I finally found some time to post (it takes quite a lot of it, considering the abysmal Internet speeds in the apartment). It’s high time I started bringing this blog up to date!

For those who fly often, committing an entire post to a ride on a plane might seem silly. I, however, have not flown since I was about 5 years old. I had vague memories of terminals and looking out the window, but it was mostly lost to me. This, combined with the anticipation of traveling to a new country for the first time (Canada and the Caribbean cruise don’t really count), caused some excitement for me, so I think it merits some comment.

My itinerary consisted of two flights, from Charlotte to Newark, and from there directly to Beijing. The first leg of the flight was scheduled to leave at about 6:30. In the morning. Adding an hour to drive to the airport, and the 3 hours lead time suggested for international flights, I elected not to go to bed before I left not long after 2am. And boy am I glad we left when we did; we arrived at the airport just in time to stand around for one and a half hours until someone actually showed up at the desk. And then it took approximately 20 minutes to get through security and to the gate. Luckily it’s not like I was sleep-deprived or anything, so staying awake was no problem at all.

The flight to Newark was about two hours long, and was uneventful. I was a bit bored, and the clouds out the window looked really cool, so I took some photos thinking that Adam (my brother) would get a kick out of them:

Flight to Newark - Clouds Flight to Newark - Clouds Flight to Newark - Clouds

Thanks to some (unexpectedly accurate) directions from an gate attendant, find the gate for the second flight was pretty painless. The three hour layover was less so, but I managed to avoid sleeping through the departure. To kill some time while I waited, I stopped in an electronics store to have a look around. I ended up talking to the clerk there for a while. He was from India, and had been working in the US for a few years. Some fun trivia: apparently it takes significantly longer to fly from Newark to India than to China, even though the distances are similar, because flights to India need to route around quite a bit of protected airspace on the way there.

The flight to China was fairly comfortable. The plane (a Boeing 777) was quite large, and my parents upgraded me to a bulkhead seat with extra legroom (thanks!). All of the seats on the plane are outfitted with a personal touchscreen (10ish inches), with which you can watch any of long list of movies or TV series, play some games, or watch the progress of the plane along its course. I decided to watch Avatar, since I had yet to see the blockbuster film. It was decent: great graphics and effects, generic storyline. Granted, it was hard to hear over the plane engines, so I did miss some of the dialog. But this isn’t a movie review,¬†so I digress.

Besides sleeping, watching Avatar, and attempting to read some background research papers for my internship at Microsoft (the purpose for which I am visiting Beijing), I also spent some time talking to the nice Chinese woman next to me. She lives in the US, but was traveling to China to visit her granddaughter. She was funny and good-humored, and we talked about many things.

The course of the plane took us first northward, then east over the top of Greenland and most of Russia, and then south through Mongolia into China. I took more photos out the window during this flight, particularly once we entered China. They have really cool mountains here.

Flight to Beijing - Clouds Flight to Beijing - Greenland Flight to Beijing - Greenland Flight to Beijing - Greenland Flight to Beijing - Acrtic Circle Flight to Beijing - Acrtic Circle Flight to Beijing - Russia Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China Flight to Beijing - China

We arrived at the Beijing airport without serious delay (although we had to circle for about 15 minutes due to a back up). Getting in through customs/security was much easier than I expected. I simply filled out a short form on the plane before we landed, handed it and my passport to an officer at the desk (after waiting in a short line), and then proceeded through the rest of the airport freely. Oh, except for one additional requirement:

Beijing Airport - Relax

The airport is huge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many photos to capture it, but I had to take a 2-3 minute subway ride to the main building if that tells you anything. Oh, and don’t worry about the train: apparently it is disinfected regularly:

Beijing Airport - Train

And that’s about it. I picked up my baggage and met up a friend whom I had previously contacted for a ride. His name is “Success”, which is the literal translation of his Chinese name, “Cheng Gong.” In China, it seems there are not generally separate words for “people names”, but instead regular words are used in names. The fact that this is not true in English¬†does not disuade some from assuming the direct translation as their English name. Success has been a great help to me, as have some others. But more on that next time.

So what’s going to happen next? Do we make it safely to my apartment? Does Beijing actually exist, or is it all a conspiracy? And is a zucchini really a fruit?! You’ll have to wait and see…