And so it begins. We had a grueling day, getting up at 3 a.m. to catch a 6:29 (why not 6:30?) to SF before boarding the 11:15 plane to Beijing, during which I didn't write a word on this. I did read an entire book, solved a few Sudoku, and watched a movie, but didn't sleep much. Checking into the hotel now, we realized that it had been a 23-hour journey from door-to-door. A completely, absolutely full airplane, with not great food but no real problems, either. A group of private Bay area high school students on a tour to a Beijing sister school (Chinese students would return and do the same family visitation, etc. next month to their Marin counterparts) surrounded me on the plane, but next to me was a young Chinese businessman, on his monthly jaunt back and forth.
The planes now take a northern route, over vast snowy mountains and sheets of frozen water. Flying over that area of China, I was struck by the uniqueness of the land use. Because of its long history, its population pressure, and the half-century of social experimentation on a vast scale, China's countryside and urban landscape doesn't look like any other country I've been over. Other countries may be blessed by breathtaking mountains or scenic anomalies, but the actual civilized part of them just doesn't resemble China much.
China is so vibrant! Having lived in or spent time in several of the world's primo tourist locations—Paris, London, New York, LA,--the throngs of tourists and other visitors puts all those locations to shame. Linda and Dawei and I lost each other in the airport for awhile, it was THAT mobbed. But exciting, not exasperating. Everyone happy, shouting, talking, smiling.
Construction hasn't abated a bit, and even the massive beautiful
shopping center was under construction, across the main road from our hotel,
definitely not what I would pick as a candidate for renovation. It was
beautiful, glitzy and filled with upscale shops, a rival of NY's Macy's (except
for the brand name). And more and more massive housing projects. Where is all
this construction money coming from?
But it feels glorious to be here.
Linda wanted to take a picture in the customs line of the two young women—not Chinese nationals (since they were in a nearby "foreigner" line), probably Japanese, in heels, leg warmers, short-short skirts, midriff tops, outrageous chic costumes, thin as rails.