I woke up early and looked around at what has been my home for the past few days. When I saw my suitcase in the corner, all packed up and ready to go, I was overcome with a feeling of sadness as I realized that today is the day. Today we will check out of our last hotel on this trip, head to Beijing’s airport, and say good-bye to China. While I am excited to see my family and friends again, I’m not quite ready to say good-bye to China and the people who just over two weeks ago were strangers, but now seem more like family. Unfortunately, leaving was inevitable, and there were still a few things I needed to get done before it was time to head to the airport. So, I rolled out of bed and got ready for breakfast. At breakfast, I ate the same thing I’ve eaten every morning during this trip, croissants, the only thing on the buffet that is similar to what we have back at home. The food is one thing I will not miss about China, and one thing I look forward to about returning home. After breakfast, we checked out of our hotels and a group of us headed out to do some last-minute shopping before we left for the airport. Today, out on the streets of Beijing, it was hot and fairly sunny. It was one of the few sunny days that we’ve seen since we came to China. Not always being able to see the sun in China really makes you appreciate the few days when you can.
Once at the shopping mall, we decided to get an early lunch. We wanted something familiar that would remind us of home. We decided on Pizza Hut! Pizza Hut is a little different in China than it is in the United States. Here, it’s a little more fancy and more of a sit-down restaurant than it is in the States, but it tastes just as good. After we finished eating, we quickly lost the boys, who preferred not to go shopping. Carmen and I, the only two girls that came on this little shopping trip, were OK with that. We shop better on our own anyway. Walking through the mall, two American girls, towering each at over 5 feet 9 inches, we stuck out like sore thumbs. However, we’ve become very used to this in the past two-plus weeks, and we hardly even noticed people staring anymore. Back on the streets of Beijing, we headed in the direction of our hotel. As we were walking, we were caught up in our conversation, until suddenly we both realized something. Almost as if thinking the exact same thought, we realized that we were walking down the streets of Beijing, without a hint of alarm, or insecurities about our surroundings. If it weren’t for the Chinese characters instead of English, or the lack of diversity in people that is often seen in the United States, we might have mistaken Beijing for a big city back home. I didn’t feel threatened here, or alienated in any way. I felt completely independent, and I could easily see myself living here without any problem. It’s a great feeling to know that in just over two weeks, I was able to adapt to a completely different culture than my own. With this feeling of triumph, we continued our journey back to the hotel.
Once everyone was accounted for and our luggage was loaded onto the bus, we all looked out the windows as we drove away from what had been our home for the past few days. It took us an hour to get to the airport and we spent that time talking to one another and enjoying the scenery of Beijing for just a little while longer. Once we arrived at the airport, we checked our luggage, said good-bye to our amazing travel guide Lily, and headed through security. Once on the plane, the exhaustion of travel across China in 17 days finally catches up with me. Luckily I have a 12-hour flight to try and catch up on some sleep. But, before I fall asleep, I can’t stop thinking about what an amazing trip this has been. I have experienced and learned things that I will take with me in life that will last much longer than this trip. The friendships and memories I made are priceless, and this trip was worth every penny (or Yuan if you may).