Indeed, my week-long visit to the Republic of China alongside three journalists from Sierra Leone and others from the African continent really left me flatfooted over the rapid development that has taken place in that country.
Traveling from Sierra Leone to China is a rather pains-taking affair, lasting some 48 hours; but at the end of the day the massive infrastructural development of a country rated as a ‘third world’ would really win the heart of visitors.
The journey from Sierra Leone by Kenya Airways, the pride of Africa, through Ghana unto Nairobi lasted some eight hours. Then after a brief spell within the Jomo Kenyatta airport, we boarded another Kenya Airways airbus for Dubai.
That journey lasted some four hours, and the moment you take one step out of the airbus, you are taken aback with the huge human traffic that confronts you, as you have to make your way unto the information desk for clarification of your next flight.
For me it was another painful affair as the three other journalists and I had to sit it out at the airport for fifteen hours, as no visa was granted to us, to connect with the famous Emirate airlines.
During those wasted hours, I took the opportunity to have a close view of the state-of the-art Dubai airport that handles thirty-three million passengers in 2007.
As the influx of passengers continued to beat my imagination, I decided to further unearth more facts about the airport, and it was discovered that it has six runways that connect the world in virtually every second of the clock, twenty-four hours non-stop.
Having been left spellbound of its perfect passengers handling services, I had no option but to compare the services at our own Sierra Leone’s Freetown International Airport, where it took a worker almost 30 minutes to process my boarding pass, thus leading me to conclude that we are still gripping with modern day facilities at our gateway to the world.
Squatting at the airport for the next fifteen hours before my next flight, I took the opportunity to roam the airport to amaze myself of its facilities. That took me to the famous duty-free shop that has been dubbed as one of the three best in the world.
Its products offered for sale in both foreign and local currencies can at least cut the eyes of passengers to pick up an item for a souvenir, but what really beat my imagination was the manner in which my colleague’s well-stocked duty-free items were stolen when he was checking in for our onward journey back home.
That really left me to conclude that in any country – where at first glance it seems rosy – some people carry glues in their hands to deprive others. That is the place that is being described as the best brains in the world under one roof.
However, upon arrival in Beijing after a seven-hour flight, the moment the Emirate flight shot out from the sky on a bright and sunny day, the eyes could see the massive skyscrapers that have made that country a force to be reckoned with in developmental stance.
Furthermore as we gradually descended, the pilot’s voice was heard informing us that we are going to land on terminal two, not one, that was constructed for the Olympic Games. But the difference could not be detected as the airbus landed and taxied towards its designated position on the building, my eyes caught a huge Air Japan airbus taxing behind us carrying its contingent for the games.
As we disembarked from the craft and walked into the magnificent airport terminal we were greeted with smiling faces of volunteers who simply say, “Welcome to Beijing and have a pleasant stay.”
The formalities at custom was brief, like putting on a mini-skirt, after which we trucked our way downstairs to board the underground train that took us to the baggage hall where we collected our belongings.
Stepping out from that building one is greeted with series of placards bearing the names of country from guides to take you through the streets of Beijing to our respective hotels and games villages.
On arrival at the Radegast Hotel in central Beijing, one was again short of words as one step into the structure that was among those that were constructed when the host nation won the bid to host the games seven years ago.
One of the many tasked duties during those seven days was a meeting with China’s Special Envoy on African Affairs Mr. Liu Guijin, who told the visiting delegation from the African continent that “China is not a donor, but a partner.”
He further reaffirmed that China is here to help Africa help themselves, and elaborated on the cooperation on education that would pave the way for the construction of 100 primary schools in rural areas, as well as the building of 13 hospitals and their quest to assist their African brothers to help them meet their food demand through the establishment of agric demonstration centers.
A lasting impression in my mind was the great walk up the famous Great Wall of China and that of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, where journalists were briefed about the historical aspect of these places.
A visit was also organized to Tianjin, one of the four municipalities of China that is located 150 kilometer from the city, and journeying through the highway was as delightful as driving through the city of Beijing.
On our way one could see flyovers and a well laid highway that is devoid of any potholes and those that characterized traveling in the African continent. There again we were taken on a conducted tour of the ports and other institutions to see the economic and developmental strides of the developed China.
by Samuel John