Below are the first entries in a small journal I’m keeping to chronicle my first trip to China. I’m here on what may be the last school-organized trip I ever go on.
We’re currently in Beijing. I flew in this morning from Chicago by way of Seoul. We head to Shanghai in a few days.
The purpose of this trip is to expose students to the business climate and opportunities in China. I’ll keep notes about the meetings we go to off this blog, for the most part, but I’ll probably digest what I’ve learned into a post or two when I get home. But, before that happens, I’ll share journal entries here on my blog over the next week while we’re in situ.
<< CHINA JOURNAL >>
12/13/15 11:32 AM, Beijing
I just arrived in Beijing. I’m sitting on an express train to Dongzhimen, where our hotel is. I forgot to bring my usual moleskine notebook so I’m going to keep my thoughts about the trip on my phone. My notes from meetings are going to be in their usual place.
The air is thick. I haven’t been outside the filtered confines of the airport for more than 10 minutes and I can already feel my eyes starting to itch. You can’t really see the sun either. It’s this shining part of the sky, blurred through a thick sepia haze that smells like it kills. Although I haven’t checked the AQI since the day before I left Chicago, it seems like it’s better than it was last week. I can at least see a few blocks in most directions.
I haven’t seen many people wearing masks.
On the way between the airport and Sanyuanqiao the tracks run alongside a curious mixture of modern apartment blocks, light industry and little scruffy patches of land where farmers (if you can call them farmers even) tend rectangles, some covered with brush, others with dirty looking cabbages and melons. Ramshackle buildings of corrugated metal and plastic lean precariously alongside a wall dividing the apartments from the riffraff. In one rectangle, laundry belonging to a small family was hanging from the wire fence dividing it from the footpath and passers by. In another rectangle, a wrecked drop-in bathtub lay splintered, brush poking up through its bottom.
We passed another stand of identical apartment buildings, and another in which each building was uniquely identifiable only by the huge red character on top, which, when you read the top of all six buildings may display the name of the complex. Past it, there was an IKEA, and one of those white inflated golf domes.
The train conductor intermittently coughs. My eyes are getting itchier. I haven’t even spent any time out in the open air yet. Though that might just be the jet lag talking.
2:34 PM, Beijing
Jerry invited me to lunch with his relatives.1 We went to a restaurant that specializes in Shandong cuisine and on the way we passed a building for a company called CapitaLand. Only in China, I guess.