We are off to Beijing! Today we woke up at 2:00 am to leave for the airport for our flight from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. and after a long 5 hour layover in D.C. and a 14-hour flight from D.C. we finally arrived in Beijing! Although the flight was by far the longest flight I have ever experienced, the pain was eased by the wide variety of movies United offered. When we arrived in Beijing we had to go straight to kiosks in which we were required to give our fingerprints so that we would be allowed to proceed to customs and immigration inspection which was quite the mess as there were people from all over the world crowding around the kiosks to figure out how to use the machine. Once we got through customs and immigration inspection we finally got to meet our group guides for the trip Jane and Lilianna who are students in China currently working for the Asia Institute.
The drive into Beijing was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. As we drove from the airport into the center of Beijing the number of high rises for housing and businesses was astonishing; the buildings seemed to go on forever. The thing I was most impressed with was how beautiful the streets and highways were in comparison to that of a United States highway and city. The highways throughout Beijing had gardens separating the two lanes and parks that sprawled throughout the city. I cannot even imagine the amount of money that must go into the upkeep for all of it, but it does make the city look gorgeous. I asked Dr. Li about it and he said you would be amazed by how much money the Chinese government must be able to put it into things like this. After settling in at the hotel we then got right back onto the bus and went to eat at Hua’s restaurant in Beijing. The food was delicious even though I really had no clue what I was eating outside of the rice and duck, but overall it was awesome to try all these new foods. The one thing, however, that is hard is the fact that no forks and knives are given in China but rather just Chopsticks. Although I am getting better with it, it is certainly a struggle at times.
Once we returned the hotel some of us went out to explore the area surrounding the hotel which included some restaurants and shopping malls. The shopping malls we stopped in, which are not even close to the biggest in Beijing, were 6 and 7 floors of shops and vendors. We also checked out the American chains in Beijing such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut and found that they were indeed quite different. Although the McDonald’s offered the traditional Big Mac and Fries they did have a lot of things that are not offered on an American menu. As for Pizza Hut we found that it was a sit-down restaurant and the advertising had Pizza’s with potatoes and noodles as toppings. Finally, we returned to the hotel exhausted as I had slept roughly 5 hours in the previous 48. I cannot wait to see what Beijing has in store for the next several days!