Trip to Beijing

By, Daniela Izaguirre (MFA 2016) and Benjamin Craig (MFA 2016)

Danelia Izaquirre's trip to China

When it was my turn to write a blog post for the Academy’s blog I thought “Oh boy! I don’t know where to start!” I think I actually went: “Ay Dios!”

Should I begin the week before our flight, when I texted my boyfriend at 2 am and told him on the verge of hyperventilation: “I don’t know if I want to go to China, I am too anxious, I can’t sleep!” Or, a month ago, when I curated the perfect ‘to do’ list with my usual over-planning, wanting to make sure I was 100% ready for China.

Or, the moment Sophia, Taylor, Ben and I were in line at the gate B26, at JFK airport waiting to step into the plane and decided to break the ice by taking the typical (and official) first group ‘selfie’. ‘We are going to China’ said Sophia. It sounded more like: This is it, there is no way back!

I have come to recognize those worrisome moments as life’s sacred mountains waiting to be conquered. It was 2:30 in the morning when I texted back my boyfriend after he tried to calm me down: “Life scares me in a good way. It scares me sometimes to know how you can touch destiny with your own hands.”

In a conference given by the Spanish writer Javier Moro, author of ‘El Sari Rojo’ (The Red Saree), ‘The Adventure of Writing,’ the interviewer introduced the lecture by recalling artists that lived in times when travelling was understood in the full sense of the word. They referred to times when the land was not treated but discovered; times when one would place their ear on the ground to hear its heart beat. A true traveler converted physical journeys into artistic journeys, and artistic journeys into vital journeys leading one to return home changed into a new person. Like life itself, the best part about travelling is the unexpected, when your plans are changed and turned upside down, filling your head with stars, with more questions than answers.

It was already 3 am. The morning before, I had Skyped with my dad. It was Father’s Day and my whole family in Peru was getting ready to go to the cemetery to visit my grandpa. My dad advised me: “You are in the party, now dance!”

I finally fell asleep.

We were making our way through the line at the gate. I took my phone before our signal would get cut. I thanked life for that moment and typed:

Que empieze la fiesta!

Benjamin Craig's journey to China

It's hard for me to gather my thoughts to write this first blog post about our group's time in Beijing, as time has been a blur this past week. I'm not even sure whether to tell you that it went by fast or slow. It has been a roller-coaster ride of enthusiasm and exhaustion, although we're all finally beginning to cruise a little bit more comfortably now.

Our trip began Monday evening with a flight from New York to Amsterdam. I was fascinated by the size of the plane, it felt like something out of a movie with Dutch flight attendants that had blonde hair, and blue eyes, wearing blue skirts, and blue handkerchiefs. I have never been able to sleep well in planes but was content with watching a couple movies on the tablet attached to the seat in front of me. Taylor and I had never flown across the ocean before. It was a peaceful flight that felt as though we were racing the sun in the opposite direction as morning came much earlier than expected.

We were all a little drowsy as we landed Tuesday morning in Amsterdam but didn't want to waste the 8 ish hours we had before our next flight. So Taylor, Sophia, and I took a short train-ride from the airport to Centraal Station in downtown, while Daniela decided to stay and get some work done on her laptop. The old architecture in Amsterdam was quite a sight in the morning light. It was a bit after 7 a.m. and I was craving a beer. In my defense it was only a bit after 1 a.m. back in New York, still prime drinking time. But we got lost amongst Amsterdam's many canals and ended up stopping at a cute little bakery for breakfast. A couple hours later, once the city finally woke up, there were people riding bicycles everywhere. I had never seen so many bikes and scooters, that is until later when we arrived in Beijing. We stumbled upon the Amsterdam Museum and were disappointed to find out that it would be closed until about the time that we needed to be heading back to the airport. It was mid morning when we stumbled into a quiet pub near Centraal Station. We were the only ones there other than the bartender preparing for the day, but that didn't matter because the beer was delicious.

It was good to get some fresh air and walk around as our flight from Amsterdam to Beijing would be the longest plane ride that I've ever been on. Back at the airport we were finally able to take a short nap and woke up feeling even more exhausted. Our gate began to fill up and we began to stand out amongst the crowd of Chinese tourists headed to Beijing. As we waited, I wondered how this many people would fit on a plane. The plane that we were about to get on was a double-decker airbus much larger than the first plane. We decided to see if we could get our seats on the plane closer together. They managed to move Daniela next to Sophia and Me in the back of the plane. For some reason Taylor had a business class ticket that allowed him to board first drink wine and sleep comfortably the rest of the flight, and they even gave him slippers. Sophia, Daniela, and I on the other-hand were crammed into a snug center row surrounded by very angry children and babies who insisted on screaming and kicking for the next 9 or 10 hours. I thought built in touchscreens were pretty cool on a plane, until there was a kid punching the back of my headrest while playing a game on it. By the end of my third movie I was completely sleep deprived, and it felt as though the plane would never land. When the plane finally landed it came as a surprise to us because we could not see anything out the window from our row. It took us a moment to gather our senses before we realized that we were finally here, in Beijing! We were all a mess, all except for Taylor who greeted us wide eyed and smiling. He was ready to start the day.

Ian welcomed us at the airport and we took a short bus ride through the craziest traffic were pedestrians and motorcycles go wherever they want. We arrived in Wangjing Sub-district, our home for the next month and a half. The name "Wangjing" translates into English as "View of Beijing". The first full day in Beijing felt like a massive hangover. I felt completely disoriented yet eager to get the ball rolling.

1 comment:

  1. Id be hitting the chic with glasses all over China.