Friday, March 6, 2009

Good Night & Good Duck

As I sat at the gate at SFO, waiting to board the flight to Beijing, I remembered a previous visit to China. I was living in Paris then and walked into the Air France office to buy tickets from Paris to Beijing.
"We do not have service into Beijing" the kind clerk told me, in English.
I was not upset. I am nothing if not flexible.
"OK, I want to fly into Shanghai and out of Beijing."
Exasperated withy my stupidity, the woman told me quite bluntly "We only have service to two cities in China: Shanghai and Pekin."
I have never decided which of us was the more stupid-- she for not knowing that Beijing was Peking or me for not knowing that the official airline designation has never changed.
While United announced the flight to Beijing, the luggage was indeed checked to Pekin, PEK.
Twelve hours, a few clicks of my Kindle and two Ambien later, we arrived in Pekin. The flight was only about half full and with United Extended Economy seats and an empty next to me, I could not complain. Actually, I was too drugged to complain. And I don't remember a thing.
Arrivals went smoothly; the new wing of Capital Airport looks something like a bird's nest (this seemingly a popular theme here in the pre-O build up) on top with a colonade- like front, much like the buildings inside the Forbidden City. The airport was empty, the luggage came quickly, entry into the country was flawless and swift.
We booked ahead a special hotel welcome package that included car and driver and spa on arrival. Then we went directly to the hotel's gourmet Chinese restaurant Chynna, which was stunning with examples of Chinese Contemporary Art and dishes that would make Shanghai David Tang himself green with envy. Finally, we fell into bed in the brand new Hilton Beijing Wafungjing. As I was falling into jetlaggy sleep, I answered the buzzing phone.
"Madame, we have your goldfish for you."
I didn't even know I'd remembered to pack him.
As it happens, the Hilton is half a block away from the Peninsula Beijing and I know that the name of the street used to be (pre-O) Goldfish Lane. Unsure of which one of us could be lost on the lane, I asked if the goldfish could be postponed until the next day.
This fancy smancy Hilton is big on a vareity of unique customer services, including sending a goldfish to your room to help you sleep. Perhaps they don't have enough sheep in China. The goldfish did arrive a few minutes ago; he is not your average American goldfish or what we remember buying from the pet store in a plastic baggie. This is either a goldfish on steroids or a mini-koi. Sarah and I named him Willy and then began to think of ways to free him.
When we returned from dinner a few moments ago, we knew it was him or us. I delivered him to the lounge and came to the computer to write.
I had attempted to blog earlier in the day, but alas, I am not the most technically minded fish in the pond and had a lot of problems. Make that only one major problem: the site comes up in Chinese, every time I tried luck, no duck.
I actually entered all the proper information in what I assumed was the proper spaces because I kept getting a series of orange arrows, but in the end, I was as doomed as the fish.
Fueled now on Coca-Cola and duck fat after a visit to the local Big Duck eatery, I gave blogging a final stab and figured out how to change the site from Chinese to French. Then I could get to English. Voila!
Now that I've got the gist of it, I promise to write serious information in tomorrow's post.
Now, well, now I have to go back to the room to watch one of my new $1.50 DVD's. If it's illegal to bring them back to the US, then I will watch them on my room's 47 inch TV.
I have a feeling that some of the films I bought aren't worth much more tha $1.50 any way. So good night and good duck.

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