My plan to avoid much of the airplane flight by virtue of staying up late/getting up early the night before and then taking a bunch of doxylamine right before boarding worked quite well. Doxylamine is an antihistamine with a stronger sedative effect than diphenydarmine. Doxylamine is the thing in NyQuil that makes people find it so helpful when they can't sleep. You can just buy it in pill form. I did end up watching a couple movies, too.
Customs was uneventful. I had slept through being given an arrival card on the plane and had to fill one out (oops) but that was a small problem. The first observation I had was: China smells bad. At least Beijing does. I've had a bit of a cough even when staying in the hotel and you can definitely smell sulfurous undertones everywhere. This is probably why you can't open any of the windows, too.
Everyone here is very polite. Perhaps because I've mostly been dealing with business people. China has much more 'service' in customer service than we do in the US, to the point where I feel like I'm taking advantage even when I don't mean to. I'm fairly large even by US standards, so having a man who barely reaches my chest insist on carrying my suitcase even though I tell him twice I don't want him to just feels odd. (Also just by virtue of my size and unusual color children keep staring at me, sometimes hiding behind their parents to do so.) I wish I'd got my hair cut. I'd feel like less of a Wild Creature from the Far Lands.
The food, so far, is really fantastic. I've only had two meals. One was sort of a family style affair where they just kept heaping the plate with dish after dish and we kept trying bits of everything. I was surprised that basically everything had Sichuan peppercorn in it, even otherwise bland noodles. Also I will never think of shrimp the same way. You have not tasted a shrimp until you've eaten one right off a skewer, head and shell and tail and antennae and all, that was rubbed in oil and spices and cooked over an open flame. I ended up slightly ashamed when after my third attempt to pick up a pickled cucumber with my chopsticks failed, the waitress handed me a fork and said 'Please'. On that subject, if I'd stopped to think that I would be using chopsticks and not be very good at it, I would have brought a couple more shirts. Oh well.
Breakfast was surprising, too. I was expecting the big bowl of thin rice porridge and tea. I wasn't expecting the cold noodles, scrambled eggs, steamed buns, and sliced fruit that came with it.
I was expecting being in a country where I don't speak the language well (there are limits to how much you can pick up in a month of DuoLingo) and have only an imperfect grasp of the customs to feel strange and uncomfortable, but it is a much stronger feeling than I would have expected. It is not that I worry about getting lost or being unable to get what I need, that's not it. It's that when interacting with people I like to put as little burden on them as I can and decrease the amount of hassle they have from dealing with me. I can do that back home, but here due to my incapacity with the language I am become Hassle Incarnate.
Today was originally to have been our sight-seeing day. We were going to go to the Forbidden City, but for some reason it was closed. (A bit more Forbidden than usual, I guess.) So I just spent the day working.