This portion of the post was written starting at 8:35 China Standard Time (AM) and Eastern Daylight Time (PM).
I’m writing this at a bus terminal waiting for a bus to Beijing Capital International Airport. Our intent was to have left by now on an 8:30 bus, but unfortunately an 8:30 bus did not exist, and so here we are. This delay created both signiﬁcant boredom on our part now, and a time crunch for me when I get there. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. If Beijing traffic is good (which is basically never), it should be ﬁne. Otherwise, a little bit of rush is justiﬁed.
I slept very well last night (because the bed wasn’t a hard board with like a centimeter of padding), which was nice, although it probably marks a backwards step in my progression towards jet lag adjustment. As soon as I woke this morning, however, it felt like my body immediately pumped like 10 pounds of adrenaline into my bloodstream, and I could not fall asleep again. Indeed, eating was a little more diﬃcult than usual because of decreased appetite and shaky hands, and all-in-all I will probably be exhausted by the time I get on the plane. (This is probably a textbook case of general adaptation syndrome. Alarm, resistance, exhaustion.)
After breakfast, we got a ride to a subway station and headed all the way down (well, “up” on a map) to the West Railway Station, where we got off and walked over to the bus station. This is my ﬁrst time taking any sort of “long-distance” Chinese bus, and all I can say is at least there’s more leg room than an activities bus. This will be a comparatively short ride compared to some of those bus rides that I’ve taken, so we’ll just wait and see how it goes. Wheeee.
This portion of the post was written starting at 7:17 China Standard Time (PM) and Eastern Daylight Time (AM).
Honestly, I expected to be sleeping still at this point in the flight, but alas, this was not to be, so I suppose I will start having to drink coffee and tea to keep me awake through the next seven hours or so of this flight. Maybe it was the high-quality sleep from yesterday, but I just can’t seem to sleep very well on this plane, and this is coming from someone who can sleep well in almost any moving vehicle.
The bus left relatively on time, but due to speed limits and traffic, ended up arriving about half an hour later than it was supposed to, which created a further time crunch for me. Following our arrival at Terminal 2, we were greeted by the strangest of arrangements—customs, then check-in, then security, and then gates. My mom came with me through customs, helped get me checked in (where the line was almost stressfully long), and then I went through security (almost forgetting the snacks for the kids, which are sitting at my feet so that I don’t forget them), which was actually much faster than we expected. I was tempted to get milk tea on my way to the gate, but unfortunately, the line was long, so I moved past it. (This was the correct decision—the plane was boarding by the time I got to the gate.) I had made it to the gate on time!
Getting on the plane was kind of weird—so that the business class people didn’t have to deal with us economy class plebeians, the jet bridge connected to two doors: one at the front of the plane, and one in the middle. I got to my seat eventually, and immediately began trying to fall asleep, using the eyepatch I had taken from the last flight and the classical music provided by the plane. This was rendered ineffective by the opening of every window in preparation for takeoff, which was a stellar move, so instead I gazed out the windows. As a result, I got to see an Air Koryo plane! (This is the North Korean airline, and was proudly supporting the flag on the tail.)
Immediately before takeoff, two very interesting things happened. First, a man got up and attempted to open an overhead compartment as we were turning onto the runway, which almost got him tackled by flight attendants. Then, the classical music playlist started “Ride of the Valkyries” with the takeoff roll, which was pretty epic. I returned to my attempts to sleep immediately afterwards, to limited and intermittent success, and my last actual waking was around 6:30 AM, although I did my best to keep my eyes closed for as much time as I could afterwards.
My plan for the next seven hours is the following: watch the Hainan airlines film for Boston, watch Coco, and then read The Secret Life of Trees, Robinson Crusoe, and Educated in that order if possible. We’ll see how much of it I actually accomplish, but it should keep me up for that long, at the very least.
Various other final details: I was accepted into the Discover Mathematics pre-orientation program today, so I’ll get a taste of what math at MIT is like beforehand, which I’m very excited about. (Also, the plans for the program include scavenger hunts and poker/blackjack, which is exceptionally exciting.) I also saw a pair of (I’m assuming) twins with Harvard “Future Freshman” shirts, which was kind of funny, kind of worrying, but mostly cute.
Getting a thermos full of hot water, and we’ll see how the next hours go. I’ve already burnt about twenty minutes writing this, at the very least, so I’ve got that going for me. Over the Arctic we go!
This portion of the post was written starting at 9:43 Eastern Daylight Time (AM) and China Standard Time (PM).
We’ve somehow made it past the halfway point of this flight, which is kind of surprising, since it doesn’t feel like it’s been quite that long. As per usual, the plan was abandoned almost as soon as it was started—I watched the film for Boston, which was poorly translated and brought back some (limited) exciting memories of RSI, before watching a National Geographic documentary called Horizon: Strange Signals from Space which made some interesting jumps in logic but was actually very carefully phrased and generally well told, which was good. I was somewhat disappointed by their discussion of the Drake equation, especially since their order of magnitude estimated was 10000, which is just a few orders of magnitude away from 1, or 10, or 100, all of which would immediately make it nearly impossible to find the detectable civilizations, given the scale of radio frequencies and size of the sky. (Even 10000 is kind of hard to find.)
