Dr. Lomino in China: The Adventure Begins
The Adventure Begins...
In October I received an email from Lions Education in Guangzhou, China asking if I would be interested in coming to their school, No Boundaries Forest Kindergarten, as a consultant. Stacey Li, the writer, said they found Wauhatchie School Forest Kindergarten during an internet search. Their job description was intriguing, and after considering the possibility for several days, I sent my application. For the next two months, in a flurry of emails and Skype interviews, I answered their questions and posed many of my own. The prospect of spending several months in China to share my passion for nature-based preschool was exciting, but not without some concerns. It was a bit daunting to think of living 12,000 miles away from my family and from my duties as Director of Wauhatchie School. But when the invitation arrived in late November, I immediately agreed to spend four months in Guangzhou beginning February 6.
My twenty-four hour journey began February 3 with a last minute ticket change to Los Angeles, instead of San Fransisco due to a delayed flight out of Atlanta, which was then followed by 14 and a half hours over the Pacific Ocean in the largest airplane I’ve even seen—a China Southern airbus with the seating capacity of over 700 passengers. As I wrestled with sleep, I tried to ignore the lingering question: how in the world can this giant aircraft possibly stay aloft? In unusually cramped conditions I somehow managed to sleep several hours, watch a movie and then consume a Chinese-style airline breakfast, all the while getting acquainted with my two non-English speaking seat mates. We managed to communicate with gestures and became even more familiar as we climbed over each other during the night on our way to the restroom. In spite of tight spaces, crying babies and a fair amount of turbulence, the passengers and crew remained good-natured and pleasant. I enjoyed listening to the lilting voice of the stewardess speaking in Mandarin over the PA system and wished I could understand the animated conversations all around me.
We landed in Guangzhou at 5:10 am where the travel-weary multitude waited in long queues at customs. In the foreigners arrival section, there were a couple dozen Europeans and Americans but many more Asians. Under the direction of very young guards, looking official in their stark black uniforms, passengers showed their passports and visas and were waived through to baggage claim. I was summarily welcomed to The Peoples Republic of China with the official stamp of approval and followed the crowd to retrieve my suitcase and meet my new assistant and interpreter, Jecky. He and I had been texting since my arrival to make sure we could find each other so he could take me to my apartment.
As the same luggage revolved repeatedly around the track, with no sign of my big blue suitcase, I finally had to admit that alas it did not arrive with my flight. An efficient and cheerful young woman, from China Southern Airlines, took me to the lost luggage department where I filed my claim.
I exited the terminal, then realized that I was at the wrong door to meet Jecky. I turned around to reenter but was immediately met by a security guard who motioned me through a cordoned area where another guard with a metal detector wand scanned me before allowing me to enter the terminal again. I talked with Jecky on the phone, and he directed me to the right door, where I was grateful to finally meet him and begin the next phase of my China adventure. I’m already missing my family and hope homesickness doesn’t overtake me. I will make my first phone calls home as soon as I get to the apartment and have wifi.
My insight for this day: People are the same across borders and cultural divides. We all enjoy a good laugh, love our families, experience fatigue and frustration, and are generally kind to strangers.