DAY 1 –

May 16:2010

It’s a gloomy prospect to be a month away from one’s husband, and it certainly doesn’t improve the feeling to be in someplace so gray and dirty as where I find myself.  One major consolation is that, as soon as I get a chance to clean up this apartment a little bit, it wont be half bad.  It would just be a LOT more welcoming had it Internet. I’d trade the common area and comfortable couch, perhaps even the western style toilet, to have internet in the room.  But what can you do.  It does have a decent kitchen, with a microwave, stove, and refrigerator, basic counter space and generic cooking and eating utensils.  Again, once I get it wiped down, it will help everything a bit.

It’s just kind of gray and …  quiet to be here by oneself.  I’m very tired, and have been for the last few hours, but I somehow can’t make myself just lie down and go to bed.  I will as soon as I’m done writing. It’s also been somewhat of a chore to gather my thoughts enough to start writing this as well.  I’ve been out of this journaling thing for a while, and when my head feels so scrambled from the general weariness of travel, it makes writing even more a chore.

I do very much want to go to bed though.  But I’ll try and at least get somewhat of a picture painted before I give up.

Aside from being unsure if I’d have a seat on the flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo, my trip was nearly uneventful.  Finally taking off, more than a ½ hour late, we were jetessoned into the sky with the familiar strength only 4 humongous jet engines can induce.  Unfortunately, Delta had only the big main screen, and two smaller screen tv’s for my entire section of the cabin – and very far from me at that.  This meaning the entire plane would be subject to the same three poorly selected movies.  Bride Wars, if you can believe it! Ugh.  Young Victoria, which is a decent movie but unfortunately I’d already seen, a couple nameless sitcoms and childrens cartoons, and one other movie that was so plausé the name escapes me.  The only notable part of the journey was when, approaching the Narita air strip, and probably not 200 feet off the ground, a sudden racing of the engines and swift pull-back on the throttle made the giant craft hurl itself back up into the air, and bank to the left.  “Hello folks. No need to worry.  Sorry about that.  Things like this happen only about once every four years, and today was our turn.  The plane taking off on the runway didn’t clear in time for us, and we have been forced to pull around and approach again.  We should be on the runway in another 10 minutes”.   I thought it was great fun.  You rarely feel the G’s when in a commercial flight, but I certainly felt a couple on that recovery!

When I remembered this incident, after having told Dan (my professor) and the other two at lunch that my trip had been relatively uneventful just a few minutes before, Dan replied “THAT! That was uneventful! You just said it was all pretty straight forward! An event like that would throw me of flying for 5 years!” . My general feeling is that physicists are not the type of people to overtly seek thrill in their lives.  Apparently someone, from another collaborating university, hasn’t ever been to BES-III (the collider here at the institute) because he can’t fly.  Apparently, we’re just not the thrill seeker type of guys.  I guess I’m just the runt of the bunch.

In any case, I arrived in Beijing at 10:30 pm.  The airport was all but shutdown, so customs was a relatively quick affair.  It wasn’t until I saw my entrance form in the hands of the customs agent that I realized I’d written my maiden name under the space for a sir name.  Entering China somehow gives a very unwelcome feel, and the idea of more trouble with the near 24 hours of sleeplessness I’d reached made me feel even more drained.  Fortunately, he simply scribbled out the wrong name, and wrote in the true one for me, stamped it, and handed it back.  Perhaps he was at the end of his shirt as well.

In any case, I took the tram over to the terminal, with the rest of the flight, where our bags were, and then walked up to the carrousel and essentially pulled the next bag off the turning belt. Convenient. Walked out the sliding doors and down the isle of relatives and friends waiting for their cohorts.  To my surprise, there was a young boy in a bellhop’s uniform, with a sign “ms. Reeves”.  The fact that there were precious few westerners on the flight from Japan to Beijing, and those that were all but exclusively older businessmen, made me assume this young boy was truly looking for me.  I hadn’t expected such service.  I admit it crossed my mind, in my drowsy state, that statistically, it was probably more likely I was victim to an evil kidnapping than that there were two Ms. Reeves in the airport at that moment, and that I’d assumed the wrong identity.  All was indeed laid to rest, however, as we walked out to the garage, and around just a bit to a van that read “Sino Swiss Airport Hotel”.  He had indeed been sent to fetch me.

Everyone knows Beijing is famous for its air pollution.  The airport dumps you down a bridge that crosses the street, and out into a parking garage.  The first thing I noticed was that carbon monoxide may be odorless, but the exhaust I was engulfed in may very soon suffocate me as the CO levels must be extraordinary.  I hoped it was just that we were in a somewhat enclosed parking garage with idling cars and slow traffic.

We eventually left and I was driven to the hotel, but the freshness of the air changed little.  I no longer was drenched in the smell of first hand exhaust, but more as if I was breathing air that’d been breathed 4-5 times before, then run around a few cars, through some engines, and then presented for my oxygenating needs.  Perhaps it would settle somewhat and get better in the morning.

The hotel had the dusted over feeling that a place gets when it exists in prolonged heavy smog.  Generally clean but also getting a bit old.  It had the ‘off’ feeling places in emerging economies often have – that it hadn’t been built with lack of funds, but the direction of those funds and the decoration put into the place was something inherited – like your sisters second hand dresses.  They fit – and do their duty, but they just don’t hang like they were bought for you.

I took a nice warm shower, brushed my teeth with bottled water as instructed, and went to bed.  It felt good to be horizontal.  The forced semi-vertical position I’d been in for the last 12 hours had been just uncomfortable enough to keep me awake for nearly the duration of the flight.   I went to bed around midnight.

I think this is enough for now. I’m quite tired. It is 8:20pm after all!

Best,

-katherine

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