Arrival in Chengdu (Delayed Post)

Arriving in China happened fast, as I slept the whole plane ride to avoid jetlag. Getting around Beijing airport was probably the hardest part of the trip there. I didn’t know the language and and twice I was pointed to the wrong terminal. Thankfully the layover was two hours. I eventually found the bus that would take me out to the plane on the landing and settled in my seat. The sky was gray from air pollution, but if you looked straight up in the sky there was a brown-orange outline of clouds in the haze that reminded me of some sci-fi movie of mars.
Once the plane got outside of Beijing everything cleared up and green mountains with yellow clay cliffs reached up into the clouds. Farmlands laid out like patchwork and rivers were gray winding roads, sometimes cutting canyons and valleys in the hills. After being served cold pork and microwaved chicken from a TV-dinneresque carton, I fell asleep.
My throat was closed with thirst as I hauled my carry on out of the overhead and walked down the stairs onto the runway. I stopped at a water fountain for what would be my unknowingly last cold drink from the tap. My host, Ming, texted me that he would be a bit late. I passed the minutes by looking around and trying to make sense of the bright neon signs advertising soda, snacks, cell phones, and other unknown services or products in Chinese.
Ming came up from behind and after formally shaking hands and asking and answering about the flight, we went out to hail a lime green taxi. There were no seatbelts and so I instinctively held on the door handle (not the latch) as we sped along one of Chengdu’s raised ring roads. The city was much larger that I expected and there were high rises like those in Tampa, but not New York, spread out with lights of every color flashing up, down, and around the surface of the buildings. After twenty minutes we arrived at the edge of city and walked through the peppered marble gates of Southwest Jiatong University where I’d be staying the next seven weeks.

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