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August 30, 2005

We're here

Hi, this is Andrew reporting live from Beijing. We arrived last night after a 12-hour SFO-Beijing flight. After about nine hours, we were heavily ready to be there and the remaining minutes dragged, but the flight was uneventful and pretty pleasant. For unknown reasons, we got promoted to United Premium Economy, which meant we could sit in the seats without kneecap surgery -- much appreciated. We made it to the hotel by about 7:30 pm local time, and were immediately whisked off to a restaurant before we could check in. Apparently restaurants close early and are unforgiving. We drove through Tianenmen Square, which is very impressive: the heart of the city, capable of holding a million people. At night, it's still busy with tourists, and all the ancient buildings and limned with white lights -- very nice. We'll be going back during the day, so will have more to say.

Restaurant was good, and was more or less what I'd expect of an semi-authentic US chinese restaurant. They served Beijing-style food, including great eggplant and home-made tofu, with a few more daring items: pigs ears in particular, and various entrees with their heads attached.

We met some old friends from group 106, and a set of new friends, including two northern CA families who were on the plane over with us. Our group in Beijing will apparently number 23, plus our tour guide Robert and our driver. I wasn't totally clear on the itinerary, but there seems to be a pretty strong sense of "leave it with us -- everything will be fine." I'll miss Wednesday and Friday to visit some places in the city, but I'm sure Donna will provide complete reporting.

So far, the hotel is beautiful, and city is industrial and a little smoggy, and the people have been helpful and friendly. We managed a great hotel buffet breakfast this morning, so come what may, we're not likely to starve. After a good nights sleep, we're feeling much more alive than last night, and ready for adventure.

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