When we finally arrived in Beijing after a long 14 hour flight, most of us were pretty excited to finally off of the plane and not have to just wait around anymore. Then we got in line for customs and waited around even more, but once that was done, we were finally able to be in China and really experience the country. Just walking through the airport, there were advertisements and shops that are unheard of in America. There were advertisements that were packed with bright colors and shops that were either Chinese twists on Western foods or shops that sold very Chinese products (ie a shop that sold nothing but packaged noodles). Once we got outside, Beijing’s infamous air pollution became very present to us. The sky was a light grey and my eyes almost immediately became irritated from all of the dust particles in the air.
Once we got on the bus to take us to the hotel though, we noticed that Beijing is a very green city. There are trees and parks all over the place, even in the city’s innermost ring. It took us by surprise how one of the most polluted cities in the world can be so green. Looking at the parks helped us pass the time as the bus we were on slogged through traffic. We experienced firsthand Beijing’s infamously congested traffic. The main roads were always filled with a litany of cars, buses, and motorcycles. When watching the traffic it is difficult to ignore just how different Chinese roads are and how people drive on them. Many of the roads in Beijing has a dedicated bicycle and small vehicle lane on each side. This is done to help keep the roads less congested and to allow for people to ride their bicycles without clogging up the side walks with bicycles. Its not like those bike lanes go to waste either. There are a ton of people in Beijing who ride their bicycles to get around Beijing. We passed by bike racks that hundred of bicycles chained to them. There is also a sort of controlled chaos of Beijing’s traffic, especially at intersections. It is not uncommon to see cars, bikes, buses, and people get dangerously close to each other, all while navigating traffic without any worries. For example, at one intersection, a small three wheeled car came within 2 feet of the bus as it was turning. We were all convinced that the bus was going to hit the car as the bus turned, but the driver in the car didn’t look concerned at all. The driver turned out to be right and the bus just barely missed it. It’s this very different driving culture in China that makes me very glad that we have bus drivers to take us around Beijing.
When we arrived at the hotel, everyone was exhausted and immediately went to their rooms to rest for a couple hours before dinner. At dinner, we were served an absolutely massive amount of food in a quasi-buffet style meal. We were seated at tables that had a rotating glass panel in the middle. Dishes of food were brought out to us that all had different food on it, and we took food off of the dishes at we pleased. There was a massive amount of food that was served to us. We were all so full by the end that it became a chore to continue eating anything. Dr. Li wanted us to finish off everything so the food didn’t go to waste, which just wasn’t going to happen. Once back at the hotel, I immediately crashed onto my bed and fell asleep.
That is what happened in my first day in Beijing.