Tuesday, November 18, 2008

34 Hours to Beijing

We left Atlanta at 10 a.m. Sunday. The flight was very smooth and the landing was the smoothest ever. We were able to upgrade our buddy passes (donated by Mike Elliott) to first class. We didn't get seats together but the spacious seats and excellent service made the trip very pleasant. For those of you who have never flown to China, the flight goes over western Canada, the Northwest Territories and crosses into Russia before heading into China. The distance from Atlanta to Shanghai was approx. 7,000 miles. After we got over China, we had a tail wind of 175miles per hour part of the time and the aircraft was traveling at a ground speed of 600 mph.

We cleared customs and immigrations quickly in Shanghai and took the high speed train for 30 minutes to the end of the line. This train traveled at 480 km per hour. The train was so smooth, it was hard to believe we were traveling that fast but if you looked out the window, cars we passed along the highway looked as if they were standing still. From the high speed train, we took a taxi for about 10 miles to the train station for Beijing. Young people in the airport and train stations, and even young policemen standing around, graciously helped us with our bags. None of these would take a tip. The elderly are still respected greatly by the younger people. Others with carts to help passengers wanted high prices because they saw Americans who they consider very wealthy. They didn't know we are just poor missionaries.

When we arrived at the last train station, Ron left me with the bags and went across the street to find our part-time worker who was supposed to meet him at Kentucky Fried to get our train tickets. Unless tickets are purchased early, sleeper cabins are not available. Ron found that there were several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants all along that block but they finally found each other.

At the train station, a young man driving a cart with bags to the various trains, gave me and an elderly Chinese lady a ride while Ron walked to the train. It was a wild ride along railroad tracks with him driving dangerously fast and close to the edges of the tracks. He had some difficulty finding the right train. He drove from one track to another and stopped and phoned several times. Finally, I saw Ron approaching the train and knew we were finally in the right location. The young man helped take our bags to the sleeper cabin and we settled into the bottom beds. A young Chinese lawyer occupied the top bed over Ron. She spoke excellent English and was very interested in our work. The beds were so good after the long plane ride in reclining seats. They had starched sheets and a good comforter so Ron and I were asleep by 9:00 p.m. I awoke about 5 a.m. and watched daylight come as I saw the train passing factories, villages, cities, nuclear power plants and a prison.

The train was very quiet and smooth but traveled at a speed of about 50 miles or less per hour. It took 11 hours from Shanghai to Beijing. It cost about $70 per person, much cheaper than an airline ticket. If we had flown, we would have gotten to Beijing well after midnight. It was better for David and Ya Ning to meet us at the train station at 8:00 a.m.

We have registered with the police station today, which is a requirement for all foreigners. We must keep our passports and permission to live here with us at all times.

We do not feel unsafe walking the streets or living in China. People stare at Americans but most will flash a big smile if I smile first. I took a nice nap this afternoon while they went with Ron to the bank to set up an account. The jet lag is not bad coming to China; for some reason it is going back home that takes a toll on your strength.

David and Ya Ning will show us around the area in the next day or two before they leave for the U.S. Tonight we are having dinner with some of the church members to get to know them.

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