I awoke at 0555 this morning. I am an early morning person, so this was not an issue. The issue is that China is 12 hours ahead of the United States in regards to the time zone. The sleep that I got was the equivalent to nap time at a daycare. Mind you that last night I was so giddy with excitement that I could hardly sleep. I explored the hotel on my own and was up all night blogging, sending text messages and contacting my friends and family back home.
Since I had starved the night before, I was eager for breakfast. The language barrier was an apparent one, as I could not communicate effectively. I handed my cashier my breakfast ticket and she smiled. She then preceded to hand me one of everything on the menu. I was confused as to what I was eating, so I declined most of it. However, she handed it to me anyway and I took it, not wanting to be rude. It is the same in the American South. When someone prepares food for you, you smile, take the plate to your seat and eat the food that was prepared for you. I smiled politely and accepted the plates. It appeared that this restaurant was a community one, as there were more consumers than the restaurant could accommodate. I saw professionals, elders and children alike, all paying their yuan and filling up on the early morning delectables. I soon came to understand why we were told to arrive early. The food often ran out and a hungry mob accumulated around the empty buffet line.
On my plate, I tried what appeared to be a meat pie, an egg McMuffin, broth with rice, an omelet, and fried mystery strips of something bathed in soy sauce. I then discovered that what I thought was an omelet wasn’t, although it tasted fantastic with the meat pie. The egg McMuffin look-a-like was not bad, just bland. The dry mysterious strips bathed in soy sauce were incredibly salty, hard and cold. I knew China wasn’t the spice capital of the world, but table salt, pepper, and garlic would have been nice. I also sampled a spoonful of the pumpkin and rice soup with one of soybean and tofu soup. The latter actually had flavor. I know you’re probably thinking that this sounds disgusting. Don’t knock it until you try it!
The hour had come when we were to leave and travel to Hénán. We digressed back to the airport to catch the bus where we had to queue. Although late, I was relieved when the bus had arrived. It was generously packed with people anxiously waiting to get to their destination. This was your normal bus ride. However, I was impressed by the flat screen television enlisted for our viewing pleasure. From what I could deduce, it was a rundown of the weekly music news, with segments on Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift, and Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez. There also appeared to be some sort of countdown, with the E-girls, “One-two-three” at number two and SHINee, “Sherlock,” at number one. To my surprise, there was even a short segment on the late Whitney Houston, God rest her soul.
The bus ride was mostly a smooth one, as the driver drove us through Beijing. There was a lot of construction and a lot of city beautification projects occurring. It was interesting to see adults and elders with shovels in hand planting flowers, grass and trees. Seeing the amount of smog was interesting as well. The longer we rode the bus, the more interesting things seemed to be. There was a lot more industrialization and high rises with much variety and variability. Some were newer than others, but all constructed differently. Upon leaving the bus, we were met with a pack of rickshaw drivers who were mostly aggressive women who did not want to take “no” for an answer.
We wandered through the city in search of something which was later discovered to be The Angel Restaurant. The alimentary selection was again, different from what I am used to. We were given fresh watermelon juice and tea to begin. There was a spicy celery dish and spicy chicken dish that I thoroughly enjoyed. Likewise, there was tofu and a variety of fungi. There was an abundance of food to begin with and more courses coming every so often. The food was enjoyable and we left immediately following the meal to travel to the next destination.
So far, in China, I have walked, flown, ridden the bus, and traveled by car. Soon to come would be the train. The walk to the train station was an experience in itself, as I quickly learned that pedestrians do not have the right-of-way as in America and many other countries. We were advised to keep our belongings close, as there were many people in the railway station. Traveling up and down many ramps and floors, the crowded station accommodated many. There were stores and restaurants of various types. I even saw a KFC and McDonald’s. As with Grand Central Station, there was much crowding, pushing and shoving. It would have been easy to get lost in the see of travelers. The train was just as crowded as the bus. Not a single seat was left empty. Once settled, I embarked on the slow, nearly seven hour journey to Hunan. It was the slowest train I have ever traveled by, as it moved 152 km/hr as we were transported from Beijingxi to Zhengzhou. There was a vendor service with an assortment of snacks. I did not have yuan, so I could not purchase any of the snacks. I was only able to salivate over what I could not have.
Seven or so hours later, we arrived at our destination. Hénán was an overcrowded city with the neon lights of Las Vegas and almost as crowded as New York City. We eventually found our newest temporary dwelling.We settled in our hotel, a local Academic Exchange Center nestled directly inside the city’s security gate in close proximity to shops, vendors and the institute in which we were to study.
This hotel was like the one for the night before, a stiff bed with clean sheets. Likewise, it had a Western toilet and a scenic view.
After hours of traveling today, I am tired and can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.