I am here safe and sound! :) It is 8:30 p.m. here now and my roommate is sleeping already and I am ready to join her! We have been having a blast!
The flight was long, but good. The plane was huge! We sat next to this really cool girl and there were our own little TV screen things and I watched several movies, listened with Jim to his iPod, and slept intermittently. We got into Beijing half an hour early and had no problem clearing customs and finding our checked luggage. I couldn't believe I was actually in CHINA! Holy cow, I don't know if I'll ever feel like it is real.
We met up with our roommates from MSU for the 'weekend' of travel here in Beijing after we were dropped off at our hotel. Their names are Laura and Kellen. We decided to go do some exploring to find a restaurant for dinner. The people here are so friendly! I didn't believe it when people told me this would happen, but we actually had people come up to us on the street and ask to practice their English with us and help us because we said yes! Craziness. After getting some RMB, we found a restaurant recommended to us by some new random friends we met on the street. It was excellent. We got Spicy Duck Gizzard, Lemon Chicken, Pork Dumplings, and Tofu. All of it was so good! I can't believe it, but I haven't tried food here that has been bad! I prefer some things to others, but nothing has been 'inedible' so far.
Our new friends then took us upstairs to try to sell us some paintings (they waited outside the restaurant while we ate LOL) and that was super cool. They were Calligraphers and gave us Chinese names and made us small paintings of the characters. Way cool.
We left the calligraphers and came back to the hotel. Earlier in the day a guy we met just down the street from our hotel who was doing tricks in this like skate-park type place and he told us of a district that 'had really good, cheap beer lots' and some stores for shopping. Jim, Laura and I decided that it sounded like fun and we wanted to hail a taxi to go over there. It took us awhile, but we finally got a taxi to stop and pick us up (I believe there was some discrimination going on by the taxi drivers) and he took us to the street. That was neat. It was interesting to see and hear the nightlife and look in the random shops with clothes and purses and pipes and just super random stuff in them. When we got down to the end of the street, we tried to hail another taxi.
This is when the madness began. We couldn't find anyone who had any clue where our hotel was, so we decided to walk back down the street to the other end where our taxi had left us. They are getting ready for some sort of festival, so apparently the taxis can only go in certain places, and where our hotel is located was not one of them. The taxi drivers speak virtually no English, and we speak very very little Chinese. Since we got frustrated by trying to hail a taxi, and then once we got a taxi to stop, we couldn’t communicate with the driver well and then being told 'no' once we did get our message across, we decided to take the adventure a step further and walk home. Two hours later, after talking to multiple policemen, stopping in random hotels and asking for directions, taking several wrongs turns, and just in general being lost in Beijing, we found our hotel! I never think a bed has ever looked so good.