Am finally in Beijing. Figured out the way how to tackle Beijing Airport without going crazy and becoming exhausted. Arrive at 2 AM. No ones there and the security and immigration people are all sleeping. Good to know in the future.
So lets first go back to Cambodia for one more time. We left our hotel at around 11:30 and drive to the Pepy office with all our luggage and carryons. I had a meeting with Kimline, the prior Director and head accountant for Pepy. In the past, she and I had worked together many times. I have always considered her as one of the truly great accountants I have ever met. She has since left Pepy and started her own accounting and tax business. She wanted me to give her a summarization of the American tax system. She brought along her staff as well. I spent almost three hours talking to them and explaining how we prepare and file tax returns as well as the various entities used in conducting business. My talk sometimes took some detours and side turns as I tried to navigate through a very complicated topic. After the talk, she and her staff were so thankful of my presentation. Kimline gave me a beautiful necklace to give to Olivia as a thank you. About five or six years ago, I gave a two day presentation of the US tax system to a much larger group of accountants in Phnom Penh.
It is then onto my last meeting with the scholarship students. I summarized my trip by reading my summarization of the trip from my previous blog. One of them asked me about my childhood and how long I went to school. I had a lengthy talk on my childhood and the struggles I endured along the way. I told them how difficult it was for me to combine work and school. They were thankful that they did not have to do that. I also showed them some pictures about what I will be seeing in China and some of my future trips this year. They all told me that they will miss me and wish that time goes fast until they see me next year.
It was now about five o’clock and I had not had lunch yet. The staff, Zayaa and myself all went to the Vitking Restaurant for our last meal together. The Vitking is the very good vegetarian restaurant that I love. The tofu and mushrooms are to kill for. We all sat, talked and laughed as my heart started to ache knowing I will leaving them shortly. The staff gave Zayaa and myself two little books. In each book were photos of us and them together with various comments and private messages. A treasure I will always cherish.
Before we went to the airport, we were taken to a large reservoir built around one thousand years ago by the Khmer engineers who had built Angkor Wat. The reservoir is still in use today and functioning in the same way it has always functioned. How amazing is that. There were fishermen and I was told that the bottom is sandy.
It was then onto the airport. We all hugged and I could spot some tears as we said our goodbyes. Onto China.
The flight time is around five hours and China is one hour ahead of Cambodia. Tried to sleep on the plane, but my thoughts of my amazing trip to Cambodia with Zayaa kept on getting in the way. I was starting to get all worked up over the insanity of Beijing Airport as we touched down. My previous experience was hell. This time it was not like that. I had figured out how to beat them. Arrive at 2 AM. Foreigners are required to take fingerprints. All went smooth and nothing was taken away from me.
Our local tour guide, Michael Deng, met us. He is very friendly. He will be our local photographer for the next two weeks. He has arranged unique situations and locations. Taking a group of photographers to China is difficult. Photographers do not like to go where most tourists go since we want to capture images that is void of humans most of the time. Finding a beautiful location of the Great Wall without people has been accomplished. As we drove through the streets of Beijing, I started to notice some things. Very clean and did not see any homeless. Got to our hotel at around 3:30 and arrived in my room at around 4. My room is quite interesting. There are lots of plush animal pandas and pictures of pandas all over. The room is big and clean, but the pandas give it a weird feeling. Finally fell asleep at around 4:30 and was startled by my iphone alarm going off at 8. I was meeting Kevin, Andy and Zayaa for breakfast. Breakfast is on the twelfth floor in a private sort of dining room setting. Had some great coffee and in walked Kevin. I love taking pictures with him and have learned so much from his style. Then Andy and finally Zayaa. We talked and talked.
It will just be resting and moping today in this big beautiful hotel. One thing I noticed was the weather outside. No sun just like a heavy fog. Was told this is the pollution. The sun does come out, but there is lots of pollution. Our China trip starts at 5 PM with a welcome dinner and then tomorrow morning the fun begins. I have no idea where I am going and what I will be seeing. I have read the itinerary numerous times and most of the locations are foreign to me and some of the pronunciations are difficult.
By the way, WhatsApp and Google really do not work in China. Totally blocked. WeChat is a ridiculous app and probably the Chinese government using it to look at your personal info. I am saved by apple. I can use FaceTime to speak and see by wife Olivia.
Hope everyone will enjoy the coming adventure.