Sunday, April 13, 2008

From Boston to Beijing

Nihao from China! Our group of 19 tough educators braved an amazing day and a half of travel, adventure, and adaptation. We are now here, safe and sound, in Beijing and ready to have a nice, long sleep.

For most of us, this was the longest airplane flight we have ever taken. After 16 hours of flying time, we collectively traveled over 300 hours, ate 37 meals, watched 76 movies, checked 20 bags, and each slept an average of 2 hours. Our flight was packed, as were we into our tiny seats, but we made the most of it. We traveled north from Chicago through Alaska, and then up near the Artic circle. Many of us had the chance to see an amazing sight through the rear window of the plane—sheets of cracked ice as far as the eye could see. It made us wonder just how many beautiful parts of the world remain untouched by humans and how lucky we were to have a birds eye view of such an uninhabitable yet stunning place.

We motored on through Siberia and then into China, landing in Beijing around 3am Boston time. We landed at the new terminal at Beijing’s airport that just opened two weeks ago. It was gleaming, just waiting to welcome millions of tourists come the Olympics in August. We collected our bags (all in tact) and were welcomed by Richard, our national tour guide, who has worked in the business and with Primary Source for about 10 years. We were also joined by Ashley, our local Beijing guide.

We drove about 45 minutes to our hotel, riding down wide avenues, surrounded by huge modern buildings that were being constructed faster than you can imagine. We were told that 300 more hotels are going to be built between now and August to house the 20 million visitors they are expecting for the Olympics. We were told that only in the last 20 years are large skyscrapers being built in Beijing; before then, only structures of 7 stories or less were built so that one can see and appreciate the Forbidden City.

We had an amazing meal across the street from our hotel, the North Garden Hotel. The lazy susan in the center of our table was filled with pork, chicken, fish, rice, fried corn kernels, potato pancakes, dumplings, and more. The most surprising item to most of us were these little crispy rolls that were filled with potato and coconut, then rolled in sesame seeds—so GOOD! With such a spread, we were able toast Margaret of Weston who celebrated her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Margaret!

Some of us took a walk after dinner to see Tiananmen Square which was only a 15 minute walk away from the hotel. We soon headed back to turn in after a complete day of new experiences.

We want to end this blog entry, and hopefully future ones, with an interesting story or fact. Today’s interesting fact: On November 11, the Chinese celebrate Bachelor’s Day. This is essentially a matchmaking day in the park when single people look for love. Their parents write notes on pieces of paper and hang them from the trees in the park. The notes read “My daughter is single and a great cook,” for example. The hope is that singles will find each other and start a life together.

On that note, we turn in. We are so thankful to have this opportunity and to share it with you. Stay tuned for our next update and enjoy some of our photos (1. Noodle bowl served on the plane, 2. Group at dinner, 3. Potato coconut rolls, 4. View from Tiananmen Square).

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