I have this cool little counter set up to record how many people visit my website. After my first post that was found by as cool people as a random Daniel's parents and NBC, hits have decreased exponentially. Monday got me a month's-worth of hits in one day, and I expect everyone to drop off soon once they see how unexciting my stories usually are compared to talking about national disasters.
That said, this is the last post I anticipate talking about the earthquake. It's been fun to play a reporter, but this is the fourth post I've been distracted from talking about my awesome time at Mt. Emei. The city is settling down nicely and all of our attention is going to the small cities nearby that have been devastated.
Yesterday I went to the airport because I was supposed to leave with a friend for northwestern China the day after the earthquake, and that obviously didn't happen. First I had a run-around trying to call people. The travel agency said I had to get the airline to change my ticket, the airline said it was the travel agency's responsibility.
I went to the airport and it was a madhouse. A friend of ours, Liz, had been at the airport when the earthquake happened, and went back the next day to try to fly out. The good news was that I didn't see her. The bad news was that for all I knew, she could have slept on the airport floor like several of the people I saw (as evidenced by the flaps of cardboard they scavenged and used as beds).
The airport was open, though, so it looked like flying out was at least feasible. I eventually found the booth I was supposed to stand at and started to check out the scene.
China only lines up if it's an emergency (like buying water or Snickers bars, but not, we noticed, Gatorade). Flying is not an emergency, and therefore the booth I was supposed to receive help from featured a swarm of Chinese people waving their tickets to get the clerk's attention.
I noticed that the people at the front of the booth weren't being helped and that the clerks were focusing on people who had walked around all the booths and sneaked through the back. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
I went back, a guy helpfully told the attendant to help the foreigner, and less than half an hour after I entered the airport I had tickets rescheduled to fly out Friday, today.
Another anecdote about lines in the wake of the earthquake. I foolishly went to a strip of camping supply stores nearby to shop for one of those cool travel pillows that let you sleep even without a window seat.
But the stores were all closed. Not closed in the normal way stores are closed, but closed with a guy standing outside keeping a horde of people from going in. I thought this effort could be taken care of by just locking up, but it turns out they weren't closed. They were monitoring how many people were in the store, only letting another person in if someone came out. I picked this up gradually as I watched what was happening. If someone could point to a hat or something specific and say they wanted to buy it, they were let in. But the hundred or so people standing there (and sitting on the rail without the appearance of an order) were held back. I asked why and got the obvious answer: the owners were afraid of everyone storming in and there being chaos.
I can't even imagine what it would have been like if everyone in their panic had access to all the gear they would need to live outside for the next few months. Luckily, I don't need to sleep on a bus enough to navigate that line.