Arriving in Beijing

If we’re talking nerves, I didn’t have them when I first arrived. I had everything packed, twice. Before I left the states, my parents gave me an old SIM card from a Chinese phone carrier so that I could call my grandaunt when I arrived in Beijing.

When I arrive at the Beijing airport, I turn on my phone and pressed the dial button. I hear an odd beep, once, twice, and a pause.

“Sorry, your SIM card number is out of service.”

My senses begin to tingle. Skin feeling, itchy, throat feeling a bit dry, heart rate increasing, mind racing I noticed a phone booth. First year Chinese literacy skills, please work for me. I press the green button and pick up the phone.


Then press the circle button.


Then type in a phone number.


I check for free Wi-Fi. The airport has free Wi-Fi. I connect. It asks for my phone number. I don’t have one that works. I check my watch. We landed about 20 minutes late. My grandaunt must be waiting. I gather my carry-ons and head through customs. I’m thinking of all the different ways I could reach my grandaunt.

At the luggage claim, I notice a booth with three large letters hanging across it: S-I-M. SIM card service booth. Perfect. I walk over to the clerk.

“Excuse me, could I bother you to help me? I’d like to purchase a SIM card.”

“We don’t do that here.”

I stare at their sign.

SIM cards here

I stare back at her, confused.

I’m not sure what to say anymore. I find my luggage and head out the arrival doors. I hope my face hasn’t changed too much in the last seven years. I look around for a familiar face. I spot someone recognizing my face, and I recognize hers.

I smile. I am okay.