Monday, October 04, 2010

One word China, EFFICIENCY!

I've always heard that Communism is great on paper but bad in practice and to a cynic like me, that's always made perfect sense. Having never actually stepped foot in a communist country however, this has always been one of those "so they say" things that I myself have tossed out there a few times without having any first hand experience to back it up. Well after this past week, Van and I can now officially say that we've seen the effects the big red machine can have on a place and let me be the first to tell you, it ain't pretty. Just so you know, this isn't going to be some Anti Commie rant, but I think that the story I'm about to tell you serves as a shining example of how truly dumb people can get when formalities are considered more important than people's well being. At the time our experiences were frustrating and a bit nerve racking but now looking back they just seem too funny to keep to ourselves.
Arriving in Gwangzou China:
As we got off the plane and walked through the terminal toward Immigration, I noticed something rather peculiar. There were smoking rooms in the airport, which in and of itself is not so outlandish but inside the smoking rooms were stands that somewhat resembled water fountains. However unlike a water fountain that supplies you with nourishment, these stands were lighter fountains intended to help the 2000 people who die each day from smoking get there just a little quicker. Nearly 3/4 of all men in China are smokers and smoking fountains are a true sign that a country smokes too much.
A bit further down the road, distracting us from the giant body temperature gadget intended to catch all sickos coming into China, there was a nice bulletin board describing the dangers and effects of Dengue Fever with a GIANT, and rather nasty looking mosquito. A very pleasant welcome sign indeed! And just a little further was the immigration check. Now at first glance you might think that China really has it's act together here. There are a good 12 maybe more lines for you to choose from and they move relatively quick. At the desk itself there are nifty looking cameras that resemble giant Iphones that take your picture and confirm that you are the person in your passport. Then something caught my attention as we were waiting in line. A slowly growing group of people were standing around just past the immigration check with some not so happy looks on their faces. They also all happened to be western looking. Once we got up to the counter it all became clear. The pimply faced "police" officer took our passports, looked them over, looked us over, wrote something down and pointed over to the growing mass of foreigners. If any of you remember our little debacle in Chile, you will understand my reluctance to leave my passport in his possession but seeing as there were nearly 30 foreigners in the holding pin already, I figured there wasn't much point in making a fuss about it.
About half an hour later the team of immigration officers turned their stacks of passports over to one of their crew who began looking at each passport individually and trying to find the person to match the picture. Now we had a long layover ahead of us but I wasn't really looking to spend another half hour in our little corner of the airport and a few of the foreigners had connecting flights that were scheduled to leave in 15 minutes so I offered my assistance. She held them open and I read off the names and congratulated each person on their official non threat status. Then we proceeded up the stairs to the international departures where we had to stand in another line to be x-rayed again. Not sure what they thought we could have picked up in the 100 yards between our last airplane and this one but safety first I guess.

Once we got to our gate, we met up with some other English teachers heading to the same place we were and had a nice little party, ranting about the silliness of the Gwangzou security system.
One pleasant surprise, however, was the gift we were given for filling out a survey for purchasing anything within the country of China, including in the airport. Pringles and a beer constituted as enough to fill out the survey for a nifty little gift.

to be continued...

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