Friday, June 26, 2009
China - Day 1
Our Flights yesterday were pretty uneventful...which is a good thing. Rob and I were close to the front of the plane well in the economy section that is. Our flight from JFK to Beijing (PEK) was 14 hours!! I have been on a 7 or 8 hour flight...so this was quite a bit longer. We were served a dinner about an hour after we got up to cruising altitude. We had the choice of Kung Pow Chicken or Eggplant Chicken. Rob and I both chose the Kung Pow Chicken. It did have a little bit of a kick to it. It came with a little bit of white rice along with steamed broccoli and carrots. Plus we were offered a fruit plate which had watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew mellon. Then there was a roll with butter, a small salad with 1000 island dressing. We were served a drink as well. After dinner they cleared items away and left us alone for awhile. We had Satan's child sitting behind us who kept kicking the back of our seats, and throwing tantrums through out the flight. I was ready to strangle him by the time we landed. We had someone sit next to us by the window. Rob called him 'Ted'. He was nice and was going back to Tibet for a visit. He grew up in a small village and has lived in the US for about 4 or 5 years. His english was hard to understand, but I was able to get most of it. The flight did get a little bumpy...but I tried not to think about it. Body of Lies, Hancock, and Tinkerbell were the three movies shown on the 747 airplane. Halfway through the flight the flight attendants passed out a ham sandwich. Rob said that they were very good. I was too tired to eat and so I think he ended up eating my sandwich as well. then towards the end of the flight we were served yet another dinner. This time we had the choice of Beef & Noodles or Seafood and Rice. I chose the seafood...only so that i could eat the rice. i was not super hungry but needed to eat something. the seafood was shrimp with some type of dark sauce. This also came with a buttered roll, pineapple shortcake, and some type of cole slaw. Rob didn't eat this meal as he was not hungry.
Once we landed in China we were not allowed to get off the plane right away, like in Europe or the United States. They had government officials come on wearing goggles and face masks, and took everyone's temperature. if they suspected you to be running a fever they would have called an ambulance to inspect if you had a flu. in the meantime the other passengers of the plane would have been quarantined at a near by hotel. We were fortunate enough to not have anyone on the flight who was running a fever, so they made an announcement that we were able to disembark the aircraft. Rob and I had a very tight connection there in Beijing. How tight? 2 hours! 2 hours in the US is plenty of time...but not on an international flight. We walked through to the customs checkpoint where they examined our health inspection paperwork and handed it back to us. they also had a device that checked one's temperature as they were walking up to the checkpoint. Note...this building did not have A/C on...so it was already hot inside the building. After going through 3 or 4 checkpoints, we were told to go pick up our luggage. This took forever only because our bags were one of the last to be unloaded from the aircraft. once we got our bags we went over and dropped them off to be transferred over to the domestic flight. We once again had to go through another security checkpoint. In Beijing they did not make us take off our shoes like we do in the US. They checked our bags a couple of times though. After this we walked pretty fast over to our gate. When we got to the gate, they were already boarding. Rob and I looked at each other and said, "ya...you can make it in 2 hours...but it is not fun!" our second flight was another 3 hours long. by the time we touched down in Guangzhou it was 11pm (china time) but it felt like 11am NYC time. We went and picked up our bags once again and went to find the arranged taxi service that rob had picked out. well we looked and looked and could not find the person. rob called the phone number and they said they had a confirmation for july 25th, not june 25th. So we had to go and find a different taxi service to take us over to our hotel.
the taxi ride to the hotel was another experience. i was fearing for my life the whole time. this guy was driving nuts!! cutting people off with very little space...going super fast on sharp corners. it was nuts! he dropped us off...and realized it was not the correct place, but only to find out that we were at the backdoor of the hotel. so he drove us around to the front. by now it is 12:30am. Rob and i walked up to the check-in desk and the attendants could not find our reservation. they kept saying, "sorry we do not have any rooms." now rob and i had joked that something like this would happen. not funny when it is really happening. the clerks made several different phone numbers and FINALLY was able to get a hold of someone who knew what was going on. what we think happened was that the organizer had place a block of rooms just for the CSWIM Conference under his name rather than the conference name. Finally at 1:30am or so we were finally making our way up to the 13th floor to our hotel room. the beds are super hard...but i didn't really care as I was just glad to be in the room. If I had been 9 months pregnant...i would have really felt like Joseph and Mary in bethleham. lol oye!!! rob and i were on the verge of tears by the end of everything. the clerks kept trying to tell us to walk down to this other hotel, but we were not about to leave this hotel at 1am! no way!!
we woke up this morning feeling a bit refreshed. we ate lunch here at the hotel restaurant. We had dumplings. I think they were pork dumplings. along with it we had white rice, and i think kale. for the two of us lunch came out to be 85 RMB which is about $11 for the two of us. not bad at all! Tonight is dinner with the other conference people. tomorrow will be spent at Sun Yat-Sen University which is where the conference is being held for tomorrow. Tomorrow evening will be a river dinner cruise down the Pearl River. I am looking forward to that. :)