dead fly in my food. This of course made me lose my appetite. I didn’t tell Rick until later, because if you don’t know what you are eating then it is a little easier to eat.
After dinner we went to some flea-bag hotel so the Chinese could take their afternoon nap. All this time they would not tell us what was going on, and they would not give us our passports or tickets. We were supposed to be flying standby, but we didn’t know if we were on the list or not. Lu kept telling us to trust them, and not to worry, but we’ve tried that before.
We finally got back to the airport about 4:30 pm. We knew a flight left at 6:30 pm, but still no information from them. After arriving at the airport and they told us to wait in the car. We sat in the car for another two hours with still no information. Then finally they came and told us that we had our plane tickets. We went in the airport and got in line and waited another half hour. They then told us our flight wasn’t until 10:00 pm.
We hauled our bags over to a bench, and the minute we sat down, they yelled at us and said to hurry and run and see if we can make the flight. So, we hurried and loaded the bags on a cart. We finally got our tickets and ran into the gate area, just to wait another hour. These people wait in line like they drive, total chaos. But we finally had that sense of freedom of being away from those Jian Hun people.
We finally got on the airplane. It was a real airplane, not like that one we flew from HK to Wuhan. The flight wasn’t too bad until the landing. It was the scariest time I have ever been on a plane. We came in on the landing approach and were real close to the ground and then the pilot pulls up again.
Apparently we were not close enough to the airport yet. We flew for another 60 to 90 seconds before starting to land again. This time the pilot though the ground was about 50 feet lower than it really was. We slammed into the ground very hard. Then after we were on the ground we started veering across the runway. I was scared to death. The plane was going faster that usual for a landing, but the pilot finally got the airplane stopped.
We were finally back to civilization. Beijing is like any modern city from what we have seen so far. We are staying at the Great Wall Sheraton. It was a wonderful feeling. I will have clean sheets for the first time in almost three weeks. I was also able to take a real good shower for the first time in three weeks. The good feeling I have is hard to describe.
Rick and I planned an extra day in Beijing for sight seeing. The first evening we were there we took a taxi to the Beijing Pizza Hut to have a real American meal. It was a great meal. The restaurant was filled with Americans and it felt like we were home.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet. It was the best buffet I have ever been to. After breakfast we scheduled a tour to the Great Wall with a local tour company. We rode a bus to the wall, a garden area, a factory where they made pottery and finally we went to Tienaman Square and toured the area. We also went on a tour of the Forbidden City. I was able to buy some souvenirs for the family.
We had about 12 other Westerners on our tour bus. Part of the tour was a lunch at a local restaurant. Rick and I were noticing how all the others were picking at their food, and one guy would not eat anything. However, Rick and I were so glad to see some decent food we just chowed down on anything they gave us.
After the tour we spent one more night at the Sheraton. The next morning we ate another great breakfast at the buffet, before taking a taxi to the airport for our flight home. We stopped in Hong Kong again for a night and did some shopping. The next day we boarded our 24 hour flight for home.
The flight home was uneventful, and we felt like kissing the ground when we landed in San Francisco. After the layover, our flight to SLC was short and we were finally home.