The first 24 hours in China unfolded as follows:
11:30PM: Landed in Beijing, China.
11:40PM: Made my first Chinese person laugh while speed-walking next to the moving sidewalk.
11:45PM: Visited customs with passport and cleared for entry into China.
11:50PM: Retrieved luggage.
12:01AM: Met Kellen (dean of the school’s Foreign Affairs Office) and Tiger (a jack-of-all-trades) at the concourse.
12:34AM: Before going to the hotel we stopped to enjoy our first meal in China…at McDonald’s.
12:35AM: I chuckle to myself as I remember a question Dad asked me before I decided to go to China, “How are you going to order a hamburger at McDonald’s?”
12:36AM: Sidestepping the hamburger issue at the counter of the fast food chain giant I attempt to order a spicy chicken sandwich. Kellen informs me that the sandwich is too spicy for me. She tells me to order a regular chicken sandwich. I decline her suggestion and order the spicy chicken sandwich.
12:38AM: The sandwich arrives and like all fast food experiences I’ve ever had I’m disappointed. The sandwich isn’t nearly as spicy as Kellen’s warning would have suggested.
1:06AM: We arrive at a hotel in Beijing that we will spend the night at in lieu of driving the 5+ hours to Zibo. The exterior of the hotel is dark. There isn’t any giant fluorescent sign indicating this building to be anything but a closed office building. There is a small sign over a revolving doorway that says hotel. A guard comes out of the building to welcome us.
1:15AM: We check-in and I’m shown to the room I’ll be sharing with Tiger for the night. The light switches are different than in America. The electrical sockets are different than in America. However, I’m relieved to find that the food in the mini-fridge is similarly overpriced as it is in America. China isn’t so different after all!
1:40AM: I prepare to sleep. I brush my teeth and wash my face. I make certain not to get any tap water in my mouth. Apparently, the tap water in China is full of poison.
1:50AM: Noticing a scale on the floor next to the in-room washing machine, I climb on to see my current weight. After the dial spins to it’s appropriate number I begin silently freaking out: how can I weigh that much?! I look closer at the scale and realize the unit of measurement is in kilograms. I immediately feel better.
2:00AM: …making notes…
2:05AM: After an exhaustive day I climb onto the board-like bed and attempt to sleep.
6:00AM: Unable to stay asleep any longer I wake-up and discover Beijing illuminated with the new day’s sun.
6:15AM: I email my family to let them know the plane didn’t Donnie Darko.
7:20AM: My first Chinese shower. Thought that may sound like a despicable sex-act, it wasn’t. Yes — I’m sad, too!
8:10AM-8:40AM: Breakfast at the hotel with Kellen, Tiger, and Emily. The meal is served buffet-style along two walls and the food ranges from standard breakfast fare (eggs, bacon, sausage) to more interesting options like mushroom caps, dumpling soup, and kelp. Breakfast was incredibly filling and delicious from beginning to end. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the scrambled eggs were some of the best this IBEC-member has ever had. However, it’s at breakfast that I begin to notice two things: 1) I’m one of only two caucasians in the room, 2) an undeniable feeling that other diners are watching me.
8:37AM:I see a server sneeze. Normally a sneeze isn’t a big deal; hardly worth mentioning when dealt with appropriately. However, the server didn’t cover her mouth to block the sneeze. Instead she turned her head to the left and sneezed directly over an open coffee pot.
9:00AM: I withdraw 500 yuan from an ATM, the equivalent of $78. Before I finish the transaction the ATM asks, “Do you want to print advice?” Seeing this question on the screen caused me to laugh out loud. In my haste though, I failed to press ‘yes.’ I wonder what Chinese ATM advice is like…
9:10AM: Hotel check-out.
9:12AM: Exiting the hotel I see a guard and say “Ni hao.” He smiles at my firm grasp of the language. Kellen, Tiger, Emily, and I pack up the van and leave for the market to buy lunch for our journey to Zibo.
9:20AM: At the market I buy a spicy barbecue sandwich that looks like it has carpet on it, and a sandwich prominently featuring a hot dog.
9:40AM: We begin our commute in rush hour traffic in Beijing, China. It’s as fun as you assume it is.
10:30AM: We drive past a gas station named “Easy Joy.” This makes me smile.
11:45AM: Somewhere between Beijing and Zibo, we stop for a “toilet break.” Upon entering the stall I have my first experience with a Chinese sunken toilet. Taking this picture was the extent of business conducted on this visit.
1:30PM: We stop make another pitstop for lunch. My spicy barbecue sandwich has the texture of cotton candy without any of the promised spiciness.
2:53PM: We cross a bridge over the Yellow River.
4:00PM: We arrive at the school and our apartments.
4:45PM: Begin unpacking.
6:00PM: A enjoy a solitary lukewarm beer in my sun/drying room.
6:20PM: A quick shower before dinner.
6:30PM: Dinner with Kellen, Emily, and Judy, at Hot Pot. I regret not taking any pictures because this was an interesting place.
8:30PM: At the conclusion of dinner we’re all presented with ice cream. Apparently this is customary in China. Welcome to heaven!
9:00PM: Back at the apartment now full of food and exhausted from a day full of travel I send another email to family and prepare for bed.
9:30PM: Heeding the advice received along the road, I head to bed before crashing. Sleep overcomes the desire to organize this new space and this I welcome gladly.