05 February 2015

Adventures in China: Getting there (2/3-2/4)

For the last 9 months, I've been working on a project at work to open a new center in Beijing. They had lured the opportunity to head over there for a long time. There were times where I wasn't sure I was actually going to go, but I'm hear now. The People's Republic of China. It's more vertical than I thought, at least Beijing is.

I figured it would be a good idea to try and record some of my thoughts about the trip, sprinkle in some photos, and let everyone know that I'm still alive.

So here goes...

Preparing for the Trip

Over the last couple of months, it's been unclear when I was going to be going to China. I knew it was going to be a last minute kinda of trip, but a little over two weeks I was given the green light to go. That's when the craziness ensued.

There were a number of things that needed to be completed: new passport, Chinese visa, plane tickets, packing, repacking, and hotel reservations.

I will say that I was pretty surprised that I was able to get a new passport in two days, and a Chinese visa in just under a week. Let me just say it's really terrifying to drop one's passport into an envelope and mail it off to an unknown location. TERRIFYING.

The exciting thing was that I was allowed to purchase business class tickets for the trip...


One of the joys of this trip thus far has been the fact that Penn let me purchase a business class ticket for my flight to China. It was a strange experience to say the lease.

The good parts of it:
  • Gobs of leg room. I've never had so much leg room on a flight before. It was every where, and what you can see from the photo above, they even have one of those fancy foot rests.
  • The seat turned into a lye flat bet. Reasonably comfortable. There were some height issues, mainly in the fact that I can't sleep on my back. The seat was basically completely adjustable.
  • The 4 course meal that they served was mighty amazing. It was served over 1.5 hours, and included salad, sushi, steak, a cheese course, and an ice cream Sunday. A wonderful soup was served about 10 hours into the flight, and the flight concluded with an omelet and sausage.
  • There was plenty of space to spread around in. I'm one to enjoy spreading out when I'm in a space, so having the space was really nice. Plus there wasn't someone next to me which was even better as it let me get up and walk around without annoying anyone.
  • I was on the second floor of the plane, and it was an absolute delight. It was like I was flying on a small personal jet with only a handful of people. Like I said, absolutely delightful.
  • Let's just way a young looking Christopher Reeves looking gentleman was sitting in my sights the entire flight.  I kept thinking he looked like Clark Kent, and then he removed his glasses and there was Superman. What a delight.
Some of the bad things:
  •  It felt a bit strange being waited on while traveling. Something I'm not use to, and I don't think that I could become accustomed to. I think it all lies in the ringing of the bell for service. Yuck.
  • When I did get up to walk around or such, I was ask one of the flight attendants for something, but would get a strange look from then. It was odd. I kept wanting to be like: just tell me where water and Coke Zero is and I'll just help my self the entire time. Life will just be better all around.

Arriving and getting to the hotel

The arrival, immigration, and customs was pretty straight forward. The lines were pretty long, but they kept moving, and I was through pretty quickly, which was nice.

I ended up talking with a really nice gentleman on the tram to get our bags. He was coming home to visit his sick grandfather, but was a student at Texas A&M. Really nice fellow.

After making my way through customs, the part of night I was a bit anxious about: meeting the driver, and getting to the hotel. I should note I've never met a driver before. I've always had to figure out how to get from the airport to my hotel by what ever means possible, so this was a completely new experience for me.

My driver (strange to say) meet me as I was exiting customs holding a PWCC sign. I connected with him. He took my bags, and gestured for me to follow him. I followed him. He had my bags, I had to. As we I follow him, all that kept going through my head was "I'm in a foreign country. I don't speak the language. I don't really know this person. I COULD BE BEING KIDNAPPED RIGHT NOW!" These thoughts kept going through my head as we drove to the hotel. Luckily I had looked up how to get to the hotel before I left so as we got on to 3rd Ring Street, I knew that everything was going to be reasonably OK.

As the driver drove to keep us from being killed on the road, I started to think about how vertical the city of Beijing was. It was with these thoughts I started to ponder the shear number of people that were here. I would look at an office building and then think: all those people have to live somewhere; all those people need places to buy food, medical care, pharmacies, entertainment. Really it made me think about the complex web formed as you build a community, and support some population. It was possibly too much for my brain to handle in my jet lagged stupor.

Hotel and Bed

The hotel I'm staying at is your typical western hotel. It has all the standard amenities in it. It's got a really cool shower with three shower heads, automated blinds, seating area, desk, tea, gym, spa, pool, and all that fun stuff.

Continuing in my jet lagged stupor, I ate dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. It was mainly what appeared to be standard Chinese fair. I had the sweet and sour pork. Pretty tasty, and better than that which is served in the US. At this point I determined I was going to have a hard time with eating Chinese food back home.

After calling my parents, figuring out the internet situation, and unpacking I called it a night at 9:30pm local time.

I feel that this trip is going to be an adventure in itself. It's going to open many new doors and experiences. I'm going to see things I've never seen or heard about before. And from a work stand point, the reason I'm here, it has already proven to be a different experience and helping to improve a number of skills that aren't up to par, have never used, or I've never wanted to do.