When we landed in Shanghai, the plane taxied out to a parking lot and we all disembarked and got on a bus to the airport. It was surprisingly orderly. Once the doors closed the bizarre easy listening music came on something like “we are the land of a million hearts, ” One thing that seemed scary in this a little too perfect and a little too orderly situation was that the airport was bordered by a 10 foot fence with razor wire on top.
I don’t know much about razor wire but my son says that it will slice through anything that touches it and if they do get away they can be tracked by the trail of blood left behind. It felt kind of weird to be loaded onto a bus and driven past fences covered with razor wire.
Chinese security felt a bit like a really friendly detainment camp. There were young uniformed guards (male and female in equal number) everywhere. They didn’t have guns and weren’t intimidating at all outside of the fact that they were wearing uniforms. They were all in their 20’s, cheerful and boisterous as they roamed in groups. Their apparent cheer was slightly bizarre as we were herded into lines to be interrogated by stern uniformed guards.
We followed arrows on the floor to a room for “transfers” (aka not going into China) and after going through narrow tiled hallways, we ended up in a corridor with two lines. The guard told us to go in the left line, so we did. It turned out that we were waiting 9 people deep on our side (and 20 people deep on the other) for one solemn looking guy to review our passports and papers. and collect fingerprints with a small scanner. There were biometric machines on the right side but they were turned off.
Most people were really polite and orderly but I got some resistance from an Indian woman in the other line. She was trying to cut in front of us when the family in her line had just gone. The processing was obviously going from one side to the other. I noticed her edging up and feeling slightly aggressive, cut her off. Not more than 3 minutes later we were sharing a very small elevator at the end of the next hallway. It only held about 6 people and was dirty and industrial. Again, it felt as if we were really behind the scenes in a private area. But because of the language and culture differences, I found it to be spookier in Bejing.
When we got out, much like Los Angeles, it was more mazes until we got to a line. We waited to go through Chinese security. There were two trash cans (for water bottles and lighters), then a scanner for luggage, and finally a metal detector. Compared to what we had been thru at DIA it was simple and almost nice. Nobody was holding a gun and it really seemed like we weren’t assumed to be criminals.
The shanghai airport wasn’t crowded unless you looked in the duty free shop. It was a pushing, standing room only crowd in there. Out in the seating area there was an announcer that spoke every ten minutes that spoke the cutest most precise chinese I have ever heard. It was like a fluffy anime character was reading the announcements in perfect Chinese. Even as someone who doesn’t speak the language, I’m sure I could have correctly named the tone for every sylable she spoke.
I noticed that when we came from the US there were no special precautions taken by the airport personnel, but when we came from New Delhi to Bejing, everyone who greeted us wore masks. As if the entire plane was filled with germs from India. The Chinese were terribly ineffiecient with processing us and I felt an interesting kinship with the other passengers.
I also learned a little something about Sikhs. In the United States, we are scared of them just because their turbans are so foreign and strange to us. But if you are in a jam and need someone to stand up for you, a Sikh will do it powerfully without hesitation.