I made it!
The night is moist. The day was even moister(?). After 2 weeks in Europe’s blissful climate, I am now back in weather I’m somewhat familiar with. I sweat more today than I have since Texas. But it’s ok. I’m here. In Taiwan. Finally. I made it.
The journey to the Brussels airport was supposed to be a smooth one. Paul, our new Belgian friend who lives two houses down from where we were staying in Braine-le-Comte, Belgium, was going to take me to the town train station on his way to work in the morning. I would hop a train and end up at the airport, and that would be that. I was 95% packed when I went to bed. Paul would pick me up at 6:50, and I wanted to be up at 5:30 – so I could shower and eat and feel decent when we left. I did have about a 24-hour journey ahead of me.
But the gods, it seem, like to see me sweat, like to see me race around like a blind lab rat on meth, like to see my brain function at half-speed while my body works at some sort of mach level. And so it was that on the morning I was to begin my journey to Taiwan, I awoke at 6:44, with Paul yelling my name from outside the front door. “Nick? Nick?” I heard in a French accent over and over in my sleep. Once I realized what the hell was going on (that somehow the TWO alarms I set failed in their one true function), my eyes popped open and I flew off my bed. I was apologizing, dressing, brushing my teeth, and hurling whatever I saw into suitcases at the same time. Paul helped enormously, and then we were at the train station.
Despite my hazy ability to reason, I somehow managed to determine the correct platform for the train to the airport. And when the train came, I hauled my diva-like amount of luggage on, found a seat and finally exhaled, proud of myself for the way I’d overcome such a serious obstacle like oversleeping. I probably even blew on my fingernails and rubbed them on my shirt. And then the train made its final stop, at a place I’d never heard of before. At that point, I determined that something was amiss.
The train to the airport was supposed to get to Braine-le-Comte at 7:33. And I’m sure it did. I, however, like the bum who sees a quarter on the sidewalk, paid no attention to details and got on the first train that came to me. Around 7:25 or so. I pieced this all together as about the same time I realized the doors weren’t closing. So I got up dejectdly (the sad Charlie Brown music most definitely playing in my head) and dragged my bags off the train.
Luckily, time wasn’t that much of an issue; my flight didn’t leave for another 2+ hours. I was able to hop a train to the Brussels Central station, and then another to the airport without any further hassles. My head, however, never really caught up to my body. Not until I was on the plane, anyway.
The flights were pretty uneventful, as far as flights go. Brussels to Frankfurt for about an hour. 2 hour layover, where I ate one last meal of bratwurst on brochen with potato salad (I’ll miss you, German food). Then I found my gate, and about 45 minutes later I was on a plane to Beijing.
I can’t sleep on planes. I don’t know why. I’m just not really good at sleeping when I’m not lying down. (Maybe I should have just stayed seated the night before I left). So I read, did a crossword, watched a couple of movies, and then we landed in Beijing. And then I got to see just how …. nuts?…. China can be. A flight attendant got on the PA and said China was taking Swine Flu seriously, and we all needed to be checked before we could get off the plane. And boy… checked we were:
Luckily, I checked out flu-free, and they let me off.
I’ll tell you this about the Chinese – they will line up at the drop of a hat, and then they’ll nudge you, shove you, jump in front of you, and make you wonder why they lined up in the first place. At least this is the impression I’ve gotten in my first day. Lots of lines at the Beijing airport (which is beautiful, btw). But I got through them all with minimal bruises and collapsed in a chair to await my final plane.
Four hours later (11: 35 am local time), I touched down in Taipei. I was here! Apparently, the Taiwanese aren’t as worried about Swine Flu, and we were let off the plane without any holdup. I walked into the terminal where I was greeted quite warmly:
Those guys pepped me up quite a bit:
I got my bags, barely had to deal with customs at all (the biggest shock of the day), caught a bus into the heart of Taipei, figured out how to get money out of the ATMs, took a rail train to my hostel, found my bed, and passed the eff out. But now without documenting it first: