After getting back from our group dinner at 8:00 pm and knowing that we were meeting at 2:15 to head to the airport I decided to hold off on sleeping. This was for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to put myself through trying to wake up after only sleeping for such a short amount of time and secondly, China is 12 hours ahead of us so I wanted to start to put my body on the right schedule. When 2:15 came around everyone met in the lobby. We boarded a bus and headed to the airport. When we first arrived at the airport no one was there to check our luggage as we got there too early and had to wait until about 4:00 am to start that process. We then went through security and headed to the terminal to wait for our boarding time of 5:45 am. The flight to Washington D.C. only took about 40 minutes which wasn’t too bad. Little did I know the 14-hour flight following wouldn’t be such a cake walk. After 5 hours of layover time in D.C. we finally boarded the plane. I was hoping to sleep for a majority of the flight, but my 6’2″ frame couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time. Thankfully there were a variety of movies and tv shows to watch while in flight. I chose to watch Black Panther and 12 Strong, along with many episodes of House of Cards that I had pre-downloaded on my iPhone.
When the plane landed in Beijing I immediately forgot about the crummy airplane food and 14 long hours I had just spent on the plane and had a burst of energy come upon me. I was finally here. We exited the plane and had to be fingerprinted before going through customs, immigration, and picking up our luggage. Following all of this, the wonderful people from The Asia Institute awaited us and escorted us to a bus so we could head to our hotel. I immediately noticed all of the greenery that Beijing had to offer. I also jumped to the conclusion that it must’ve been like this around the airport to make a good first impression on tourists. I quickly found out that I was wrong. I have never seen a city this green in my life. There are trees, bushes, and flowers everywhere. Even in the middle of the highway and built into every sidewalk. The next thing I noticed was all of the air conditioning units that were outside all of the apartment windows. I was surprised that they didn’t have central air conditioning systems or even window air conditioning units. The next thing that was hard to miss was the traffic and how everyone went about traveling. There were no designated lanes. Cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles, mopeds, buggies and pedestrians all traveled together in harmony and were respectful of one another. It wasn’t like in America where people go through “road rage” or yell and honk their horns at other drivers. I found it unbelievable that I didn’t witness a single accident just traveling from the airport to the hotel.
Once we arrived at the hotel we had a short amount of time before meeting in the lobby to head to dinner. We went to a very nice restaurant about 10-15 minutes away from our hotel. They served us many nice dishes and I had no idea what I was eating, but I tried everything. The meal mainly consisted of vegetables, meat, and some other things that I was unsure of what they were. It was all pretty good. I found out that I’m terrible at using chopsticks, but with 2 weeks of practice ahead of me I think that will change. Overall, it was a tiring but successful day. I’m excited to be here and can’t wait to see what these next 2 weeks hold for me.