Friday, January 14, 2005

January 14, 2005

***Click here to view the latest pictures from China. 2:45 PM We land in Beijing. Big rush to get off the plane. The terminal reminds me of Terminal 5 at O’Hare. Long lines, long hallways, escalators, all of it keeping you moving toward Immigration. We pass through with no problems. We had heard about Chinese officials checking luggage. Not on our flight. There were two officials who apparently weren’t checking anything or anyone. Hundreds of us walked out with no one being stopped. This was easier than passing through Customs at O’Hare. 2:58 AM Nick shouts, “Josh,” and starts running. When you pass through Immigration, the doors open with hundreds of people waiting to greet arriving passengers. I can’t see Josh anywhere, but Nick is running and yelling so we follow him. He saw Josh and jumped into his arms. Josh grinned and hugged him. Pat McGuin was standing a few feet away. Josh looks great. He’s lost weight and grown a beard. Total confusion for a while. Chatter, laughter, stories, “How was your flight?” Marlene exchanges money, then Alan does the same. Josh had arranged for two taxi drivers to take us to the school where and Pat teach. “Chinese drivers are crazy. There are no rules. It’s every man for himself.” As we got into the elevator, Pat said, “Get ready to be crowded.” China is the most populous country in the world. Last week a baby was born that made their population 1.3 billion. That’s almost 5 times the population of the US in roughly the same land mass. 3:42 PM We are NE of Beijing heading toward the Huijia Private School in Changping, NW of Beijing. So what does Beijing look like? Everything is brown and gray. Josh says every tree we see was planted here. This is a naturally arid region. They’ve had precipitation two days in the last six months. It’s cold here, cold and windy and dry. The smoke and haze reminds me of Los Angeles. The haze is worse in the summer. Horns honking all the time as drivers dart in and out. We had about four near-collisions on our way to the school. Josh laughed and said you get used to it. Said you never see police. We saw a guy riding a motorcycle on an ice-covered river. 5 PM Arrive at the Huijia Private School. It’s gotten a lot colder suddenly. It’s an elite private school that most Chinese couldn’t afford to attend. Looks like a college campus. They have 1500-2000 students elementary through college. Students come from all over China, plus Japan, Taiwan and the US. (I found out later that the school started in 1993 as an elementary school. The university is almost brand-new. It stretches for blocks beyond the elementary and high school sections. The upper crust of Chinese society sends their children here. ElIC has been providing English teachers for quite a few years so they have a good relationship with the administration.) 5:30 PM In our rooms. We’re staying in a dorm for foreign teachers. School ended today so the building is virtually empty. It’s very much like a college dorm in the US. I noted that security at the school is tight. We had to check in with copies of our passports and visas because there have been a number of robberies and a few shootings at some Chinese schools. Our room has cable TV, bathroom with a Western-style toilet plus a shower. Best of all: plenty of hot water. The only English-language channel at the moment: BBC World. 7:15 PM After a shower, I’m slightly revived. Josh and Pat hire a taxi to take us to a nearby restaurant. Things are cheap in China. There were seven of us at the restaurant. We had six courses (served on a rotating Lazy Susan) that were just excellent. Six courses for seven people, with food left over. Cost: $12. And you don’t tip in China. I attempted without success to eat with chopsticks. Pat says I will learn. On the way to restaurant Pat talked about what he and Josh have learned during their stay in China. “We’ve learned what it means to truly depend on the Lord every day. We don’t watch TV very much so there aren’t many distractions here.” He teaches sixth graders, Josh fifth graders. They both seem to love their students and China generally. Josh has learned quite a bit of Chinese–enough to get around via taxi or at a restaurant. 7:45 PM We got back to our rooms and went straight to bed. It’s the equivalent of 5:45 AM in Chicago and we’re all exhausted. The heat in the room (which Alan says is “retro-50s”) comes from pipes in the floor. We have a thick down comforter that makes sleeping very easy. We’re asleep within five minutes.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?