FIRST DAY WORST DAY
It didn’t start like any other day, that’s because it wasn’t… It was “the day”!! The day I was finally leaving to mark my journey into the awesome future that awaited me abroad. I was leaving my home, family and friends behind to a whole new country and sure there was some sadness in my heart but the joy and excitement outshone every other feeling. If any day was supposed to be perfect it was this day, and yet by fate or maybe sheer bad luck, it would go off as one of the worst days of my life. Hello wonderful readers, as I promised, we’ll be having a series of posts dedicated to my life in China so let’s start with the day that begins it all… stay tuned and hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two…
We aren’t one of those families that have morning devotions etc together but on the morning of my departure,my dad gathered the family and together we prayed. After the prayers, I said goodbye to neighbors and then we set off (dad, mum-who was heavily pregnant then, and myself). We got to the airport, I checked my luggage in, got my boarding pass and went back to go bid my parents a final goodbye. I hugged mum and she opened her mouth to say something but instead broke down into tears. The scene was both touchy and awkward but whatever she was feeling, I felt it too. I was leaving my best friend behind, we’d spent the one year period after school together and now I was leaving but there was no time for tears so I hugged her one last time and left with my dad. About an hour later, my flight to Addis Ababa took off.
Upon arrival at Addis, I headed off to the waiting area to await my next flight. During the 4hr wait period, a Congolese lady approached me and I think she needed some assistance but unfortunately she could only speak French. I spent 6 years of basic school studying French and yet all I could reply to her was…”Je ne parle pas français”. At that point, I wish I’d taken my French more seriously. At the waiting area, I met a KNUST lecturer who was also going to China and we immediately paired up and kept each other company until it was time to board at which point we got separated.
The flight to Guangzhou was just about 9 hours but felt to me like forever, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t eat the food they served on the plane either. Eventually we landed in China and I was just one more flight away from my destination (Jinan). I went to the luggage area to pick up my luggage as everyone else, this is when things started to go wrong. Bags came and went, people were picking up their suitcases left and right but for some reason, my suitcase never appeared. I must’ve stayed there for about an hour so trying to figure out what to do, praying in my heart and pleading to God that somehow my big black suitcase will just appear… but it never did. I found some people selling sim cards at the airport and bought one and immediately called my dad to tell him about the situation because honestly I didn’t know what else to do. I saw an office with the tag “luggage claim area” but it was empty. In the middle of all that, the KNUST lecturer found me and when I told him what had happened he told me to wait for him to go check his things in for the next flight and then come help me figure things out but he never showed up. The time for my next flight was drawing near and I was left with two options; miss my flight and keep on looking for my items or forget about my luggage and continue my journey. I was physically tired, mentally stressed and emotionally broken at that point and really needed my dad to fix things like he always did but I was on my own. There was no time to panic or cry so I just moved on and went to check in with just my handbag and documents.
I arrived at the boarding gate for my next flight to Jinan and but for one black person, everyone else was Chinese. I sat next to this black man and we started talking. He was Nigerian (can’t recall his name), mid-forties and was going to Jinan to meet his business partner. I also introduced myself, my purpose for going to Jinan and how I’d lost my luggage amidst others. Since I didn’t have anyone coming to meet me at the airport, he offered to let his business partner (who was to pick him up at the airport) first drop me off at school, an offer I gracefully accepted. Turns out losing my luggage was only the beginning of my troubles. The flight to Jinan which was scheduled to leave at 20:05 was delayed until around 12:00 am and I spent extra 4 hours with very angry Chinese passengers. On the plane, I met a Chinese guy (who became my first Chinese friend) who was all too glad to be sitting by someone he could practice his struggling English with. After the usual introductions, I told him where I was going and thankfully his house wasn’t far from the central campus.
We were scheduled to arrive around 2:00 am which meant I’d have to wait till morning to report to school so he offered to help me get a hotel room to rest and then come pick me up in the morning to school and I agreed. We landed safely in Jinan city and just as David (the Chinese guy) and I were about to find a cab and leave together, the Nigerian man and his business partner found me and asked that we leave together. At this point I had yet another choice to make; go with the Chinese stranger I just met or go with the Nigerian stranger I had also just met. Guess who I chose to leave with? Could have been racism or whatever but I said to myself, at least the Nigerian man is also black… and I left with my fellow black man and his business partner hoping I’d made the right decision.
The plan was simple, we’ll get a hotel close to Shandong University central campus where we’ll rest for night and then at around 8:00 am in the morning, the business partner will come pick us up and drop me first at my school before they left to do their own business. We arrived at this very fancy international hotel and everything seemed to be moving on smoothly. The business partner took passports and 400rmb each from us so there was no reason for me to be worried… I really just wanted to catch some sleep. We took the elevator to the eighth floor and entered a room with two beds… wait.. two beds? I paid 400rmb and that was not enough to get me my own room? The business partner said goodbye and left us in the room. I immediately felt a wave of uneasiness and panic and my mind was suddenly filled with all the things that could go wrong in that room before morning came.
I looked around the room, it was a business room, large in size, the closet was right behind the door and opposite the bathroom which was glass by the way (mental note: no showering). I took the bed close to the door and the man took the bed by the window. I put my bag down by the closet, took off my shoes and sat on my bed hoping to calm the awful headache I’d started experiencing. The man washed down and returned to his bed. He tried to make small talk but I was too tired, hungry and scared to properly engage him. I remembered I had my devotional book in my handbag so I took it out, read it for a bit and then went on my knees by my bed to pretend to pray. All this time the man was looking at me and I hoped that by my actions he’d convince himself that I was some “chrife” girl and the fear of the Lord will cause him to cancel any evil plans he may have had in his head. After “praying”, I sat back on the bed and this man said to me; “you know what Abigail, whenever you find yourself in a situation where you feel like someone might harm you, just go on your knees and pray to God and maybe God will touch his heart to leave you alone”… dude really?!!
After a while, he fell asleep (or so I thought) so I decided to quickly wash down in the bathroom.. I stealthily entered, took of my clothes and turned the knob to enjoy some peace and quiet. I’m not sure if the sound of the water woke him up or he was never really asleep in the first place, but this man called out to me in the shower to offer me new boxer shorts if I needed any. I told him I was ok and declined his offer after which I stopped whatever I was doing and quickly got dressed and went back to sit on the bed. He then got up and tried to make small talk again, this time however, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I could literally hear my heart beat in my chest, turns out the praying stunt didn’t work after all. He told me how much he’d take care of me and even give me money to buy clothes to replace the ones I’d lost and how he comes to china often so we could always meet whenever he was in town etc etc… I told him no I had a boyfriend at home and that I was okay and didn’t need anything from him. Mind you, I knew from our conversation at the airport that he was married with two kids. If I was feeling unsafe earlier on, him asking me to be his girlfriend made me extra nervous and scared. A few minutes passed after that awkward conversation and I was still contemplating my fate in my head when out of no where this man just jumped on me, pinned me down and tried to kiss me and everything else at the same time. Oh no oh no.. this is it.. I’m going to be raped.. oh God no help me… all these thoughts kept running through my mind and I don’t know how long it took but it was long enough for me to feel his wet lips on mine…too damn long… I wasn’t going down without a fight though. I don’t know where the energy came from but I used whatever strength I had left to push this man off me and I ran … to the corner of the room.
I know what you’re thinking by now and even I thought same… to the corner of the room? In those few seconds I thought to myself… I don’t have anywhere else to go, I need the business partner to take me to my school in the morning and if I still have to pass in front of the beds to grab my bag (my only property left at the time) to get out of the room then he could grab me again? And so there I was, in the corner of the room with a potentially dangerous man, in a city in a foreign country many miles away from home. Thanks to God, this man didn’t chase after me, he returned to his bed and called out to me apologizing for his actions and telling me not to think of him as a bad person because he wasn’t, he didn’t know what came over him blah blah blah… I said it was okay and that I was fine and then just sat in the chair by the desk and never returned to my bed. He then proceeded to call his wife to tell her he’d arrived safely and then he eventually slept off. I watched him sleep the rest of the night, I watched him as he snored, and turned and slept too afraid to even move an inch from where I sat. It seemed to me that I was safe as long as I kept my eyes opened. I then took to chatting with my dad and classmates on whatsApp to pass the time. I figured my dad was worried enough about my lost luggage so I just told him the school sent agents to pick me up at the airport and lodge me in a hotel and that they’d come pick me up in the morning. I told him I was safe and sound no need to worry. In truth, I was hungry, tired, sleep-deprived, scared, sad and alone.
At around 6:00 am, the snoring ceased and the man woke up. He realized I hadn’t moved the whole night and asked why but I told him I wasn’t sleepy. He then decided we go down for breakfast while we waited for the business partner to come pick us up. I didn’t have any appetite to eat so I just sat opposite him as I watched him eat whatever it was he put on his plate, hoping that he’d somehow just choke on his food and die. “Abigail, I don’t like the way you’re behaving, what’s wrong with you?” he asked… “I’m ok, I just want to get to my school as soon as possible” I replied. Seeing that I wasn’t comfortable around him still, he went upstairs, got my bag and decided we’d just ask directions from one of the receptionists at the hotel. The lady we spoke to didn’t know the direction to the school but she offered to help us get a cab outside to take us. The first few drivers we stopped all denied knowing the school at which point I started panicking again… what if I was in the wrong city? Thankfully two friends on a bicycle saw us and came over to ask what was happening, turned out they knew the school and offered to take us there on their bikes. I never imagined I’d be reporting to school on a bike but I was grateful that everything was finally coming to an end. So off we rode, me behind the bike of a very friendly stranger and the Nigerian man on another bike behind us as we made the trip to my final destination.
We arrived at the main entrance of Shandong University, I got off the bike and thanked the guys for bringing me safely to school and bid the man goodbye. I entered the campus and everything that happened after went on smoothly and quickly. After going through the necessary health checks, registration et al, I was taken to my room. It was there in my room all alone that I felt myself relax and actually feel the magnitude of all that had happened to me in the past 48hrs. I knew I needed to eat, shower, get some clothes etc etc but first what I needed most of all was a very long sleep.
Over the years, I have recounted the incident that occurred at the hotel to a hand few of trusted friends only because I could never really explain my choices or actions. I never got my luggage or refund despite the countless times I contacted the manager of the ET Airline office in Guangzhou. My first two days in China weren’t the best but China has given me a lot of wonderful memories that overshadow the effects of those unfortunate events. I am definitely a lot wiser now than I was then and very well informed to travel anywhere on my own. Sharing this with you is my own way of bringing awareness to some of the things that could easily go wrong and hopefully from my mistakes you know how to better handle yourself if you should ever face something similar.
I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in China with you all and as usual, don’t be a stranger.