A late start today. My trip wasn't scheduled to leave until11:00, which was just early enough to prevent us from doing anything productive in the morning.
Alas, Amanda is not coming with me on this one. She's already done the Beijing thing and didn't love it so she was happy (ish) to stay behind on the ship and organize activities for the 70-80 people remaining on board. I'm bus leader for this trip, with Carl Shepherd, head of the Field Office, as trip leader. I'm looking forward to getting to be the Beta Male. Carl also will be good at making sure we get what we've paid for, since he wields the nuclear option - "Semester at Sea will not be working with your company again."
Thanks to the late morning start, we didn't have to drag any drunk kids out of bed and left in good time. This is a good group, by the way - several loyal Aegean Sea-ers including Grant Cushman and Thomas Carpenter, who we also hung out with in Disneyland, briefly, as well as Phil Casey and "Big" Tom Clements, the runners-up for Mr. Semester at Sea. These are guys with leadership skills who know how to have a good time without being stupid, and I think I can count on them to set a good tone for the others. Yes, there are girls on the trip, too, and some of them are great. It does bug me how much the 30% of guys on the ship dominate EVERY ASPECT of ship and shore life. But I don't really blame the guys. They're just making the most of their time. The girls need to step up.
The Hong Kong airport, which I didn't remember at all, is very cool -- clean, decent food and LIGHTNING fast free wireless. Sadly, I left my laptop on the ship and took Amanda's which doesn't have Itunes, and I couldn't install it without admin privileges, so I couldn't grab any more "Lost."
We arrived in a nearly empty airport, which we later learned had only been open for three weeks. It's new for the Olympics and a lot of the major airlines haven't moved in yet. It's the third airport in Beijing, just called Capital Airport. After a jaunt through a shuttle bus, moving sidewalks, and a subway train to another terminal, we met our guides and hopped the bus for Tsingua (Ching-wah) University. Our guides are people who work for the University, not a tour company, by the way.
Our bus ride took us past a number of Olympic sites, including The Bird's Nest, a huge still-under-construction stadium that looks like, well, a Bird's Nest, and the Water Cube, a glowing blue building for water sports.And we saw a lot of the Beijing Babies, the five mascots for the games. One is clearly a panda, but the others are a little harder to figure out. Our guide, Nicole, told us they are a fish, a bird, a gazelle, and a fire creature -- the represent the elements and the Olympic spirit.
My initial impression of Beijing is positive -- a busy, huge, vibrant city.Ultra modern, with its lights and commerce. I have no idea what Mao would think of it.
It was dark when we arrived on campus, so there wasn't much to see. Dinner was at the hotel -- technically the campus Guest House, but a hotel for all intents and purposes and was just fine. Some students headed out to explore, but there wasn't really much of anything in walking distance. Some valiant souls hailed cabs or caught the subway, but most of us hadn't even had a chance to pick up Chinese money yet. I considered exploring, once I discovered my converter doesn't fit these plugs and the laptop was out of juice, but then I was able to borrow a converter from the front desk. It just felt like the universe was telling me "now is the time to get some writing done. "So I finished writing and editing my piece about Disneyland Hong Kong, which I hope to record and send to Ricky Brigante at Inside the Magic. I think it'll be pretty entertaining. Of course, this was probably the least important writing I had to do, but, well … Then I watched some "Lost" and hit the hay, expecting a busy day tomorrow.