Lara and I arrived in Beijing yesterday afternoon. There was another Georgetown Fellow on the flight with us, a young man who speaks Mandarin, and is pretty cool. The flight wasn’t bad. They showed three movies, part of one I watched, and we got to read and sleep. Before we knew it, we had arrived. Just after clearing Customs, beyond the throngs of people waiting to pick up new arrivals, there was a KFC and a Starbucks, like any American airport. We were met at the airport by a driver from the US Embassy.

The drive to the hotel was great. The main highway to Beijing is lined with trees and flowers, and there’s tons of new construction going on. The highway signs are in large Chinese characters, with the pin yin, and then English. When we were making our descent, I joked to Lara that the land looks like Illinois. Sure enough, one of the exit signs along the highway said “Illinois.” We don’t know what that was.

We’re staying at the Comfort Inn, in Beijing, within walking distance of a whole bunch of restaurants. We checked into our hotel, took an hour nap and showers, then went out for pizza at a place that has a large stone oven, with Nolan, the Mandarin speaking Fellow, and a local Beijing women friend of his. The pizza was good, and it was nice to sit down and relax. We were really feeling exhausted by this point, trying to stay awake long enough to get in sync with the local time, fifteen hours in the future.

We walked back to our hotel, and sat and watched rush hour traffic. Lots of buses, bikes, mopeds and cars and trucks. Lot’s of people walking, strolling around. It’s fairly humid, and hot. We aren’t drawing much attention. Beijing seems to be a fairly international city, with lots of people from all over. I was surprised by how many Westerners I saw riding their bikes through the streets.

Today Lara is going to an all day Orientation, so I’m going to go look around and have fun. It’s already Thursday morning here. We woke up at 7:15 AM local time, but it’s “really” 4:15 in the afternoon the previous day. Weird.