July 5, 2005

Chicago to China . . . it's a long flight.

After three in-flight meals, four in-flight movies, a stack of magazines and more than 7,000 miles, we've arrived in China! The flight was long, and neither of us slept much, but it was so nice that we were able to go directly from Chicago to Beijing.

Thank you Kelly, Erin, Michael, Patrick and Grace for the morning send off. You guys are the best!

Beijing is very pretty and actually reminds both Eric and me of Japan, which isn't at all what I expected. There is no urban planning in the way we think of it in the United States. There are small shops beside large skyscrapers and one building simply flows into the next without a lot of rhyme or reason. There is also a lot of construction in preparation for the 2008 Olympics that will be held here.

When we arrived this afternoon we walked around for a little while -- even though we had no idea where we were going! Crossing the street here is a take-your-life-in-your-own-hands experience! Our guide explained to us that if you stand and wait for a car to stop and let you cross the street, you'll stand there all day. Instead, you just step out in the street and hope the car stops. This flies in the face of every "stop, look and listen" skill you've ever been taught! Plus, it's terribly unnerving!

We're staying at the St. Regis Hotel and it's lovely. The people who work here are unbelievably polite and gracious and the hotel has a beautiful pool, gym and spa. It doesn't feel Chinese though. It could be a hotel in any large American or European city. The funny thing is that there is a Sizzler Steakhouse, a TGI Fridays and a Haagen Dazs right outside our hotel. (You can see the Sizzler and the red-and-white awning in front of TGI Fridays in the photo taken from our hotel window.) It seems American capitalism is alive and well in this communist country.

It's very warm -- nearly 100 degrees -- but it's not nearly as humid as I expected.

Tomorrow we're going to The Forbidden City...

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