Actually, I was working - in a sense (or two) - so let's call it a working vacation. I traveled to Beijing, China for four weeks, mostly to teach a university course called "Business Writing in American Context" (Chinese translation). I went last year, as well. In fact, this year was almost exactly the same - exactly. I could even use the same photos as I used last year and nobody would notice the difference.
Except for this building, the Boxue Building at the University of International Business and Economics where my class was held this summer - different than the building last year. Same size classroom, same great a/c unit though. Students were down from 58 last year to 38 this summer, both classes mostly girls.
Other than being occupied in a classroom for two mornings each week from 8 to 11:30, I had plenty of time for sightseeing. Because I've seen all the main attractions on the previous three trips I've made to Beijing, what I really had was plenty of time for writing.
You can read all about the writing I did last summer, which was my arctic coming of age adventure set in Greenland, here. I thought that was quite a feat, writing about the ice and snow of Greenland while in an air cooled hotel room avoiding the heat and humidity outside. However, this 2016 summer's writing far exceeds what any sane writer would do. I wrote about 70,000 words. Take that, NaNoWriMo!
But you want to hear about the trip . . . . Due to the incredible hassles of a San Francisco transit last year (read the amazing report here), I elected to go through Chicago this year and everything went quite smoothly. I even got a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza while I waited to board the international flight.
But you can't choose your neighbors on a plane. I had several babies and loud children near me and an old man across the aisle from me who hacked and coughed all through the flight. Plus, I got an A+ line-up of movies: Zootopia, The Lego Movie, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding II. Fortunately, I'd brought a book to read: the novel I wrote last year: A GIRL CALLED WOLF.
I arrived in Beijing without much ceremony. I still walked through the world's largest terminal, about a 15 km walk in total. Even the lines through immigration and customs were short for me and no uncomfortable questions were asked. And, unlike last summer, we did not arrive an hour early, so no mix up meeting my student assistant from the university. Made that connection easily and "Victoria" got a taxi for us to go to the hotel, about a 45-minute ride. (I'm still waiting for her to send me the picture she took of both of us at the end of the course, so until then use your imagination.)
My tall course assistant got me checked in properly, helping with interpretation, and even helped carry a bag up to my room. I really wanted to just get a shower and take a long nap but she was happy to talk, in English, of course, and I didn't want to be rude so we talked about an hour more on all kinds of topics before I sent her on her way and I began to relax.
In the Chinese style hotel across from the campus, I was put in room 624. The first night there, I noticed the air conditioning was not blowing very cool. The next morning I complained about that. No way could I survive without a/c because I am a weak American. I mentioned how wonderful the a/c had been in my room last summer - cold enough to put me in a Greenlandic mood. At that moment, it just so happened that a man was checking out from the room I had last summer. I asked if I could change to that room. Sure, no problem, just give them some time for housekeeping to get it ready. So I went out for lunch.
The view of the campus across the street from the Yinghua Hotel from room 624 on my first morning in Beijing, awaking early because I do that when I'm jet-lagged. Note the sun desperately fighting to shine through the haze.
When I returned from lunch, my favorite writing room 424 was ready to move into! I had to explain to them about feng shui, the arrangement of the things in the room, the certain joie de vivre and je ne sais quoi that a place had to have in order for writing to be done. The staff did not understand my French, naturally.
The view of room 624 - not much feng shui there! Like I told the staff. And (below) the view of my good ol' room 424 with a Euro Cup soccer match on the TV. Notice also the picture on the wall is different. The one in 424 is much more aesthetically pleasing, don't you think?
So there we are: the start of the blog post arc concerning how I spend - or ruined - my summer vacation. More of this amazing endeavor next time - including how I wrote my epic fantasy novel EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS while holed up in a Chinese hotel room even more than last summer.
Note: EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS is now complete at 232,700 words following major revision. Tweaking still remains.
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