Sunday, June 17, 2007

Slow Boat To China

I’m going to China, but it’s not on a slow boat, it’s really a direct flight. Dulles International now has non-stop service to Beijing. About noon on Friday I will get on a 747 and will get off in China twelve hours later. When I went to Vietnam two years ago, it took twenty-four hours door to door including two transfers. This flight will seem like a milk run.

Why am I going half way across the world? Because my son got invited and I am piggybacking along. As loyal blog readers will remember, last fall my family hosted one of five cultural exchange students from China for a week. Now it is time for the return trip and three of the host families are going to stay for a week in Beijing. The kids will be staying with the families of the students they hosted. The parents will be staying at nearby hotels.

While there, we will see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the clay soldier army in Xian. A good part of the trip will be just our kids shadowing the Chinese students during their typical day at school. And they are still in school because high school kids in the rest of the world get a lot fewer breaks than American students.

Because we spend so much time in and around the school in Beijing, we won’t see anything in the southern part of the country like Shanghai or Hong Kong. I’ll just have to pick that up on a different trip. The next time I am in the neighborhood.

I really have no idea what to expect. China is in the press a lot as it prepares for the Olympics next year. I expect to see construction and smog. Douglas Coupland’s J-Pod made fun of the rather fragrant smell of success that permeates China. On the other hand, the latest issue of Fast Company (in an article that is not online) makes China sound like 1.3 billion emerging hipsters.

We are loaded for bear with three cameras, 10 gigabytes of memory chips, a camcorder, and four hours worth of miniDV tape. We also have a suitcase full of gifts and trinkets that we intend to empty to make room for souvenirs. Today I bought a phrase book so I can ask “Where is the bathroom?” and say “No fried snake, please.” Other than that, I plan to rely on my ugly American obliviousness.

I have no idea if I will find time to update the blog while I am there, but I sure think it would be cool if I could. If not, I will bore you to tears with the travel slides when I get back.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Feel free to offer any travel tips or share some horror stories.


The Mistress of the Dark said...

My one travel tip:

If you ever go to Atlantic City, NJ...stay at Harrah's on the Marina and make sure you have breakfast at the Fantasea Reef buffett. (Nummy)

Or The Tropicana on the Boardwalk...

Go to Brulee for dessert.


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

China - wow! Some people have all the fun. But only 3 cameras and 1 camcorder? I sure hope that's enough ;-)

Elizabeth said...

I'm so jealous!! I hope you all have a great time! I've heard the air is very polluted, so if anyone has breathing problems this might make it difficult. I'm hoping to be in China this time next year, so I'll be very excited when you get back and write about your trip! Have fun!

Anonymous said...

I came here from Achenblog, so I'll follow the custom of offering corrections.

A milk run is the opposite of the nonstop flight you're taking. A milk run involves lots of stops. Think milk truck delivering to every house in the neighborhood.

What to expect? Based on the reports of friends who've been there: people, people, people.

Anonymous said...

According to my next door neighbor (you might have met her at the BBQ), it's a kind of cruddy place to be if only because the customs are so different. People think nothing of hocking up a loogie wherever they are.

The amazing thing, she says, is that babies are time-trained at a very early age. They don't wear diapers, so they're carried around with bare bottoms and, at predetermined intervals, are held over the gutter, a nearby trash can, the train tracks, whatever, and will do their business at a whistled cue. Wild!

On the other hand, the government is trying to make the place reasonably nice for the Olympics so they're holding events such as "Queue Fridays". Since the Chinese don't bother lining up for stuff, they're trying to get everyone into the habit.

Anonymous said...

In Beijing be sure to visit the Wangfujung "Snack street" at night and eat anything that's well-cooked. I recommend the goat testicles.