I got on a bus in Ann Arbor at 8:38 am on Sunday May 30. I got to my hotel in Beijing at 12:42 am on Monday May 31 after 28 hours and 4 minutes of traveling. It was tiring. I was awake for about 32 hours during the affair, though I did sleep a bit on the flights. My lack of sleep was mainly by design. I figured that if I deprived myself of sleep on the flight I would be able to get to sleep when I arrived and sleep through the night.
Our flight took us to Minneapolis, Minnesota first. That was fairly uneventful. We were still fresh and had only endured one short flight at that point.
From Minneapolis we flew directly to Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan. This flight lasted about 12 hours and, as all flights that length do, felt like it lasted forever. To pass the time I watched some movies that were shown, played some boggle, peered out the window on the emergency exit door at the back of the plane at some sweet Alaskan landscapes, chatted, and tried to read things (which inevitably led to just falling asleep briefly.) I estimate I slept a bit more than 30 minutes on this flight.
At 3 AM (EST) we arrived in Tokyo. Tokyo felt like a caricature of Tokyo. The shops in the airport were bristling with cute things, weird candies, and manga. In addition to that, the toilet in the airport rest room had an option to heat or cool the seat as well as serve as a bidet. Perhaps this was due to the airport stores selling touristy things and wasn’t really a representative sample of Japan as a whole.
At 6:34 am (EST) (6:34 pm China-time) we took off from Tokyo for Beijing. On this flight we had personal screens that let us pick what movies to watch which was awesome. I watched The Hurt Locker which I thought was a really really good movie. After that we were in Beijing.
In Beijing we stumbled off the plane around 10:30 pm (China-Time)and got our luggage… almost. One of Beatriz’s bags didn’t show up at first, but did after a bit. I never really heard that whole story. Going through customs was no problem at all for two reasons: 1. We were like the only people in the baggage claim area since the rest of our flight moved on rapidly and apparently 10 pm is not high time to be flying in, and 2. The way customs works in China is that you either walk through an archway that says “nothing to declare” or go talk to someone if you have something to declare. I’m just somewhat confused about how this system is supposed to prevent anything like illegal drugs or other contraband items from coming in because obviously if you’re smuggling something you’ll go through the “nothing to declare” section and be home free.
We then got in a bus for what turned out to be about a 30 minute drive but which we thought would be far longer. The first thing that struck me outside was how “foggy” it was. I’m becoming increasingly sure that that “fog” is actually dense pollution combined with actual water vapor. Visibility the past… 2 days has generally been several hundred meters, but it’s just like there’s constantly a light fog. Many of us passed out on this bus ride to our hotel. We are staying in 资源Hotel (Zi1 yuan2 [Update: bin guan]) I don’t remember the last two words. It means resource hotel. It is located in the southwest corner of Peking university’s campus which is quite convenient. I am rooming with Ruixiao (Ray) Zou who speaks fluent mandarin, which is also convenient. When we first went up to our room we noticed immediately that there were not 2 bedrooms, as we hoped there would be, and that the room reeked of smoke. We have since moved to another room which is equivalent except that it does not smell like smoke.
I sent an email telling my family that all was well, took a shower, and flopped into bed.
So ended our “day” of travel and began our voyage in China.
P.S. I would like to note that we were fed a surprising amount of surprisingly good food on our flights.