Day One in Beijing (Gordon) 7/27/13

Woke up at 4:30 am.  First thought was hunger and where to get food.  Judy is taking stock of the apartment and how we’re going to organize our stuff. After showering and getting my bearings in the apartment, I headed out to find breakfast.  I walked out of the apartment building and out the gate of the complex (two guards on duty at all times).  Walked several block with no sign of food, then found a street vendor deep-frying dough.  It had some kind of vegetables in it.  My interpretation – a vegetable doughnut (sans sugar).  I bought two for around $1.50, and headed back toward the apartment.  Walked past the gate and continued passed some closed up shops (5:30 am).  Found another street cook with a little different shape, but the same product.  Bought two and wandered into a small shop with essentials for sale.  Bought some large water bottles and even found some diet coke.  Headed back to the apartment.  Judy was up and full-scale unpacking is taking place.  We enjoyed our sugarless doughnuts and water.

Unpacking our luggage is an arduous task.  Judy knows where she wants it, so I try to help, but mostly get in the way.  I try to figure out how to set up our computers and all our electronics.  Contacted our housing agent, Lisa, and scheduled internet installation for later in the day (yes, the same day, not sometime next week).

Around 11:00 am we get hungry again, so I went out on another walk.  Found a McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, and a Pizza Hut.  They were part of a huge mall (Capitol Mall), 5 floors up and 2 basement floors below.  Grabbed some McDonalds and headed back home.  I guess it’s about a 10 minute walk, maybe ½ mile?  Enjoyed the chance to relax a little and eat.

Internet guys (looked like teenagers) arrived around 2:15.  Don’t understand English, and we had fun trying to communicate.  It took forever for them to understand that the Apple Wireless Extreme wasn’t a router.  Finally, after much gesturing and phone calls, another guy walks in with a router, and we finally get hooked up.  Cost is 1080y (yuan) for internet for a year, and the router was 300y.  Exchange rate is $1 = 6y, so I divide everything by 6 to get a dollar equivalent.  Translation – internet was $180 for a year, and the router was $50.  Felt kinda weird paying four teenagers 1380y cash, but it all seems ok, according to our agent.  Internet is running and we’re feeling like we’re back in touch with the world.

I trekked back to the mall for dinner – Pizza Hut.  They have a full menu with many items, burgers, dinner plates, etc.  I order pizza and decided to try my Visa card.  It doesn’t work.  I spent so much time making sure all of our bank cards would work before we left, and now I can’t use my Visa?  I’m irritated!  I pull out the cash, and head home for dinner.  We eat and spend the rest of the night unpacking and making lists for what food and household items we need at the store the next day.  I also spent an hour on the phone with Chase Bank and after speaking with several different levels of management, finally solved the access problems with our banking cards.

Beijing Travel Days (Gordon) 7/25-26/13

2:30 am – up and at ‘em
4:00 am – catch airport from hotel to airport
4:30 am – load up two luggage carts at airport with our 10 bags + backpacks
5:00 am – Check-in at Alaska Airlines
5:20 am – Security check (I dropped my passport, but a TSA agent got it back to me before I left the area. (almost a disaster)
5:40 am – get to the gate and find a place to settle. Grab breakfast
7:45 am – begin loading the plane (late due to some maintenance issue)
8:30 am – Flight departs DFW
PACIFIC TIME (2 hours behind central)
10:20 am – Arrive Seattle, flew in over Mt. Rainier.  Wow!  Move to our new departure gate (3 different trains to move us to the correct terminal.)  Find a place to eat lunch and wait for departure.
1:20 pm – Begin boarding procedures for Beijing Flight on Hainan Airlines
2:10 pm – Flight departs Seattle.  Flight is full.  Mostly Chinese on board. Flight attendants speak some English and are very efficient. Meal is served 2 hours into the flight, beginning with warm towels.  Food is decent.  Choice is beef/chicken/fish, with rice and steamed vegetables.  Dessert also.  Very filling.  Another meal was served about 3 hours out from Beijing.  Similar options.
4:45 pm – Arrive Beijing.  (3:45 am CST, almost 12 hours).  Flew over the “timeline” somewhere between Alaska and Asia.  Sleep was intermittent, very cramped seating.  Plane unloaded down stairs to tarmac.  Pretty interesting after sitting for 12+ hours.  Not as spry as I used to be.  Boarded tram for a very long trip to the terminal.  More walking at the terminal to big room where passports and visa were checked.  More walking to baggage claim and started wrestling all our bags again.  Push luggage to customs area, nothing to claim, but self-serve unloading to exit scanner, and loading back up on the other end.  Beginning to dislike luggage!  We’re both pretty sweated up by now.  Move out into a large waiting area and wait for BISS to arrive.
5:45 pm – BISS contact arrives (traffic issues).  We begin the trek pushing our luggage out to parking garage.  Lots of hustle and bustle. Luggage fell off one of the carts, and almost collided with a taxi.  Finally arrive at a van and loaded up.  Van was for people, not luggage, so no luggage area in the rear.  All bags had to be handed in the side of the van and lifted over seats to get to the back.  Tight fit!
6:30 pm – Drove out of the airport.  Traffic ok, about like DFW area.
7:45 pm – Arrive at the apartment.  It’s a large complex with 10 buildings.  Call housing agent for a keys.  She arrives (Lisa), and we begin ferrying luggage to the elevators and moving it to the 25th floor.   Lisa gives us a quick tour, some instructions, and departs.
8:30 pm – (7:30 am CST, 29 hours since alarm in Irving hotel) Home sweet home!  Finally!  Very glad Judy had packed sheets for the king bed.  Especially glad she packed toilet paper.  Could have been interesting.  Ate some snack bars and water we bought at the airport.  Defined a plan of attack for the next day.  Unpacked a few necessities, made the bed, and finished off the day.
9:45 pm – Heads hit pillows and ……….

Moving Day Closing In (Gordon) 7/21/13

We’ve been busy since the last post.  We enjoyed some relaxation and visits with family and friends up through the July 4th weekend.  After the 4th, activity picked up.  Judy attended a week-long session of IB (International Baccalaureate) training in Austin.  She has learned enough to be dangerous. I made a same-day roundtrip to Houston (rode the Megabus), and picked up our visas.    Later that week I drove out to Canyon / Clovis to visit friends and mentors.  When we returned home, the tedious task of packing began.

Since our “shipped” items can’t arrive until we have our residential permit in Beijing (sometime around Sept. 15), we have to pack everything we need to live and teach for 6 weeks.  That is a lot of stuff.  Clothes, teaching supplies, shoes, a coat or two, musical instruments, computers, ……….lots of stuff.  We had to make it all fit in 8 checked bags, and 4 carry-ons.  Everything else would have to ship.

On Friday, July 19, movers arrived and packed the items we’re shipping to Beijing.  It’s gone!  We’re going to be a sight when we head to the airport with all our luggage.  We’ve been adjusting our bags, making sure they’re not overweight, and there’s more adjustment to go.  Movers will arrive Tuesday, July 23 to load all furniture, etc., remaining in our apartment.  They’ll pack it and move it to join the rest of the furniture we stored when we moved out of Arlington in April.

The flight goes out at 8:00am, Thursday, July 25.  We’ll need to be at the airport at 5:00 am, 4-hour layover in Seattle, and then 12 hours direct to Beijing.  We’ll arrive in Beijing on Friday evening around 5:00 pm (Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Central time).  We’ll be met by BISS representatives and taken to our apartment.  This is going to be an exciting week.  I’ll try to check in sometime next week, after life settles down (if it ever does).