Day 1: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore Toto

Today was the day! It finally happened! We left for China, but it didn’t really feel real. I have been waiting for this trip for so long that it didn’t feel like the time had finally come. Yet, here we are getting ready to leave at a bright and early time of 2:15 am. We got to the airport around 3, got our tickets, went through security, and then waited again for 2 more hours until we boarded the plane to Dulles airport outside D.C. From there, we would fly to Beijing. I was exhausted at this point because I had decided to not sleep the night before, so I slept on the plane and missed the snack which I was pretty bummed about.

We landed in Dulles and had about a 5 hour layover, which was not a good time considering all I wanted to do was be in China and was not looking forward to the 14-hour flight ahead of me. So I decided to sleep for three hours on some airport seats, which wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing at that point. Woke up, played some cards for a bit and then bought a sandwich at Pot Belly. It was time to board the plane and the dreaded 14-hour plane ride was about to begin. Since the flight was international, we were given three meals and select movies to watch. The meals weren’t amazing by any culinary standard, but I would be getting better food in China anyway. The movies were a great way to pass the time (if you haven’t seen Ladybird yet, I definitely recommend it), and there were a few games you could play like Battleship with other passengers on the plane. It was definitely a long trip, but as long as you sleep a little and watch some movies, the time will pass soon enough.

When we landed in Beijing, we had to have our fingerprints scanned, which I thought was interesting considering that isn’t something the US requires when foreigners are coming into the country. Customs was also a lot easier in China compared to the US. Like in the US, we must answer questions about why we are there, where we are coming from, how long we’re staying, etc. In China, I just gave the guard my passport, she did a little scanning and I was good to go. The line was long, but it was always moving, so it wasn’t that terrible of a process. It kind of shocked me how quickly we were able to get through the line compared to how long we will have to wait when we come back to America.

So now we are finally in Beijing. It didn’t feel real. Coming to China has always been something I have wanted to do, but now that I am finally here, I couldn’t believe it. My first impression of Beijing was why wasn’t the sky blue? I knew beforehand that Beijing was notorious for air pollution, but I was still expecting to see some blue and some clouds. Instead, the sky was a bleak grey. It really threw me off how terrible the air pollution is.

We drove the hotel next before heading to dinner, and on the way there, I noticed some of the trees have this white band around them at the bottom. I was confused why and after looking it up at the hotel, a white band is painted on the bottom of trees for a few reasons such as to make trees more visible at night for traffic, to keep pests off trees, or to protect trees from the sun. Just thought it was interesting that individuals went through the trouble of painting each individual tree across the city to protect them.

We went to dinner next and had our first meal in China. The dinner was family style, so they had this giant wheel basically in the middle of the table and put all the dishes on it. Instead of passing each individual plate, we just spun the wheel. We also had maybe 10 dishes that all 10 of us at one table would share. I really like this eating style because this way everyone can try everything, and you weren’t stuck with a dish if you didn’t like it. At dinner, we had a chef come out and carve a duck for us which we had in multiple of our dishes. My personal favorite was one dish that kind of looked like a rice crispy treat, but wasn’t sweet like one and had a piece of duck skin on top. It was absolutely delicious. There were also these wraps you made yourself. So you were given pieces of vegetables like onions, celery, something purple, something orange, and something red, and you also had duck meat and two types of sauce to pick from. I picked the mango sauce and added all the veggies and the duck in a wrap and that was delicious too. Overall, the meal was great.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I just crashed because I was so tired at that point and jet lagged. I am so happy that we are in Beijing and I am looking forward to what’s to come.

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