After an arduous journey logging over 10,000 miles and traveling halfway around the world, my fellow USAC peers and I finally have arrived in Beijing, the capital city of the beautiful country of China. Once off the plane we safely and smoothly navigated through foreign immigration and proceeded to retrieve most of our luggage. I was the first to greet the USAC Shanghai Program Advisor and her fellow compatriot in arms, who was an employee of the USAC Chengdu program. Once acquainted and luggage in hand or balancing on a buggy, we all journeyed through the vast catacombs of the Peking Capital Airport (which I believe must be one of the biggest airports in the world) to acquire the skills of a bus driver to take us along the busy interstate and down into the heart of Beijing where our hotel resides. Traveling by bus from the Peking Capital Airport, which is located on the southwest outskirts of Beijing, I was hit with an immediate shockwave of car horns honking so frequently as to signal to those surrounding the car it emanated from of its very existence almost as frequent as the compulsion to breath. Furthermore, the rate at which traffic violations occurred bordered on insanity where one is almost shaken alive by constant braking (it astonished me that the brakes were so well maintained allowing for almost simultaneous stopping upon any pressure applied by the driver’s foot). As we cascaded down the interstate passing suburban and later urban areas, I was awe struck by the sight of the massive, architectural structures before us, from the new to old and those currently progressing through the later and early stages of construction. These structures along the mega-metropolis that is Beijing truly opened my eyes and understanding to just how much and how fast China is progressing through the stages of industrialization.
After a 30 minute drive, give or take, we arrived at our hotel around 1:00 pm Beijing time, checked-in, and carried our luggage to our assigned rooms. The realization of having spent hours upon hours in airport terminals during layovers, seating upright for most of the journey, and currently radiating a body odor associated with the hours in close proximity to others, in addition my pores secreting sweat at an unbelievable rate due to the humidity of Beijing and the dry heat drying said sweat leaving my body sticky, I felt it best to hit the shower, cool off, and get some resemblance of freshness back. Unfortunately even after a cold shower, I began sweating almost immediately after I finished drying off and putting all of my shower belongings away. But then again I AM IN ASIA, so what can you do. I pretty much muscled through the experience and got ready to meet up with my fellow USAC peers, so that we could go venture out into the unknown streets and alleyways, making sure to keep within close proximity of our hotel, which is basically in the middle of Beijing! Impressively, it is only like 3 blocks away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, which is freaking insane!
While walking along the uneven concrete sidewalks and dodging vehicles as I crossed the busy streets and browsing the vast assortment of stores, both foreign and domestic, it really did not hit me that I am actually in Beijing, China, like I assumed it would. To me, it feels much like any other metropolitan area in the U.S. that is sprawling with cars and people along its busy streets and sidewalks. The only difference that I could internalize other than the fact that there happens to be more honking, traffic violations, and everything is covered in a foreign script that would seem alien to most, would be the sanitation. For example, during my walk through an alleyway that doubled as a market place peddling an assortment of things, I witnessed a small truck, much like a little jeep, pumping raw sewage that radiated a horrendous smell that would make the average American turn stomach and run in horror. Also, I witnessed a 6 or 7 year old hike up her dress and slip her underwear down to pee over a bar-like man hole cover. The latter instance of public urination, though not regular in the U.S., is quite regular among the younger generation within in China due to the fact that diapers are not widely used (but are certainly growing in popularity with the younger generation of mothers), as I found out through past travelers to the area and particular YouTube videos, and did not catch me too off guard.
After walking around the market and up and down the cobbled streets for a while, the dry, humid heat began to get to me and I began to get dehydrated which led me to venture back to the hotel to bottle of water. After consuming almost half of the 5 liter bottle of water, I headed back to my room to get a good nap in before meeting up with everyone in the lobby for supper at 6:30. Unfortunately, even though I set my alarm clock, I over slept and woke up about 6:45pm and ran down to the lobby to no avail. They were gone. The moments that would preceded would be my first reality check that reminded me that I was in a foreign land with minimal to no language skills in the local dialect and no idea what to do. I alternated between pacing and seating in the lobby chairs hoping and praying someone would show up. After waiting a good 10 to 15 minutes, I just called it a night and headed back to my room where I proceeded to calm myself down and began to understand that even though I am a foreigner in a country where I know none of the language to even iterate simple ideas I do know that people have survived worse and I will be just fine. Fortunately, my roommate came back to the hotel early from dinner (which was just across the street from the hotel, not 20 yards away) and reassured me I did not miss anything except for the program advisor’s handout which contained a detailed itinerary of the week’s sights. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief and just passed out again (seeing as I only had 5 to 6 hours in the past 20 or so hours) hoping that tomorrow would be a new and better day and I will well rested for the adventures ahead.
I will post movies and pictures as soon as possible! Xia Jian/ See you again!