10.20.2008 - 10.21.2008 86 °F
So, after a 3 flights, 5 chicken and rice dishes, 14 times zones and 24 hours of flying I have made it to China! I arrived at 10:30pm local time and was greeted by Liz and her friend Dina who had bottles of Jack and Coke (pre-mixed) for all of us. We laughed and gossiped and hugged and caught up until 1am, then went to a local restaurant for a bite--some of the best Italian I've had since Italy. I know. I totally cheated.
Though I had smooth flights, the journey here was not without it's quirks. I had two seats to myself on the 12 hour flight over. It seems like that would make things better but really all it did was raise my expectations abnormally high as to how comfortable I would be. With these sky-high expectations of mine, I couldn't get more than 30 or 40 minutes of mediocre sleep.
The transfer in Beijing was interesting. I stepped off the plane and, of course, as in all airports, the path was clearly marked and dummy proofed--until I got to a room the size of a football field with one man in it and a plastic screen between us and some people getting luggage. I managed to garner from him that my transfer was in "Teh nal wun"--which I took to mean Terminal 1.
He points to a massive clouded glass door without a single soul near it but a guard. It was eerily quiet and seemed like the gate to heaven. I walked up, nodded and smiled to the guard, the doors opened in slow motion....and was slapped in the face with smoky air and the cacophony of hundreds of voices shouting in Chinese and pushing through crowds. It took me a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor--this was not what I was expecting.
Eventually, I found my way to Terminal 1--through much embarrassing sign language on my part. I checked in and went to freshen up. Surprise 2.
There are two bathroom stalls. One with a picture I recognize--a toilet-- and one with some image that means nothing to me.
The "means nothing to me" opened up first and as I quickly stepped in, committing to my choice, it came to mean something. It meant "go in a trough in the floor".
After much trial and error, I came to find that squatting was the best way--unfortunately there was no diagram to help me along. So I was in there for 10 minutes.
All in all, I've only been her less than a day but I'm very intrigued. It's loud and crowded and smokey....but I'll let you know how it develops.