CHINA JOURNAL FEBRUARY 18, 2002
Here I am in Beijing, China typing on my new computer with a free internet connection in a hotel that would be a four-star anywhere. I almost missed the fact that my new computer has two phone outlet connections, one that fits U.S. phone connectors and one that fits the Chinese. Bonanza!
The trip here, door to door (Scott and Pattyıs in San Francisco to the Princess Hotel in Beijing) took 22 hours. I should be going to bed right now (it is 12:15 p.m.) but it is 7:15 a.m. by my most recent internal clock, and I did want to get an email off since it may be a few days before I am able to buy a Bao Yue Ka (a rent for a month card) for a connection in Tianjin.
For those of you who didnıt hear the quick change artistry on the start of the trip, here tis. I was scheduled to fly at 10:31 a.m. on Sunday (17th) from Bakersfield, but on Saturday the 16th in Bakersfield at 10:31 a.m. it was still quite foggy with worse predicted for Sunday. I decided I didnıt want to risk missing the China connection in San Francisco so, on the spur of the moment, I decided to take the 3:45 Amtrak up to S.F. Smart move.though it took some pretty quick packing since I was totally closing up the houseturning off refrigerator, water, etc. But I made it. As I think about it, Iım really rather amazed since I had been held up from my mental schedule by first the book, then the computer going out on me, and finally spending all day Friday going to and from King City for the funeral service for Marleneıs Mom, Pearl. So after an overnight and a quick visit with Scott, Patty and the boys, I rode the shuttle bus out to the airport.
The first leg on United was the 11 hour flight to Tokyo. Nothing eventful there until the end. We were all, included that crew, buckled down for our landing and watching the little active map that tracks the airplaneıs course. The altitude kept going down.and then started to go up! Then we realized we were circling over the water.and the clever little map showed all the circles. Finally the first mate came on and said there was too much gusty wind to land safely and we had plenty of gas so we could just keep circling to see if the wind died down. Fifty minutes later he said that a couple of planes had landed and said the wind sheer effect was gone, so we went it. It made me wonder what the wind had been like before because you could tell he was fighting it to keep the plane steady as we went down but he made a very good landing. It really made me realize how much faith we put on one personıs skill and good judgment at times like that.
I made a duty free purchase on the plane. Since we never have turned up the camera after the birthday party, I bought on Olympus trip XB400 with case, batteries, and film for $49. It is a point and shoot without the zoom lens but should serve me well for that price.
We had to change planes there so we took all our belongings and trecked through Narita Airport. It was just immaculate and had much lovely marble (or imitation) and pretty planters of flowers which a touch revealed to be artificial. When we reached the check place where they once again run you through a peremptory inspection, there was the Japanese scenethe man directing people traffic in his uniform, complete with hat and white gloves. And, doing the work, were the little Japanese young ladies in their uniforms with white gloves and the little pill box hats perched on the back of their heads, seemingly defying gravity like a Jewish skull cap.
We got right on the next plane and four hours later landed in Beijing. It was as easy for me, as a foreigner, to go through their customs as it is when returning to the states for me as an American citizen. Very impressive. Their terminal also was very modern, clean, large and full of marble.but also with some wonderful murals of Chinese history. One, in back of the whole line-up of immigration inspectors, was a mural about the length of a football field showing the Great Wall going over the mountains and around the rivers. Very nice. And all directional and identification signs were in large, bold red Chinese characters and in English in equal size and color.
I was met as planned after I picked up my luggage and taken by taxi to the Novotel Peace Hotel in the center of Beijing, about a half hour drive from the airport. I was conscious sitting inside the car with windows closed of the heavy smell of coal fumes. But I was also conscious as I looked up at the new moon that it was the same moon I saw last night in San Francisco. Beijing (at least what I could see at night) is a large, modern city with occasional nods to traditional Chinese architecture in the trimmings of modern buildings. The marble lobby of the hotel here is decorated with the bright and red gold for Chinese New Year. My room has the heaviest towels and washcloths I have ever felt. Scott, who thinks Momıs towels are anemic, would love them. Plus a heavy terry cloth robe to wear and all the usual goodies in the bathroom you would find in any top rated hotel. NOWHERE in China are we to drink tap water.your safe choices are bottled water or kai shui which is boiled water. One funny thing in the room is the lighting. Nothing turns on near where the light actually is. I couldnıt figure out how to turn on the light on the right side of the bed (a truly hard bed). I finally located a ³pilots panel² of switches for the lights, TV, phone, etc.but you would have to get out of bed to turn them on.
Right after I got in the room, the phone rang. It was Willa from Bohan School telling me in hesitant English (sheıs the interpreter) that she would be in to pick me up at 11 or 12 in the morning. Thatıs the call I was waiting for. Now I know Iım here!