Instead of watching all of Coco like I had planned, I just watched the denouement (starting from the scene with “La Llorona”), since it had my favorite songs and saved me from some of the emotional stress of the movie itself. I attempted to read A Secret Life of Trees afterwards, but found it very hard to focus, so now I’m here, eating Triscuits, drinking hot water, listening to In the Heights and seven-year-old episodes of The Bugle, and wondering what I’m going to do with the next four hours and forty-six minutes of this flight. Hopefully, the descent starts early, so it’ll cut out those forty-six minutes, and the time I have to fill decreases. 2635 miles left to go, and we’re currently over the very tip-top of Canada. Wheeeeeeee…
This portion of the post was written starting at 11:13 Eastern Daylight Time (AM) and China Standard Time (PM).
I held out for an hour and a half, so now only three and twenty-five minutes remain, also indicating that our flight time has been extended around ten minutes. (That is, if I can do math. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe this math major isn’t such a good idea…) I’ve had two cups of tea, which is probably enough for now, given that my stomach does not seem to be happy with everything it has ingested so far (maybe it was the airplane food hours ago, or maybe it’s the Triscuits). I burned the last hour working on solutions to the problems I wrote on the trip, and I basically finished the counting and probability ones. I was working on the number theory solutions, but almost immediately found an error in one of my questions, which means it will have to be amended (and then redistributed). Unfortunately, I don’t have offline LaTeX, so I can’t go make corrections now or write-up the rest of these answers, but hopefully I’ll be able to find some time on the flight to and from DC with TeXmaker or something.
Right now we’re still over Canada, just about to cross over Hudson Bay. I only need to fill about two and a half hours of time (considering in the descent will be quite exciting, especially since Boston Logan almost always has you come in over water), maybe even less given the pre-landing meal we’re still missing out on. Exciting. I’m still worried about functioning for the six hours after landing, but we’ll see how it goes when the time comes. Right now, it’s time for some documentaries. Someone to my front-left is watching a documentary about food, and I think I’m going to try and find it.
This portion of the post was written starting at 12:50 Eastern Daylight Time (PM) and China Standard Time (AM).
A little bit of sleepiness is creeping into my system, which is a bad start to the jet lag adjustment. At the very least, just under two hours remain in this flight (40 minutes of which will most likely be the descent), so things are looking up and up, although customs and border patrol may take a while. The second meal service is about to begin too (my last Chinese meal for a while), so everything is lining up to keep me awake and not bored for the rest of the flight. Under a thousand miles left to cover, and the lights are on in the cabin. Yay!
I spent the last block of time watching the food documentary (which made me so hungry—I want crawfish and lamb kebabs now), and then listening to bit more Coco as well. Maybe I should begin to work on some RSI stuff now, but we’ll see where we’re at when I arrive. Exciting times.
This final portion of the post was written starting at 10:55 Eastern Daylight Time (PM) and China Standard Time (AM).
Wow. I am very tired, and my entire body seems to be rioting against my staying up any longer, so I’m going to keep this as short as possible, without forgoing too many details.
The second meal service was fine (I had an omelet on accident because I didn’t know what the Chinese meant), and the descent into Boston was mostly fine, although it included a few sweeping turns and cloud cover almost all the way down. After coming in over the bay, we eventually made it to the terminal, where two or three other flights had just arrived. This resulted in the longest customs line I have ever seen and made me desperately long for Chinese Border Patrol, especially because the American passports got lumped right in with the tourism visas. The actual human interaction of the whole thing lasted maybe ten seconds (I was asked one question) before the CBP agent called me back (which was concerning) to translate a question for some people (which was kind of weird). I got out of the airport as fast as I could afterwards, and waited for the Silver Line bus.
The Silver Line bus was kind of full, but I squeezed on, holding my two passports all the way, and the bus (after many memes and mishaps, such as when the bus has to shut down to switch to electric power on its underground tunnel) eventually made it to South Station, where I got on the Red Line and headed up to MIT, wheeling my suitcase all the way out of Kendall and through the Infinite. I got to Baker, checked in, looked at my room, and headed up to a staff meeting, where we went over various logistics and things we needed to do tomorrow. I found out I had a dedicated replacement for the two days of NRP, which is great, and then after the meeting I ended up getting my big suitcase of all my actual things and eating dinner (at Beantown) with the Harvard postdoc who had received it.
Eventually, we returned to Baker, where some undisclosed setup occurred, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow! Plenty of work to do. It’s been a long day. (I’ve also pulled my RSI blogs to prevent more people from seeing them in the meantime…) I’m definitely missing a lot of details, but I can’t bother to recall them now. I’m very happy for the Baker sink right now. Sleep time.