It was a two hour flight north from Shanghai to Beijing. We are scheduled to be in Beijing for 4 days before flying once again to Xian. As we landed we were informed that we arrived at a time when the weather was "good". As we traveled from the airport to the hotel we notice that it was windy and that most of the cars were covered with fine dust. Apparently the large Gobi Desert is about 100 miles north of the city and it provides major dust storms that impacts the region and Beijing with a population of 20,693,000 in 2012 (it was 11.5 million in 2000). The persons selling surgical masks to the public must be selling quite a few of them.
Our hotel was located only a few blocks from Tiananmen Square. We could see a portion of the Forbidden City from our room on the 7th floor. The Square is where the nation's government buildings are located. It also has the huge building that is the burial site of Mao Zedong (commonly known as Chairman Mao). The entrance to the Forbidden City is across the street from the Square. We will be visiting the area in two days. We are scheduled to travel north on bus tomorrow to visit the Great Wall which stretches east and west for approximately 3,900 miles.
We arrived to our hotel and I accessed my emails. I had received one from Dolores Manzanares in Los Angeles that shared with me a NASA satellite picture of the smog hanging over China. I also found an on-line article highlighting that a city of Harbin, situated north of Beijing (population of 11 million). It had registered an air "particle matter" level of 1,000. The World Health Organization daily recommended maximum particle matter level is a maximum of 25. Persons in Chinese mention it as "mist" and I will refer to it as pollution. It comes as no surprise that China's number one health problem is now lung cancer. It is amazing how common it is to see old and young persons smoking cigarettes. The severity of the pollution highlights to what degree China needs energy for its expansion and development. I understand that they are still using many outdated coal burning electrical producing plants throughout the country. It is compounded by the high number of cars now traveling on Chinese roads. Car ownership is a relatively new phenomena in China.
Facebook is not accessible in China. I also could not obtain the New York Times. My Wall Street Journal link worked well.
That same evening we went to a restaurant to eat the famous "Peking Duck". Afterward we went on to see a theatrical show "Legend of Kung Fu". It portrayed a type of Chinese martial arts that was developed in Shaolin Buddhist monasteries. There were approximately 25 performers and they showcased music with Buddhist form of conduct and customs. It was enjoyable.
As we were being taken back to the hotel, I noticed that the cars on the road were from around the world. Apparently Volkswagen and Dodge are very popular brands but you also see cars from Korea and elsewhere. Japanese cars are rare to see. I believe the Chinese are still very sensitive about the atrocities the Japanese army committed throughout China starting in 1930s through the end of WW II.
In the hotel we were staying in there was an ongoing international scientific conference on fusion reactor materials. It was their annual meeting. I was in the lobby and I met a scientist from CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research). During our conversation I asked him when they were going to actually get fusion reactors working since this was their 16th year of meeting. He responded, "If we finish too quickly we won't get to travel anymore to all these wonderful cities and meet with each other." We laughed together and went our own ways.
Beijing is 16-hours ahead of Los Angeles time and the time change is starting to take its toll. Our bodies feel the time change, the unique weather and the activity of the day.
It's a fabulous learning and life experience to be here!