Friday, August 29, 2008

How do I get the meat stick open...?

So I made it!

I'm currently sitting in my Appartment in Qufu, Shandong China. The trip itself was, all in all, uneventful. The only real noteworthy thing about the flight over was that for the first twenty minutes of the flight out of San Francisco, the "call flight attendant" ding noise wouldn't stop. We were discussing the possibility of it continuing for all 11 hours and 45 minutes of the flight, but luckily that bloody scenario did not have to play out.

Interestingly enough, we completely missed the night of the 26th. When we passed over the International Date Line the sun was shining, and continued to do so all the way to China.

The Beijing Capitol Airport, recently COMPLETELY BUILT ANEW for the Olympics, is absolutely massive. I mean just massive. They also designed it so that international travelers were not only in a different terminal than domestic flights, but almost in a completely different airport. We had to transfer to a domestic flight to Jinan, which required us to get our luggage, go through Customs (which consisted of us putting our carry ons through a security scanner... the U.S. seemingly has far stricter customs - nobody even asked us questions about where we were going, how long, etc.), and travel to "Terminal 2." Terminal 2 is where the old airport was, I think. It's a 10 minute bus ride away from where they bring in the International flights, and is much more what you would expect to find in a Chinese airport (People, mostly). The terminals were still quite nice and easy to navigate, and we got on our local flight without any major problems.

Our local flight was only about 45 minutes, but in that time we were given these awesome little "snack packs" which had several types of rolls in them, one filled with this strange brown paste, which while delicious, myself and Andy agreed we did not wish to know its origins. Also in the snack pack was a butter roll (delicious pastry type thing), a packet of Sechuan Pickles (an acquired taste), and what can only be described as a pudding cup container filled with 100 mL of water. They gave us a bottle of water, and we didn't know what to do with the pudding cup, so we just left it alone. Better to be safe than accidentally drink the water you are supposed to wash with, or wash with the water you are supposed to drink with.

We landed in Jinan at about 6:45, and the first thing we noticed was the sky. The dark, heavy air which hung in the city of Jinan is something I have never seen before. It was difficult to tell whether it was just so unbelievably humid (it is) that the sky looked like you could cut it with a knife, or if it was just the obvious air quality issues, but I'm guessing it's somewhere in the middle. You can feel the dirt in the air. Less so in Qufu, however it is still noticeable.

We were met At the Airport by several people. Connie, for the Xintan College group (my group), A guy whose name I can't remember (he was very nice) for the Qufu Normal group, and a whole separate cadre for the Dongying group. The drive down was about two hours long, and having eaten only airplane food, we all agreed that we would like something to eat. We stopped at a Chinese truck stop about half way,which was an experience. There are massive numbers of trucks on the Chinese highways, and as best as one can muster, very few restrictions as to load size and what happens to be carried. For example, we saw a truck carrying another truck of identical make and model, in the back (it was a little European sized personal truck, so it was rather hilarious). There are also random broken down trucks along the road which, while swerving in and out of traffic, you sometimes almost hit. So it goes. Did I mention that Driving in China would be an experience? I can't even begin to describe Chinese driving habits. They aren't horrific - but lets just call it extreme white knuckle driving. Anyway, back to the truck stop. Our hosts (Connie and the nice man I can't remember) Purchased us a loaf of sweet bread (very similar to Challah and very good), a bottle of water, and what can only be described as, a meat stick. It looks like bologna, and I would imagine would taste like it, however I haven't tried it yet. We couldn't get the things open. Nobody of course had a knife, and try and try as we might, penetrating the plastic force field encompassing the meat stick proved impossible. So we just poked each other with them discreetly (as to not offend our hosts). Hey, after traveling for almost 24 hours poking someone with a meat stick is more comical than you might imagine. When we finally arrived in Qufu (very cool looking city by night), after dropping off Eliza and Lucy at Qufu Normal University (massive campus), we headed to our Apartments at Xintan. Hard wood floors, queen sized beds, nice kitchen - the living situation shouldn't be a problem. I even have an office with a spare bed! Below is a picture of my bed, and my living room.

After dropping our stuff off we were taken out to eat at, you guessed it, KFC. Gotta love KFC. Actually, KFC was closed, so we ate at the Chinese equivalent, CBC - China's Best Chicken. Who were we to contest? They were very proud of the KFC, and CBC was the next closest. We'll visit all the street vendors selling some sort of amazing smelling barbecue later. Connie is taking us to eat real Chinese food this afternoon, so that should be fun.

Well thats all for now, time to shower, shop, eat, clean, unpack, and attempt to figure out what on earth I'm going to do come Monday when classes start (Oh hell, I actually have to teach... and here I thought I was on vacation).

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