On March 22nd, 3 AM came much too early for everyone. Most of us had gotten very few hours of sleep; Zoie and I had stayed up until midnight, unable to fall asleep. We were all very excited to discover that the breakfast bar at the hotel had coffee and food, and then we were off. The buses brought us to the airport, and we quickly got through security and had boarded our flight to Detroit. I was tired, but excited and looking forward to the trip ahead.
Once we got to Detroit, we had a five hour layover. We spent the time eating and exploring the massive terminal. We got on the plane at around 12:55 and the next leg of our journey had begun. I don’t think I had really thought about exactly how long fourteen hours would feel, but I had drastically underestimated. We were all exhausted, but it was difficult to sleep since the seats were rather uncomfortable. I wrote in my journal at one point during the plane ride: “I can not believe that I have to spend another 10 hours and 9 minutes on this plane,” and then: “We’re halfway through the plane ride. HALFWAY.” We spent the time watching movies and playing games on the screens in front of our seats. I was incredibly lucky; the person sitting next to me moved which meant I had an empty seat. With the help of five pillows, I was able to curl up into a somewhat comfortable ball and sleep for a few hours. The plane ride ended with some unsettling turbulence, causing almost all of us to feel nauseous, and some people threw up.
When we finally got to Beijing, everyone was almost falling asleep. We had all only gotten three or four hours of sleep in the past day, and the time zone change was not helping. Half asleep, we shuffled through the baggage claim and customs, and finally, we were out. On the bus to the hotel, it finally sunk in; I was in China. I was too tired to process most of it, but while I stared out the bus window I got really excited thinking about being completely immersed in this other culture. The first day may have been the most exhausting one of my entire life, but I look forward to the days to come.