The Journey and First Day
The NW flight from MSP to NRT used a relatively dated 747, while the flight from Narita to Beijing used a newer Airbus. While this choice probably had more to do with capacity and economic efficiencies, I couldn't help but to think that the higher growth routes in Asia were getting better equipment that the older planes of the US thus encouraging greater repeat business, perhaps. Though relatively expensive, the sashimi at the Narita Airport in Tokyo seemed more fresh and diverse than that of which I have eaten elsewhere. Having just arrived at the hotel, of whose name I am uncertain, at Nankai University in Tianjin, China after over 20 hours of traveling by air (17 of which were spent in the air) and 2.5 hours by bus, we checked into our rooms with almost everyone sharing a room. My initial impressions of China were of a new airport, a relatively expedient immigration/entry line with an adequate focus on customer service given the buttons to be used to rate your interaction with the younger agent. Jason, the chosen "English" name of the representative of Nankai University, lead us to the bus where the luggage space beneath the bus was inadequate, by US standards, thus necessitating the placement of luggage in the aisles and seats of the bus (a blockage of the aisles would have surely violated some US safety rule). The two and a half hour nonstop bus ride was somewhat uncomfortable given the bottle of water I drank immediately prior to our departure. The trip smelled like driving through Gary, Indiana as a child, prior to Clean Air Act Legislation(s) that began in the US in the 1970's. The campus was gated with a guard. The hotel had granite and marble in the lobby where the two female front desk workers slept on couches with blankets. The rooms were not very attractive with marked up walls, stained and ripped carpeting, and hard beds. At the request of my roommate, I had accompanied him, via taxi, to McDonalds to get some food. McDonalds seemed to be full of younger college students studying, primarily. I had a relatively dry fish sandwich which, in retrospect, probably provided me with more mercury than I may have wished to consume given the ubiquitous air pollution. We were up for breakfast a few hours later and off for a walk around campus. Though the hotel kept our passports, we were able to change money using the copy that I had brought with me. The group attempt to obtain cell phones and SIM cards failed our first day as no one had the passports required to get set up with service. We moved to a cleaner and more updated hotel later that afternoon outside of the University walls. Rooms lack any dressers, thus most students are placing their cloths on the floor or living out of their suitcases. Shopping at Emart was warm given the power outage. Dinner was at an established restaurant in town with lots of history. The service was abundant and the decor was fabulous. The food tasted good to me, though some students complained that it was unremarkable. The assistant dean of the Nainkai Business School joined us and gave us some history of the University as well as a brief introduction of the importance of table position at dinners and the expectations of toasting, etc. This was interesting and paralleled information garnered in the book on Chinese etiquette. Following this diverse meal, which included spicy duck tongue, we went home and most of us slept well given the length of the day and full stomachs.