Some of the students and faculty of the aforementioned attend NatureBridge every January. Upon learning that we would be traveling to Beijing this summer, Ms. Wong generously offered up a teacher's apartment to stay in since the teachers would be gone over summer break. The apartment was not available until a day after we arrived, so the staff really went above and beyond by not only picking us up at the airport, but helping us arrange a comfortable hotel for our first night as well. Besides doing some serious sleeping, we hesitantly ventured out into the surrounding neighborhood for adventures such as buying bottled water and finding a dinner place. We settled on a restaurant with a robot that slices noodles into boiling broth, with absolutely no idea whether this was a normal occurrence or not. It turns out that it was not.
The next morning, we were picked up by the school's driver, Song, in the van again and got to tour the school campus en route to our apartment. It is a beautiful and expansive place, complete with gardens, a table tennis dome, and zoo! Yes, a zoo. Wandering the halls of the Carden Academy division, it was strangely wonderful to see a photo display with our co-workers Jen and Steve in the Marin Headlands along with written reflections about the students' trip. We also got to eat lunch in the staff cafeteria, sampling generously from the extensive buffet line. Still new to struggling with chopsticks as my only option, I was chagrinned when most of the teachers and staff around us pulled out spoons from their personal food containers!
In the afternoon, we moved in to our apartment for the next ten days. We were not sure what to expect, especially as we approached a large complex of buildings that each easily house a thousand people. But when we opened the door to a spacious and nicely furnished two-bedroom place on the 10th floor, we felt overwhelmed with gratitude. This would prove to be the perfect "home base" for settling in to our travels and transitioning to life in China for the next few months.