So my journey to China and its first few days were VERY eventful. It all started at BWI at 7:00 am after passing through security in 20 minutes when I was warned it would take 4 hours. Oof, long wait already- at least they had free WiFi for the holidays…
Sitting waiting for my commuter flight to Newark, where I would catch my flight to Beijing, I met two business men who were going to the same place. So, when we found out that our commuter flight was so delayed that we would miss our flight to Beijing we worked together to solve our crisis. The airline ended up driving us to Dulles airport to catch a flight to Beijing, through Tokyo, there. We barely made it in time, after rushing through security at a run. They were already boarding the plane, but we some how still found time for a free drink in the first class lounge (its good to have friends in high places hehe).
They were really cool guys, one from Annapolis. Actually, he goes to karaoke at Ebb Tide a lot. I told him to look out for you Dad! His name is Chris Rizzo…know him? They waited for me when we disembarked from the plane in Tokyo. They tried to take me into the first class lounge there too but they weren’t allowed so I wandered the airport waiting for the next flight. I got sushi (had to!) and took a nap. Our flight was almost canceled because Beijing got a ton of snow that day. More than they’ve gotten since the 1950’s! The flight was delayed while we waited on the plane but eventually the Beijing air control tower decided to let us fly in. We arrived at midnight and I passed through customs and got my bag. I went to the taxi waiting line and it was HUGE. It took me two hours to get a cab, but there was a nice Indonesian boy infront of me that prevented me from being scammed by an unofficial cab driver that wanted to charge me 400 RMB to get to the hostel (it only cost 100). Finally I got a certified cab and he drove me through the most snowy streets I’ve ever been on (they don’t have snow plows!). At 4 am I was finally checked in and asleep in the hostel. 12 hours later than scheduled.
The hostel was nice though, and I booked a private room so it had its own bathroom (with a western toilet!). I woke up at 11:00 am and though I was still tired I decided to get up so I could get adjusted to the time. The first day I went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. The palace (forbidden city) was beautiful, with big courtyards and great decorated buildings. It was all covered in snow, and it was FREEZING that day. I really liked the temple of heaven because the whole thing is considered the temple- the gardens and the little temples on the grounds. The cypress trees and juniper trees are very old- some over 800 years and they are considered cultural relics now. It was really peaceful to walk among the trees, but it was cold and the sun was setting so I left. I hailed a cab to take me back to the hostel rather than wait because I was so cold.
Then I napped and read and waited for Adam to arrive. He was delayed too, and didn’t arrive until midnight. We caught up and had a beer and then went to bed.
The next morning we went to the Great Wall. We took a tour for the equivalent of $40 that included breakfast and lunch and transportation. They Great Wall was…Great! It was all snowy and arctic and crisp and it was a clear sunny day with no clouds. We walked to the wall rather than take the cable car (a 20 minute snow hike) and spent some time on the wall and some time in a pagoda looking out over the mountains. When I get overwhelmed with the foreign-ness of China I want to remember that moment. When we got back into Beijing we got off the bus before it took us to the hostel because it was taking too long.
We went to see the Olympic Stadium and grounds and then took the subway to Wangfu shopping district, which is apparently very famous. We had a really delicious dinner at a Korean Bar-B-Q restaurant. There is a grill in the center of the table and you cook your own meat and then put it in lettuce with kimchi (spicy cabbage) and other toppings and wrap it all up and enjoy. It is one of my new favorites. I am going to make Amy take me again when I visit her in February.
That was about it in my Beijing tour. We took a flight to Hangzhou the next morning. Some Chinese students volunteered to meet us at the airport and they were there waiting with a bus for us to arrive. They took us back to our dorms and showed us around campus and taught us where to eat. I’ve been getting settled in ever since. I went for a run this morning and it was strange to be the only westerner in a city full of people. It was nice to see so many people out among the trees near campus doing yoga and ti chi and other morning stretches, even in the cold. I think I will join them…
Oh and a note on the dorms- they are wonderful! The college totally redid our floor preparing for us, they put laminate on the floor (the others have concrete), installed western toilets, and new beds with big poofy pillows and thick heavy comforters. The rest of the building is freezing and unheated, but our rooms have a decent heater. The Chinese students have been so helpful and patient. I hope we can show them equal hospitality in America.