Yesterday night we had a going away party at Nadine Carter Russell’s house in Baton Rouge. Nadine is quite rich (by family money, I think). Her house is in a picturesque neighborhood that has one of those guardposts and gates at the entrance to the community. Her house has antique furniture and paintings; I have never seen a house like this except in the movies. Nadine is at least partially responsible for giving the program a lot of money for scholarships; I got $2500. She’s very nice.
We got our plane tickets and visas at the house, and were served an American dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs. Present were many of my fellow students, Nadine’s Aunt Paula Manship (as in LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication?), and LSU President William Jenkins.
Note: Time of day is China time. China’s time zone is GMT+8:00, as opposed to U.S. Central time, which is GMT-6:00. Since we are currently in daylight savings time, that’s a 13 hour difference or an 11 hour difference, depending how you look at it. If it is 7:00 AM in Louisiana, it will be 8:00 PM in China.
I am on the plane from LA to Beijing. This is about hour 4 of 13. It’s a big plane with 10 seats per row.
In the LA airport there were many solicitors. One woman was giving out newsletters about the Falun Gong. I thought that was interesting; I took one. Mrs. Yu took one also; she said we’d better get rid of them before we go to China.
We just finished our second meal. The meals are Chinese style. The first meal’s salad had a lichee in it. Drinks are not served with ice unless requested.
The flight attendants seem to assume that I speak Chinese when they offer drinks and meals. I actually DO understand everything they say, but I don’t feel comfortable enough to respond with 中文. Maybe on the next flight.
We crossed the international date line just a few hours ago.
John has been drinking too much. Ho Bao-loong stole his bottle from him, and we’ve been hiding it.
About 4 hours to go. Our route is taking us along the coast, up towards Alaska.
This is my first night in China; I’m staying at the Rainbow Hotel in Beijing. The room is a bit old, but mostly Western-style. We (along with everyone else) have been provided with a thermos of hot water with which to make tea. I already miss ice.
Beijing appears to be a very modern city. If not for all the Chinese writing, it might be mistaken for an American city. There are many bikers and pedestrians; cars will not always yield to them. Cars are mostly sedans. Lots of Volkswagens. [The biggest I’ve seen was a Jeep Cherokee (besides the buses).] They are all manuals.
The concept of “lanes” appears to be mostly theoretical here. [Wherever there is an open space, there is likely to be a car. They will go anywhere they want.]
China’s street signs are similar to the U.S.’s, but use different colors.
Lights here sometimes flash yellow before turning green.
Taxis are usually red.
Tomorrow we leave at 8:30 AM for Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Note: “Bei” = north and “jing” = capitol. Beijing is almost half the size of Taiwan. The population here is 13M. There are 11M bicycles. [Our guide, Eddie, said that the locals have a saying that if you haven’t lost a bicycle in the past 5 years, then you’re not a true Beijing-er. Eddie said he had lost 7 in the past 5 years. They don’t really care because new bikes are cheap, and if they don’t lose one, they don’t have an excuse to get a new one.]
The group has assigned numbers so we can “count off” to make sure everyone is present. We are counting in Chinese numbers. John insisted on the number 9, which in Chinese has a pronunciation similar to “alcohol.” [The number thing didn’t last long. These folks just couldn’t get the Chinese numbers right.]