Traveling is finished, I made it. However, the journey wasn’t an easy one. Arriving in China from anywhere, the Chinese government has regulation that they must sanitize all people coming into the country. They told us it was happening, but it still was a little strange. The smell of it was noticeable and I wonder what they sprayed us with. Obviously, not harmful for people, but still a little strange.
When we arrived in Beijing on Sunday night at 11:30 pm (11:30 am Boston time) we had a tour bus waiting for all 16 of us, plus our two program leaders. Our flight wasn’t until Monday evening at 5 pm. We were able to spend some time in Beijing. The first place we went to was Tiananmen Square (天安门)。 This was the most exciting part in Beijing. I’ve always seen the picture of Chairman Mao over the gate entrance and heard the stories and history of Tiananmen Square, but it was just so much different being in there in the flesh. However, it didn’t take long for the locals to realize myself and the group was there. Part of what we are required to do as part of this program is to be American Ambassadors, so I wanted to bring something to China that is relatively unknown, football. This quickly became phenomena while the “olive ball” mesmerized onlookers. Many of them actually called it a 西瓜 which means watermelon. They would also try to squeeze it and it was so foreign to them. It was like watching a baby see something for the first time, except these people weren’t babies, they were grown men! However, the police took notice and told us to stop our “show” we were putting on. Afterwards we got to get close to the gate at Tiananmen Square. A cool piece of history, the picture of general Mao is hand painted every year and replaced. Every morning they have a flag ceremony when they lift the flag for the sunrise and take it down at sunset.
One thing that I couldn’t get over was the air quality. In both Beijing and Xi’an, the air quality is the worst it’s been ever, during the last three days. It’s said to get better as time goes on, but right now it’s really challenging. The air has such a thickness to it, kind of like the asbestos situation at Johns Mansville. Its thick enough that you can taste it in your mouth too. It makes it hard for me to breath without issues. Thankfully, when I arrived I had made a mask out of my scarf that helped filter out a lot of the dirt.