The trip can be summarised with one word: waiting. One spends a lot of time waiting when travelling with a group of eighty-one. We waited to check our bags and get our tickets (and I was at the end of that line); waiting to board the plane; waiting to retrieve checked luggage; waiting when we discovered our flight from Beijing to Chengdu had been delayed indefinitely; waiting to recheck our bags, only to discover our flight to Chengdu was on time, and waiting for us at the terminal; after rushing through security to the gate, waiting because the gate manager did not allow us to board: lots of waiting.
We decided on the flight that we should not be ungrateful, as we did not have to pay for it ourselves. I will say, as a PSA, that if you have someone behind you who appears to be at least six feet tall, please be considerate and do not recline your seat: there will be knees smashed.
On the flights, I had the surreal realisation that I am going to China. Me. Going to China. I began my Peace Corps application in November of 2009; here it is July of 2011 and I am finally going to be a volunteer. (And let the record show, from my unscientific survey of friends around me, out of everyone in this cohort, China 17, I was in the application process the longest.) I am just so happy to finally be here—finally able to do something I have always wanted to do.
Our flights were long; I think it goes without saying, but we are all pretty exhausted. After thirty hours of travelling, Chengdu welcomed us with some excited Peace Corps workers directing us, and automatic flushing squat toilets (photos to come).
We boarded the plane in Chicago and raced the sun toward the western horizon. In Beijing, the sun won the race: setting as we departed for Chengdu; leaving it midnight and dark as we finally arrived at our hotel. Four hours of restless sleep await; we start first thing tomorrow morning.