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Celebrity, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

We’ve arrived in Beijing. The flights here went alright and were very long. We were up for about 24 hours on Sat./Sun.

The most interesting part of arriving was the journey to our lodging, which is apartment style. The manager originally said she’d pick us up at the airport, but then backed out of that arrangement last week without explanation. Unfortunately since this isn’t a hotel, taxi drivers aren’t too familiar with the place. Also the manager doesn’t live here and has to be called to let us in. This lodging was not the best choice, but it is very cheap at about $25 per night. I remind myself of that.

Our instructions were to have the cab drop us off at the hotel nextdoor and have the driver call the manager. The driver didn’t speak English so we had the reception desk guy do it for us. Lydia in a tiny green car picked us up and drove us down the block to the place. She calls it “Block 16,” and it looks the way that sounds — huge, concrete, anonymous. Our place is on the 16th floor, and the hall leading to the room is open air, unlit, all concrete, and lined with rusty beat up bicycles.

When we left this morning and looked out over the horizon from this hallway we couldn’t see much at all because of the smoggy haze. That’s been the most surprising thing about the city, it’s so incredibly polluted. I read this before coming here but could not imagine just how bad it is. I cannot believe that people live with it. One approach locals take is spitting, which I think is maybe to clear out the smoggy snot. Or also the kleenex-less nose blow to the ground, or “farmer blow.” I also see a lot of SARS type dust masks. At first I thought these were silly but now I have no doubt they must catch some of the airborne dirt.

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