Today we made the long and grueling journey from the US to China. The day started with pulling an all nighter with most of the Plus3 China gang. It was a long night but worth it to get our sleeping schedules somewhat adjusted. We began the journey at 2:45 am when we departed Pitt on a charter bus to head to the airport. We then left the Airport at 6:10 to fly 30 minutes to DC. I slept the entire way on this flight. After this most of the group, including myself, all took a long and much needed nap in the DC airport. We boarded the plane to China at 12 pm and departed at 12:50pm. We were actually on our way! The next 14 hours were nothing but brutal. The plane seats were okay, but the lady who kept putting her knees into the back of my seat go annoying after a while. I watched three movies and tried to sleep as much as possible, but it still felt like forever. We finally arrived slightly before 2 pm.
Upon arrival, one of the first things I noticed was the muggy looking sky. I find it disturbing that the people in Beijing never see a blue sky. It looks like fog over the city 24 hours a day. The airport itself was an adventure. Chinese customs will not let you enter the country if you do not scan your finger prints. I am curious as to what they use them for. Customs was rather efficient, and before we knew it we were through them and on the bus headed to the hotel. Our program guides, Jane and Liliana, got us arrival presents. They gave us Chinese fans, some with pandas, some with dragons, and some with Chinese architecture. I appreciated the gesture, and really care for the fan. While on the bus, I was amazed by sites the city has to offer. Beijing is a giant city, but what amazed me the most is how much “green” or plants they have throughout. The roads are lined with trees of all various kinds, and we passed many parks on our 30 min bus ride. The architecture in the city was astonishing as well. Beijing has its fair share of classic Chinese architecture, but it also has many buildings that could fit in in the US. One question I have, is why do many of the buildings look like they have unfinished tops? Is this the Chinese style or are a lot of buildings just looking to expand up? Eventually we arrived at the Pentahotel. I was so happy to finally shower after traveling for over 24 hours.
The final guided part to our night was our dinner. We were given a catered authentic Chinese meal. I sat at a table with about 10 of my classmates, none of which knew how to eat 50% of the food in front of us. I am pretty sure we ate some things that were only meant for decoration. Looking back now we probably should have had one of the program guides sit at the table with us. Other than that, the meal was delicious. I have never had duck before, but I have to say it was one of the best things I have ever tried. I resented chopsticks before coming, but after using them a few times I have become sufficient enough to eat with them. I would like more meals like that in the future.
The final part of our night was when a few of us went exploring on our own. We only made it about a block away from the hotel, but I still felt like we learned so much. The first thing we did was go into a McDonald’s. They were serving Ice cream in gray cones, and full-sized chicken legs, but the best part was they use touchscreens to order here instead of cashiers. We then ventured into a mall that looked like it was going to be 4 stories tall. Upon entry we discovered that it was a 7-story building that went underground. The mall was pretty like the US, other than the orange juice machines and coconut machines that replaced the soda machines that are in the US. We headed back to the hotel after some exploration and called it a night since we had a busy day to follow.