It is Friday, September 21st, Beijing, China and my brain is a little frazzled. Our flight yesterday (2 days ago? I don't know, time zones confuse me) was amazing, let me highlight the entire process.
First let me explain that I am in Beijing on business (how cool is that) so it's expense-paid (how much cooler is that?!!).
Thursday night, Ohio time, I went to Aida rehearsal and got to experience singing "The God's Love Nubia" with our incredibly talented cast about 5 times. While this was a gut-wrenchingly powerful experience, it was also rather throat-wrenching. But what did I care, I was leaving for China in the morning! The end of rehearsal rolled around and unexpectedly, the cast presented me with a card that they had signed, and gifts of Excedrin and Imodium for my trip. I was immensely touched, but they topped it all off with laying their hands on me and praying for me. I don't know if you've ever had this experience (I speak to you, reader, like I know who you are) but I have just a few other times in my life and it is really a moment to take with you forever. I went home and started the arduous process of packing. At this point I had about 3 1/2 hours to pack before I had to get showered and go pick up my co-worker and drive to the airport. Sleep you say? No, no sleep unless i somehow got done in time.
Luckily, I remembered that someone at work had said that laundry service was included in my hotel room. Jackpot! I had all the clean undies and T-shirts I needed, but the dress shirts were questionably clean at best. Did he just imply that he
I jumped in the car and headed to my co-worker's house to pick him up. I got there annoyingly early. Like, nearly 20 minutes early. In my defense, I was planning on getting Starbucks on the way, but realized it was closed at 3:30am. I then rolled through Taco Bell to get some caffeine, and they told me they closed 5 minutes ago. Confused that I woke up and got to Taco Bell when it closed, I ventured on and sat outside my co-worker's house for about 15 minutes. Just long enough for sleepiness to slither up my back and perch itself comfortably in my brain, with no pesky caffeine to ward it off.
We got to Cleveland over 2 hours before our flight, and sat around forever. They design the chairs in such a way as to not allow any real sleep and so I was hating life at this point. Our flight to Newark, NJ was pleasant enough. I go a few minutes of sleep. We were lucky enough to be seated in first class (flying-for-business perk), and to my best reckoning it was the first time I had flown first class, but I was terribly disappointed as the plane was so small that first class just meant slightly more room for your ass. We had a 3 hour layover in NJ which was pretty awesome thanks to our first-class status and our welcome into the Continental President's Club. Free snacks, drinks, and wireless internet. Basically my idea of heaven. Unfortunately it was 9am with very very little sleep under my belt so drinking didn't sound like the best idea. That's why I only had 3 free drinks.
When we boarded the Boeing 777, I realized that THIS is what first class was all about. Technically we were "Business Class" on this flight, but it was identical to first class which was separated from us by a kitchen. Behind us were the lowly commoners in Economy. I sporadically would throw bits of my table scraps through the doorway, and I would hear them all scurry and fight over them. Seriously though, these seat's were sweet. They had 3 positions; Situp for take-off and landing, Chillax back a bit, and Low-rider for sleeping. Note: I made up the names of the positions. They also had other cool features, but you don't care, just know it was sweet. Were were served lots of free food and booze (which again only made my headache worse, so I only had a lot) and after one of the meals, everyone shut the windows and had nappy-time. It was really rather weird. I woke up at one point and sat up, half expecting to scolded for it. I slept off and on (I'm not a great sleeper) but right in the middle of my last and best sleep I was awoken by a shaking from the flight attendant. She wanted to serve me breakfast. Thanks. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had steak for my first meal. I will post pictures when I get back home, just know it was really bad steak. The rest of the food was surprisingly good though, for plane food.
Bill (this is my co-worker who I will now just call Bill) and I got off the plane, and breazed through customs. (I imagine it will be much harder to get into the USA on the way back) When we walked out the large double doors, we were met by a sea of people behind a rope holding signs. I a little bit felt like a rock star. We made our way down the line until I spotted our names on a sign held by 2 young Chinese people. They looked (and I found out they are) recently out of college. "Sally" is 24 and deals with most of the incoming americans, so she goes by Sally. She is thin and sweet with a welcoming smile. Zhong Yuming (I just had to look up his name again) is also 24 and looks like one of the hip Asian students I've seen around NYU or San Francisco. He carried a murse unabashedly as all sensible men around the world do. Bill, I should mention is 58, very tall, completely bald, and very very light skinned. Needless to say he stuck out in our little group, and basically all of China, as we made our way to the waiting driver.
Sally and Zhong Yuming (and some driver) dropped us off at the Hotel (Holiday Inn Lido Beijing) with a promise from Sally to see us in the morning for our Great Wall tour, and from Zhong Yuming (who I will now call "Bob") to see us Sunday morning for our "Forbidden City" tour. Which apparently is not forbidden anymore. Bill and I were left to our devices at he Hotel. I had every intention of hitting the weight room, swimming, and drinking for free at our Executive Lobby. None of these happened. Bill and I looked around some of the stores in the hotel (including a "Certified Apple Reseller" which looked like a questionable claim at best) and decided on a Barbecue (which was hilariously mock-american) that was happening outside. Points of note at the stores: There was a cool clothing store selling expensive american brands very cheap. I seriously wonder if they were fabricated here or stolen or both and that's why they were cheap. They had lots of stuff, but basically only one of each item, so if it wasn't your size you were screwed. There was a Texas-themed restaurant, which was as ridiculous as it sounds. Chinese servers walking around with sheriff badges, big texas belt buckles, denim skirts, and boots. Feel free to laugh heartily at the mental image, because I could not at the time as much as I wanted to.
The barbecue was lame-o. The serving staff far outnumbered the people eating there. Half the food I dished was the first thing dished out of the pans. It was eerily under-patronized. Then I saw a small roach crall across the buffet table. I stuck to my beer from then on. There was a REALLY lame band playing american songs. I don't say this because I was so proud of the american songs that I couldn't hear them any other way. "How Do I Live Without You" sounded like really bad karaoke, and that's not even including the butchered lyrics. If I was there with my buddies, we would have probably loved it because drinks were free and we would have gotten wasted and sung loudly and horribly, but made the place a lot more fun. Unfortunately Bill and I were in no such company or mood. So my head started to spin after one beer at 8pm, and I headed to bed. Realize I had been up for an amount of hours I'd rather not calculate with only a few hours of plane-sleeping to keep me alive. All in all, the travel was about 23 hours from when I picked up Bill to when we got to the hotel in Beijing. Not to mention the day of work and rehearsal before that and listening to "How Do I Live Without You" after that. OK? So I had every right to be tired! I just realized I was justifying my tiredness.
I went to my room and knew I had to stay up for a half hour so I could let the laundry service in with my first cleaned shirt of the trip. I was awoken by the laundry service knocking on the door a half hour later (I was really tired). I then crashed until about 3am when I started rolling around in bed. That's what I do for about an hour until I realize I'm not going back to sleep, and so I got up and started typing the ramblings you're reading now.
Quite a journey, EH? I hope to keep posting these, but I was never good at keeping to a blogging schedule. As I said, I will post the accompanying pictures to these blogs when I get home. God Bless and I'll see you at the Great Wall...