The night before setting off to China, I still had a lot to pack. I organized everything and put it on a bed…my Fulbright year fit on one bed.
The 14-hour flight from Newark, NJ to Beijing, China went surprisingly well. I spent the majority of the trip on my ancient Gameboy Advance catching Poke’mon and battling gym leaders on the original Poke’mon Red. I wasn’t even able to finish the second season of “Game of Thrones” because I indulged my childish gaming. The Chinese man that sat next to me probably thought I was strange playing a game his own son would play! He actually criticized how I held my pen when I wrote a Chinese character in my journal. “应该这样 (should be done like this),” he said. He grabbed my pen and held it as if he were writing calligraphy. I haven’t even started my language program and am already being graded!
We flew over the Greenland, the Artic, Russia, Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia. Greenland looked like a snowy desert and I saw the far-reaching plains of Inner Mongolia. I wonder if there are really fields of sunflowers…that’s what the Chinese tourism advertisements in Beijing’s airport tell me, at least. It was surreal once again flying through smoggy Beijing. It looked the same as before (two years ago), a hazy endless urban cityscape in the distance with small patches of farmland with shabby sheds lining the airport. I wonder how much money those farmers have to pay for such small pieces of land?
I met with two other Fulbrighters on the plane who are attending the same CET language program in Harbin. After we landed, we meandered through Beijing Airport and followed the flow of people moving towards baggage claim and customs. We finally found the CET group and took a bus to a hotel. After chatting with my classmates, I looked outside and saw that all the signs and billboards were in Chinese…that’s when I realized that I’m actually here and that I am starting a brand new life on the other side of the world. Wow.