Monday, August 16, 2010

What an experience!

This was my first international trip and I was a little nervous to say the least. I didn’t really know what to expect from my travels. First off, I’m not a huge fan of flying and the thought of a 13.5 hour flight was less than appealing to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a horrible flight. The plane was very spacious and the flight crew was very accommodating. I’ve never been on a plane where you can hang out in the kitchen and help yourself. Once in Beijing, I thought the streets would be insanely crowded, as seen on TV…for the most part, that wasn’t the case. I thought the traffic would be chaos…that lived up to my expectations. I thought there would be a police/military presence everywhere…not so. I’m relieved to say that my first international experience was a very positive one!
Upon arrival into Beijing Capital International Airport, I was surprised to see how few people were there. We arrived around 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday and there was hardly a person around. What a complete opposite from JFK Airport 13.5 hours earlier! Navigating through the airport to luggage and ultimately our bus was very easy.
The hotel was beautiful! Our rooms were very spacious and modern…something else I was not expecting. Like others, the whole key in the switch to get power was a bit confusing…would probably have been standing in the dark if my roommate hadn’t figured it out…thanks Brenda! Sleeping the first not was not a successful event. Needless to say, I think I was still on eastern daylight time!
Sunday’s trip to the Forbidden City was great. This is where the “as seen on TV” crowds came into play. I’m not great with crowds, or heat, but I think I did great! Not one frustration the whole time. It was amazing to see how the Chinese people were fascinated with us. We were told on the bus that they will probably want to take pictures with/of us. Until it actually started happening I had no idea how true that was! We were just as fascinated with them as they were with us. At the Temple of Heaven when we all took pictures of the local people dancing or playing cards or whatever it was they were doing to “enjoy their lives”, they must have been feeling what we were feeling when people were watching us and taking our pictures. I enjoyed seeing the military playing basketball at the Forbidden City. I was amazed at how young a lot of the military we did see seemed.
My favorite site visit was probably the tour of Lenovo’s assembly plant. I figured it would be mostly machine driven. However, I was wrong. The storage facility was all machine driven…and huge! The assembly floor was filled with people putting their particular part of the computer together. It was very interesting to see an assembly line in action.
The eye opening site visit for me was to Topnew. Again, an assembly line setting but vastly different than Lenovo! Whenever I tell people of the site visits, these are the two that I talk about most. Specifically how, according to US standards, the living conditions at Topnew are not up to par. Eight people to a small room, in most of the US, would be unheard of. And this is considered a good job for these girls! It made me realize just how easy/good most of us have it. These young girls come from the farms in rural China and leave their families for years to work and earn enough to bring back home. Talk about dedication to family!
The only part of the trip that wasn’t so enjoyable for me was the food. I’m not an adventurous eater so I knew going in that that would be a hurdle. Every time I told someone I was going to Beijing, their first question to me was “what are you going to eat?” I did try the Peking Duck dinner. I also had the traditional Beijing lunch which was delicious. That was pretty much the extent of my Chinese food experience in Beijing. McDonald’s tastes exactly the same as home. However, grilled cheese sandwiches are completely different! Cold cheese between two sliced of toasted bread. But it was still better than the alternative for that day 
Ultimately, I am very thankful I had the opportunity to participate in this trip. It was very interesting to see how a country half way around the world conducts business. The “made in China” tag in products in the US have a whole new meaning now!

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