Day 1: A Bit of Travel

After not nearly enough sleep, our day(s) of international travel began at 2:30 AM on Saturday morning. One dark bus ride later, we made it to the airport, and soon enough we found ourselves at the gate for the flight to Washington DC.

While waiting for the flight to start boarding, I learned something important: Chick-Fil-A (at least this one) has breakfast sandwiches. Nothing goes together quite as well as chicken and biscuits, and this sandwich was no less than perfect.

The flight from Pittsburgh to DC was quick and fairly painless, and most people just slept since it was still early in the morning. At the gate for the big flight though, many people just spread out onto different chairs (and even the floor) and slept for most of our four hour layover. I and a few other people explored the airport. There wasn’t much to do, but I did count three separate Starbucks coffee shops within a five minute walk of each other.

For lunch a few of us went through an underground tunnel to a different gate, where we had what would probably be our last American food meal for the next two weeks.

The fourteen hour flight was the hardest part of the whole travel day. I have trouble sleeping while in a sitting position, and I only ended up getting maybe a half hour of sleep through the whole thing. Fortunately, each seat had its own screen, with dozens of movies to pick from, so it wasn’t completely unbearable. As for the in-flight food, it could have been a lot worse.

We finally made it to the Beijing airport, where we made it through customs much more quickly than expected. Upon arrival, we also all had to get fingerprinted, which I had never seen before. I guess now I’m in some record in the Chinese government.

Of course at this point, most people had not slept much, if at all, since waking up 24 hours ago, so everyone was dead on their feet. Fortunately, a shower and a change of clothes at the hotel restored some of everyone’s strength, at least enough to make it through dinner.

Dinner was certainly an experience. I don’t know what half of the food I tried actually was, but most of it was fantastic, especially the Peking duck and the fried rice. There were a number of interesting foods, including (but not limited to): some sort of meat dish that looked quite similar to slices of tomato, a flavorless gelatinous mass, syrup coated cherry tomatoes, fried sticky rice strips (which almost looked like French toast), and a cold but very spicy noodle dish. It was altogether a great experience to try all of this new food, and a perfect way to begin our stay in China’s capital.

On the bus ride back to the hotel after dinner, I could barely keep my eyes open. When I finally made it to my bed (which, now that I think about it, is a lot more firm than most American hotels) I fell asleep almost instantly.

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