Sunday, July 17, 2005

First Day In China

My 24 Hours of Daylight

My day started at 5:00 am in Kansas City. After moving out of my apartment on Monday, I spent the rest of my week staying at grandma & grandpa’s house. The worst part of this would have to be the 40 minute drive to the office & the one hour drive to the airport. The best part would have to be the steady stream of food provided by grandma. My sleep has been down to about 5 hours a day for about the last ten days because of the amount of work needed and the varying hours of business between KC and Beijing. On top of that, everyone I know wants to have a going away lunch/dinner/breakfast with me. I want to say ‘Listen dammit, this is why I had two going away parties!’, but of course, I’m still doing it.

I get the feeling that a lot of people I work with have this romantic notion of camaraderie and teamwork with me & envision watching me ride off into the sunset with all the knowledge and wisdom that they’ve instilled on me. Don’t get me wrong, there really are some people who have taken me under their wing over the years, and I don’t want to be a prick to them, but it’s just so hard to fit everyone in and the stress has been wearing me down physically & emotionally.

Monday morning the movers were to come to pack & move all my shit. All I really needed to do was organize what needed to go to storage, China & what I was taking with me. The company sent a carpentry team over around 9:00 am to build a special crate for one of my paintings, which was pretty cool. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I practically picked it out of the trash & that it had been completely soaked in water on at least one occasion. At around 10:30, a team of four people showed up to do the hard work. I honestly felt guilty playing on the computer & watching Buffy while they taped, boxed, sweated & cussed all my junk (I honestly didn’t feel that guilty). It was like having my own little swat team of movers. Like a tornado, they came & left, also like a tornado, all my stuff was gone. Four hours of cleaning afterwards, I turned my keys in & left Lenexa forever (until I realized that I left a box of cleaning supplies & had to return the next day). Interesting side note about getting out of my lease, the landlord actually said they thought they’d be able to track me down in China to collect on any fees that they decided to stiff me on, good luck, you guys cant even get my shower pressure right, peace.

About mid-week, I got quite a strange request from Xinlei. Xinlei is our employee in Beijing who’s going to help me out with this project. He spent about 6 weeks in KC & is a really cool guy. He left me an email requesting me to get six radar detectors for various people in Beijing (mostly clients). Apparently, these things are about $350 each in China. So I went to Wal-Mart & bought a couple for $65. I have a strange feeling about bringing this sort of stuff into a country such as China.

Anyway, back to this morning. Mom drove me to the airport around 6:00. Kansas City to Chicago by around 10:00, nice and easy. Flight from Chicago to Beijing, 13 ½ hours, not so easy. I’m traveling with a co-worker, Laura. She’s got a degree in Chinese & is totally pumped. I’m also pumped, but in my big-lethargic way where I just want to sleep it off all the time. Laura will be coordinating one project (in Beijing) while I’m running another project (in Langfang). We’ll have a day or two to hang out & see some sights, and after that we’ll probably be on the phone to each other a lot, but we’ll be living in different cities, so probably wont see a lot of each other. Anyway, Laura scores a whole empty row to sleep in during the flight & I’m smashed into a window behind a guy that looks like Lt. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. A thirteen hour flight includes three meals & about 4 runs from the flight attendants trying to pawn their cheap-ass Duty Free stuff onto us (Lady, we’re going to china, saving $5 on taxes is nothing, now scram & let me try to sleep!). Like any other flight, I hit the seat & was wide awake, I probably got about 3 hours of sleep total. Because of the path of the plane, the sun was in my window for the entire trip, super heating my to a comfortable sweat the whole time. Combine that with the time difference, it was daylight for about 30 hours.

It was surprisingly easy to get through immigration and customs. They didn’t even look at my customs information, it’s a good thing too because I had a suitcase full of radar detectors and books (who knows which the government would object to more).

Xinlei met us at the airport & helped us get to the hotel safely. This place is hot. This place is humid. This place is dirty. There is no air-conditioner in the airport, or if there is one, it’s set to about 85 degrees. Since my body is already nice & warm from the superheated pillow on the plane, I hardly notice the change in sweating locations on my body.

After getting to the hotel, despite being worn out, Laura & I decide to go check out the neighborhood. We walk around for several hours. It’s always exciting being in a new city and this place is no different. Beijing is very flat & unbelievably polluted, there’s a hazy fog laying over everything like a wool blanket. There’s so many people and sweat, so much poverty and construction. Legs shrunken from polio, heads swollen from birth defects, missing hands, eyes, feet, toes, fingers. The signs are huge, piles of dirt & trash on many street corners.

After a not-extremely-good dinner in the hotel, I decided to get online. This place has the absolute slowest high-speed internet in the world, most likely because every webpage I go through is routed through a government server to scan for content. I’ve been awake for about 32 hours straight now, having walked about five miles today & sweated about three pints of water, I begin to wonder if I’ve made the right decision on coming here at all. But, I am driven and weary and I don’t know where to go. In one stroke, I’ve changed my life, given up its last crude direction. But I’m still young, and therefore I believe there’s still love in my heart.

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

There is still love in your heart - never fear!
Please write more!! All very interesting to us Yanks!
Gretchen (Johanna's sister, remember?)