After finding out I got accepted to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to study in their month-long exchange program GEM Trailblazer the race was on to find the most inexpensive flight. I had been anxiously waiting for months for an acceptance email that ended up arriving a month prior to the program’s start date. Every chance I could, I spent time searching for the best flight to Singapore. Three weeks before my start date I was on Skyscanner and I came across an amazing deal. I immediately grabbed the phone and called my best friend John.
“Bro! Check your email. What do you think of this flight deal?” I yelled before he got a chance to say hello.
“I think you have quite a bit of stopovers but the price is great compared to the other flights we were seeing,” he said while trying to hold back his laughter.
Before he got a chance to say another word I hung up the phone. Without any hesitation, I quickly grabbed my laptop from my bed and booked my 23-hour journey from Toronto to Beijing, Beijing to Guangzhou and Guangzhou to Singapore. I felt on top of the world. Here I was with these inexpensive flights, and all I had to do was get off the airplane a few times and before I knew it, I’d be in Singapore.
The day I was waiting for had finally arrived. On a dark, rainy, summer afternoon, I stood at the airport with my travel pillow around my neck and my large, red, Hershel backpack embroidered with the Canadian flag on my back. I kissed my boyfriend and my sister goodbye and my travel nightmare began.
My first set of flights were booked through a Chinese airline by the name of Hainan Airlines. They had a good rating online so I felt confident everything would go smoothly.
Thirteen hours later I landed in Beijing where I got off the plane and followed the signs in English and Chinese characters to get to my transfer gate. As I headed up the escalator a short and stout Chinese lady, in what appeared to be airport staff clothing, stopped me.
“Transfer gate?” she says forcefully.
“Yes,” I replied without any hesitation.
“I need to see your boarding pass”
I looked down at her as she examined my ticket.
“You’re going to be late, you need to follow me,” she said in a panicked voice.
I looked down at my phone to check the time because I didn’t think the plane landed late. I had everything perfectly planned for weeks now. I knew what time the planes would land, and how long I had to get to my transfer gates. Immediately, I went to look at my ticket but quickly realized the stout, Chinese woman was now running down the hallway, with my flight ticket in her hand. For a stout lady with short legs, she ran fast. I ran behind her trying to keep up. I felt like I was going to pass out. I was running out of breath and my heavy backpack made things even harder.
“Hurry, hurry!” she would often yell back to me.
By the time I caught up with her we ended up in a dark parking lot where she handed me a business card.
“You need to take a taxi to the next terminal,” she says.
Trying to catch my breath, I pause for a minute.
“So… how much is this taxi going to cost me?”
“I think about 200 yuan,” she said confidently.
In my mind, I thought that this woman was trying to play me for a fool! Having lived in China for a year, I was very familiar with their currency and I knew that 200 yuan was the equivalent of forty Canadian dollars.
I glared at her. “I don’t have 200 yuan,” I said in my most polite voice.
“Oh, how much money do you have?” she says surprisingly.
“Well, it looks like I don’t have any money,” I said sarcastically.
“Oh, the terminal is a long walk away and you need to take a taxi! Where are you from? America? Do you have any money from America?”
Forcefully, I grabbed my ticket from her hand and started to walk away from her. Confidently, I walked in the direction of the escalator.
“Oh well lady, you’re going to miss your plane,” I heard her yell from a distance.
I looked down at my phone: I lost 30-minutes. I might just miss my plane.