I'm calling my first part of time in China Day .5 because I arrived at 11pm at night, and I can't discount my first impressions of being in Beijing. Day 1 was a contracted day off allowing me to adjust as best I could to the 13 hour time difference and jet lag.
Here are my thoughts.
Day .5 - Tuesday, October 19, 2010
There was a lot more in English than I was expecting, relics from the Olympics I supposed. The airport is nice (PEK) and airy. My seatmate who travels regularly to Beijing and helped me orient myself tells me that it is beastly hot in the summer and chilly in the winter because it's all glass and uninsulated.
They drive on the same side of the road as the US and have license plates with American English letters (I was expecting numbers to be universal). I wouldn't want to driven ere nonetheless because most signs and roadwriting are completely in Chinese. Plus, everything is metric. And there are these odd red/blue lights along the roads that means police to me but must mean something else here.
My hotel seems nice. The room is a bit small but cozy and there's definitely a window between the bathroom and the main area. No privacy. Obviously this is meant for a single occupancy. The bed looks inviting until you lay down on it. It is one of the hardest mattresses I have ever encountered. I did discover that the longer you lay in it, the less hard it feels. But boy do you feel the difference if you get up and then back in.
I went to bed around 2:30am local time and only woke up a couple of times before giving up and getting up for the day. Even though its a contracted day off I think I'll join everyone for breakfast and get oriented… like errands to get bottled water and such. Everyone says don't drink the water in Beijing… so how am I going to brush my teeth?
Also, noted by a colleague, there are many more complimentary products than just the standard shampoo and conditioner. They have a vanity kit, shower caps, toothbrushes and a condom. No kidding. The most entertaining thing about that is the english instructions on there. They'll make you giggle out loud. The translations aren't bad, it's just what it says.
Very thankful for the world converter for my computer, even with the crazy plugs in the wall. And that Apple runs 110-240V. No chance of frying this electronic.
I'm thankful for Skype which allowed me to chat real-time with my parents and let them know I was alive and sleepy.
So far the exchange rate baffles me - $1 = 6.66 RMB. This is very confusing. Therefore everything seems expensive but isn't.
Day 1 - Wednesday October 20, 2010
Breakfast was fun - I hadn't seen these people since March. The breakfast buffet was something else. It wasn't your standard American breakfast. There were things like stir-fried beef, pot stickers, wonton soup and fried rice, as well as bacon, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, an omelet bar, and fried potatoes. And a lot of fruit.
Today will be about acquiring bottled water and exploring a little, as well as adapting a technical document to incorporate changes already made due to the theatre here. And acclimating myself to local time.
One of my little fears of the trip happened at breakfast this morning. The hostess told me that it was last call for breakfast… in Chinese. Oops.
Sleep definitely happened today. I napped in 4-36 minute increments, followed by just as many 15-20 minute increments. I kicked myself out of bed at 3:30pm to find the elusive 7-11 and startled a woman in a convenience store by offering her a 100Y note for 6Y of water (2 large bottles), about $1. I took another nap and then tried to work a little.
Again, with the people assuming I’m Chinese. Happened again at dinner. Even in the hotel restaurant, very limited English. It was almost a struggle to ask for a copy of my receipt. The costs around here are very baffling. My dish was 58 Y which apparently is equivalent to $9… and the portion was generous. But my drink (a juice that wasn’t apple but still tasted good) was 40 Y ($6). There was no beverage menu so I just asked for juice as best I could. The meal was generous and delicious. Stir fried rice noodle with chicken and the meal ended with fruit: watermelon, orange honeydew and a fruit that had a hot pink rind and white insides with black seeds. It’s dragon fruit or pitaya. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitaya) Very delicious.
At 8:15pm, I’m definitely really sleepy again. Trying not to go to sleep but it might be inevitable.
I look forward to hanging out with more Americans (i.e. not by myself) and feeling less like a stupid fish out of water like I did today. On the upside, I blend very well. Too well for my tastes.
Also, when will the dreary, fog-covered day go away. At least it did not rain.
For more pictures, check out Flickr - there's a lot of Beijing life and surrounding areas.