Wednesday, August 31, 2005


We made it to China! The 18-hour flight went surprisingly well, thanks to Xanaax, Tylenol PM, Harry Potter and sitting in Business Class. We’ve discovered that the Guangzhou airport is pretty much dead at 6am, and morning television is as inane in Mandarin as it is in English.

After a short layover, we flew to our pre-trip destination, Beijing, the Chinese capital, in the northern half of the country (along the same latitude as Philadelphia for you cartographers). We will be here until Saturday afternoon.

Beijing is an amazing clash of the very modern and the very old; the bright and shiny and the very decrepit. To put it into Hollywood terms, Beijing is The Grapes of Wrath meets Wall Street. There are clearly no “zoning” laws of any kind, so shacks are found abutting steel and glass sky scrapers. And there is construction everywhere. Mark read in this weekend’s New York Times that there are about 8000 construction projects right now in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and we think we’ve seen about 2/3 of them. Evidence of poverty is everywhere. Whenever our group of 22 gets off the bus to see sights, we are mobbed by “vendors” offering everything from postcards and silk purses to “Rolex” watches; all are tenacious, some are aggressive. And the one who spoke the best English was a hooker who approached Mark.

The folks with whom we are traveling are great. Two other families will be with us when we go to Changsha, as their daughters are also in the Chenzhou orphanage.

No comments: