A little over two months ago, I was just returning home from China. With a new perspective in my mind, I had made many promises to myself, most of which I have fulfilled to some extent. However, the one which I was reluctant about fulfilling — whether it is out of sadness or longing — was the transcription of my daily logs, an account of my adventures on each day. Due to messy handwriting (from writing on the go), as well as the length of each one, it takes a while to both write and read them. For these reasons, I present you all, my audience, with the accounts of my first three days in China. I plan to update you each week for the next two months of my accounts, three in each update, such that you may relive – and hopefully cherish – the experiences I had. It will be like a season from a TV show, an adventure which you all created for me to live out. I hope you look forward to each new weekly installment as much as every other person will.
Day 1 (July 8th-9th)
From the time at which I left my house to the hour when we arrived at the hotel, I had already spent a full 30 hours traveling. Somehow, I did not pass out when I arrived. Thinking of the time difference between China and Rhode Island, its funny to think that I am 12 hours ahead, that night and day are so very different.
My first flight was alright. I sat next to a married couple who lived in Washington but had visited Boston because it was where the woman had grown up. They were nice but did not speak much. I spent the majority of the flight looking out the window. It is easy to forget where you are going if you don’t look around.
I had a connecting flight from Seattle to Beijing. Being almost 13 hours, the time difference meant that I would be traveling what would normally be an overnight flight in my normal time zone. However, at 30,000 feet with the changing time zones, the entire flight was during the day. The cabin was pitch dark, but an open window would fill it with light. Rays of the sun reflected off the clouds below, leaving an endless desert of blinding white.
Everything here in Beijing looks so similar. Everything in China looks so similar. There are no individual houses, even in rural and suburban areas. They are all the same, put into compact areas.
Day 2 (Tuesday, July 10th)
We were served breakfast on the 24th floor. It was unusual, I would say that much. But the view was nice. It was an open buffet, much like any regular hotel in the US. The food was very different from what I was expecting. It felt almost like a mix between breakfast and lunch, as there were not only breakfast foods, but also rice, noodles, etc.
I got to speak to my mother and sister in the morning. It was a breath of sanity, making this far away place an almost normality. It was nice to speak to the family again…
We visited the forbidden city today. It was the equivalence of visiting the monuments and buildings in Washington, DC. The history of this country is amazing, it goes back so far it is astonishing. The center facility was built so long ago that it was placed together without a single nail, screw or piece of glue.
I also got to view portions of Tiananmen square, including the building where their laws are made, the national history museum, and the shrine of Chairman Mao. They seem a lot smaller than the buildings in DC.
We went to dinner at some restaurant about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. I got to try many new foods, including tofu, plum juice and even duck feet (not my favorite, very chewy). It was a rather interesting experience, to say the least.
Day 3 (Wednesday, July 11th)
Today we visited the Great Wall of China. To be honest, the experience was nothing like what I had expected. Even the journey there was a polar opposite to what I had originally believed it would be.
Driving through suburban China is an experience in of itself. Looking back on it, it is easy to see that many of China’s values are presented even within the countries infrastructure. Unlike American homes, there were no side yards, no private roads, no driveways. No one has their “personal space”. Instead, houses are built together in their own communities as conglomerates. Everyone is part of the whole.
As I had previously written, the Great Wall was nothing as I had expected. First of all, we had reached the wall only after climbing 20-30 minutes worth of stairs. At which point, I was met with… more stairs. Varying in height and slant, these shallow steps went from ramps to ladders, with no in between. However, after more than 1 ½ hours and one mile, we had reached the end of the area of the wall which was open to the public, a final tower. I can say the view was worth it (as was the rest of the trip there). Shrouding the mountain tops, fog only created a much more beautiful scene, allowing nature to mix with this human structure.