Location: Kuntai Royal Hotel, Beijing
My internal clock is all confused — I don't know what time it is, or even what day. OK, my computer tells me it's 7am back in Seattle, and the hotel clock says it's 10pm here. I think we're both on Monday now...
Getting to the airport this morning (OK, technically it was yesterday morning, but it feels like today to me) was an adventure. In all the confusion leaving the house, I managed to leave behind one of my bags — the one containing the computer I'm writing on now, so it was pretty important. Hey, I had four bags, plus (ahem) three things to carry on. The bad news it I didn't realize the bag was missing until we were at the airport and had paid for parking. The good news is we had left really early so there was time to hurry home and get it. That left me with just barely enough time to check in, get through security, and board the plane. No time to get any food before boarding, and no time to pick up any Chinese currency. And of course a short flight like Seattle to San Francisco doesn't serve any food, so all I had from waking up until after 1pm was a couple little packets of pretzels and a tiny glass of orange juice.
When I got to SFO, I went over to the international terminal as quickly as I could, got some Chinese money, went through security, and found someplace to eat. Huevos rancheros definitely took the edge off, and then I found a place that could make me a latte. I had a little while to organize my carry-on things before my row was called to board. There was a whole athletic team of guys in grey sweats with CHINA on them — I don't know what sport it was. Many of them were fairly tall, so it could have been basketball or volleyball. There were also a lot of Americans wearing big pins with a red logo on them that I couldn't read. Some sort of tour group, no doubt.
The duration of the flight was about 12 hours, and the 747 was completely full as far as I could tell. The food was pretty decent on Air China, stir-fry chicken and vegetables (actually a little on the spicy side) with steamed rice for the first meal, along with a tasty little chocolate dessert. They didn't come around very often with beverages, however, and the glasses were tiny. I tried a miniscule glass of red wine. I think the label said Great Wall, and I couldn't tell if there was a variety listed. It was not the worst red wine I have ever tasted. I'll leave it at that. For the second meal, I had noodles with veggies and little tiny bits of chicken.
I completely skipped the movies, and read The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Films, which was enjoyable, though it suffered from a ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Who edits those things?
And I listened to the Zen on all-track shuffle, so I got monks chanting mixed up with Mozart on piano, the history of reggae, Japanese rock, and obscure progressive items. And I napped a little, though not much.
I filled out three little forms on the plane for customs, swearing I have not come into contact with any poultry and so on. Customs and Immigration was ridiculously easy, much faster than my trip to the UK in 2001. They took my papers, stamped them, and said thank you.
My new boss JW was waiting outside the customs area with a driver, who loaded my stuff into a Passat and took us to my hotel. After having a shower and a few minutes to settle stuff into the room, JW walked me around the corner to a nice little restaurant where we ate and talked. So much to get up to speed on, and that's not even counting work!
Later I'll take some photos and post them. My energy level is flagging fast, and it's getting to be a reasonable time to go to bed. My first impressions are: it's a really big city, and there's lots of neon, and there are lots of stylishly dressed people. No signs of any drab conformity, and there's construction absolutely everywhere.