We hadn’t slept longer than an hour when the disinterested, pale-shirted, tired-eyed Chinese airport security guard padded over and shook us awake. I knew immediately that our plan had failed. When you travel like this, very rarely do things go as expected.
Flustered by interrupted sleep at 1:30 a.m. and a lack of any Chinese ability whatsoever, we tried to explain, to plead that we had nowhere to go and a flight leaving in only nine hours. We didn’t have enough cash for a hotel, let alone enough to hire a taxi to drive us to one; Qingdao International, for all its efficiency, is squat in the middle of nowhere.
But the guard would hear none of it. Instead, he listened to two Chinese girls behind us, pleading the same case; they’d been sleeping, too, on the conjoined metal bench behind us, hoping to score a free night’s rest before their domestic flight home the next morning.
The shorter one turned to me. “We cannot sleep here,” she told us.
Yeah, I replied. I got that.
We hopped along wet rocks covered in fungus, beside families searching for seashells at 10:30 p.m. Buskers played guitars and sang under yellow lamplight in the chilled mid-autumn air. Gruff men in thin shirts fired up skewers of pork and onion on the sidewalks, and the smell of charred meat filled the streets and our piqued our noses. The city felt alive.
My first narrative for GoMad Nomad, a nice little travel magazine for stories and destination guides. Very down-to-earth and practical.