Friday, August 20, 2010

中国第一天 (China Day One)

Capitol Airport, Beijing, China, August 3, 2010

Yeah. I left San Francisco with stuff, headed for Shenyang via Beijing on China Air ... blah, blah, blah ... I had ipod, electric razor, phrase book, guide book, a change of clothes and my flip flops (which I'd like to go back to calling thongs) . I had some gifts (a bottle of wine, some Johnny Walker, chocolates, and basically, way too much stuff. Oh and a few thousand Yuan. I think I knew as soon as I was in the plane that I was entering a foreign country. No one was speaking English.

I think we should cover the first few steps though. I got a visa in San Francisco at the Consulate of the People's Rrepublic of China. I went the standard route, multi-entry, good for a year, takes 4 days, $150. Four days counts like this -- today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday -- so four days from Monday at 4 PM is Thursday at 9 AM. It is possible to pay more and get your visa on the same day. I didn't do this and ultimately, because of the short timing of my trip, I probably paid more for my air fare, because I waited till my visa was approved before I bought my air tickets.

As I said, no one was speaking English, my language of choice. The food on the plane was American though. Air travel, for the most part, sucks. If you fly from the US to China on Air China, I think your flight will be full. It will be filled with Chinese people. As I learned in 10 days there, Chinese people are pretty cooperative, so the flight will be pretty comfortable. For a flight. I managed to sleep for 47 seconds.

I was nervous about my trip. Here I was flying to meet someone I knew, but not really well. To China and into a place where I know I am in a more remote China, an English free China. And I have a Mandarin application on my phone -- language tapes on my Ipod, and the phrase book. I am pretty sure I can navigate to a hotel in Beijing, but beyond that, I am feeling very unsure. I imagine myself arriving at midnight, my phone doesn't work, and something happens to my friend and she doesn't show. I tell myself that is not going to happen. I tell myself ... "you've been to Asia twice, you can handle it ... you know what to do."

In Beijing I had to pick up my bag -- it was a bit confusing. In San Francisco they told me that my bag would go to Shenyang. When I asked at the airport in Beijing, they informed me to get my bag from the baggage claim and take it to customs. The customs agent looked at me and waved me by. In China -- it always seemed to me to be unorganized, but tremendously efficient. There was a very short line at immigrations and the infra-red screening for illness was done on the fly. and customs was a non event -- so I was instantly sitting and waiting for my next flight.

Beijing was smoggy. I couldn't see the ground from the plane, couldn't see the city from the air, couldn't see the airfield from inside the airport. Seriously, I believe I could see smog inside the uber-modern airport.

I know the trend for Americans is to claim that China has a problem with smog. I think it's a bit short-sighted to do that though. We have farmed out all of our industry, and China has picked up a lot of the extra work. The manufacture things like steel and clothing for many of the world's markets, and as a result they have a lot of the pollution. Since Americans use and benefit from much of that productivity, I think we should go ahead and admit that we are participating in creating that smog as well, and stop acting like it's China's fault "they pollute the world".

It was still pretty gross, and I had an irritated throat from the smog, which started in the Airport in Beijing.

Duck Tongues

In China flights board one-half hour before lift off. I got on the plane to Shenyang; when I arrived my friend was there. We drove the hour drive to Anshan, her hometown, and ate dim sum -- shrimp balls, duck tongues, and a rice soup at some place called San Bao. Interesting to me that the duck tongues had forked bones. Then the hotel.


Mindful Mule said...

Have you read any Bill Porter (aka Red Pine). You may like Zen Baggage and/or some of his other books related to travel in China.

Good luck with the art show. Looks great.

shawnkielty said...

Thanks Mule! I am sure it will be less painful than "Lord Jim" was, but no, I haven't read any Bill Porter.

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