May 5 & 6
Or at least it felt like one day. Friday began at 7:00 am in Baltimore, but I am going to call my brief nap after dinner in Pittsburgh the breakpoint between Friday and Saturday.
So, the 38-hour day started in Pittsburgh at 8:00 pm. Hours one through six everyone spent doing whatever they please in Tower A, waiting for the bus to leave for the airport. When we arrived at the Pittsburgh Airport, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse (it was three in the morning after all). After about an hour and a half, our bags had been checked and we went through security; all of which really only took forty minutes, but we got to the airport before any of the airline employees. Now we just had to kill an hour before the plane boards, which meant breakfast. Once we got on our flight I could not stay awake.
When I woke up the waiting game started all over again in Dulles International Airport. But I couldn’t really stay awake there either. Thankfully, I had planned to sleep there, so at least I was mostly on the schedule I wanted to be on to fight jet lag. I slept off the four-hour layover before getting on the plane for the 14-hour haul that awaited me and the rest of the group.
Lunch was served on the plane soon after takeoff and it was back to sleep for me, doing my best to really be able to enjoy every moment in China without jetlag. I woke up and had nine hours to go on the flight. Yeah! (he said sarcastically) A scan of the movie list revealed three movies on my list of movies to watch; Father Figures, The Big Lebowski, and Good Morning Vietnam. After The Big Lebowski and before Good Morning Vietnam I got up and walked around for what I would guess was about an hour. It felt really good to move around after nine-ish hours of sitting. The final five hours of the flight were the staring me in the face, but Good Morning Vietnam was a great movie, I highly recommend it, and it easily whisked away two of those hours. Hours eleven through fourteen of the flight – hours twenty-seven through thirty of the day – were by far the hardest. Parts of various movies were watched, sleep was contemplated, various games on the entertainment screen were played, I decided I was too tired to read and it all ended with anything but the smoothest landing.
Customs and Immigration were smooth, but we all thought it odd that it required scanning our fingerprints.
The first thing I noticed about Beijing was that for such a large city, there is a lot of greenery. Trees and shrubs lined the roads and divide opposing directions of travel. Also, bikes and scooters dart in and out of traffic with an abandon which scared everyone on the bus until we saw it happen a few more times, then it became funny.
During the final two hours of the day, we ate a very large, delicious family-style dinner and went on a small walk before everyone was ready to pass out for the night.