Spencer Goes to the Orient: Part 1

Here I am in China. There’s a certain thrill, a sort of giddy high I get newly-arrived someplace, riding in a taxi through the streets of a foreign city. I certainly have that here. I’ve traveled enough at this point though that non-western countries all start to remind me of each other. Same smells, same clutter of billboards selling cell phones and KFC, same sagging tenements, same tangled power lines. There’s nothing “nice” about the China I’ve seen yet, but there’s a pleasure in taking in the foreignness of it all.

The flight was fourteen hours, direct from Dulles to Beijing, over the Arctic. I still don’t completely understand the time zone change and the international date line, etc. Suffice it to say I arrived about 24 hours after I left, and that I’m currently in the future (12 hours ahead of the east coast, 15 ahead of the west). When I fly back from Shanghai to LA I will arrive 15 minutes before I left. This leads me to believe that time is meaningless.

Despite everything being in a different language the Beijing airport was much easier to navigate than Dulles. Got some nice stereotypes right off the bat. First off, the pilot wasn’t joking when he said “visibility: low.” The sky is a soupy sort of browngray. You can’t see the sun. When I stepped off the plane there was a series of ads for some kind of investment firm. The theme revolved around helping customers realize their “unique dreams.” One of the dreams was sending your kid to a top university. It featured a hilarious photoshopped image of a model Chinese family in front of what I assume was meant to be a stand-in of John Harvard’s statue surrounded by generic Ivy Leaguish buildings. This made me chuckle.

Perched beneath the customs booth where my passport was scrutinized was a little electronic box with four buttons that said “How do you feel about my job today.” The four buttons had emoticons on them ranging from very happy to very displeased. I thought I might as well get my visit to China off on the right note so I selected the beaming face. My friends Kyle and Dana picked me up. Very nice of them. Dana was holding a sign saying “MR Spencer Dylan Burke.” Exiting the terminal there was a machine that dispensed water into an envelope FOR FREE. China is so technologically advanced. Must be because they’re so many hours ahead of us.

Youtube, facebook, twitter, and all sorts of other random sites are blocked. Though their firewall was surprisingly easy to break through. Strange that the government cares enough to deprive their citizenry of 75% of the internet but lazy enough to be defeated by a college student with a proxy server.

We’re getting a Chinese feast later. Dana had pig brains last week. She said they were cut in half and floating in a pot of murky water. This has gotten me suitably excited for Chinese food.

Sincerely in Mao,