this morning, I woke up in a cozy bed in my aunt's apartment. she made me breakfast. I had a blissfully hot shower and then sat on the couch with my cousin's laptop, taking advantage of the free wi-fi while I tried to figure out some train tickets. we went out to a fancy lunch where we ordered no less than ten dishes and I practiced my Mandarin phrases (I now feel pretty solid on the basics - hello, thank you, excuse me, can I have the bill, where is the bathroom, how much is this, that's too expensive).
the afternoon was a bit more touristy -- we headed out to the Summer Palace, playground of the rich and famous, and took tons of pics while we wandered around the frozen lake and hiked to the top of the hill. but afterward? I came back to my aunt's apartment, completely frozen. I put on sweats. I sat on the couch with my cousin's laptop. she made me dinner, and now we're watching a DVD while I fight the (ridiculously strong) urge to go to sleep.
so that's my confession. I'll get to the wild and crazy backpacking adventures soon, I promise... I'm just easing into it for now. actually, I'm incredibly lucky to have relatives here, and I solemnly swear that I will never again laugh at a group of Asian tourists who are clinging to their flag-toting group leader while touring some famous American attraction. there's something incredibly humbling about being in a country where you can't even recognize the letters of the language. it's actually kind of fun to wander around a city where you have absolutely no idea what's going on.
couple of unrelated thoughts on my first day in China:
the image you have of everyone riding bikes in China? it's true. bikers weave confidently through traffic, ignoring traffic lights and drivers alike. people often have a friend riding on the back of their back, and that person is usually riding side-saddle... it's sort of the 21st-century Chinese version of ladylike horse-riding. I even saw a girl who was casually steering her bike with her left hand while rolling a carry-on suitcase beside the bike with her right hand. I was very impressed.
also, whenever you have to stand in line for anything you're reminded that there are a billion people in this country and you better throw some elbows if you want to keep your place in line.
finally (and this one is pretty random), one of the things that always amuses me about visiting Asia is the fact that EVERYONE HAS THE SAME HAIR COLOR. think about that for a second. same skin color is one thing but it's hilarious when everyone has the same hair color. I guess that would also be true in other places in the world, but I haven't been to those places yet.