On the ground in BEIJING, China!

October 29, 2007 | Nestor Aparicio

Well, we landed about six hours ago and we’re doing just fine halfway around the world.

So much to tell, so much video and evidence is already being shot that I almost don’t want to spoil the fun of wnsTV! It just takes me a few days to get it edited and make it fun!

And we’ve only been on the ground for seven hours, and already we’re having a blast!

Here are some highlights:

The entire delegation (media included) is about 15 people. Cal and Kelly Ripken are leading the way, with B.J. Surhoff (who has been very pleasant and interested in China), several Ripken Baseball folks, a few U.S. State Department folks (who’ve been incredibly helpful with the massive language barriers) and the media dorks (that would be me, my wife and Rick Maese, along with four of Ripken’s own documentary crew from local HDTV gurus, Renegade Video).

The flight was 14 hours long and landed about an hour early, just in time for us to be whisked away to downtown Beijing amidst a flurry of the world’s worst traffic. We flew OVER the North Pole. I conducted Cal Ripken’s first-EVER interview over Siberia at about 11 p.m. last night EST.

Beijing is BY FAR the smoggiest city I’ve ever entered. It makes Los Angeles look downright clear! You could barely see the ground from the sky as the plane landed. The visibility as we approached downtown was less than a mile or two in many places and lots of people here wear surgical masks while riding their bicycles through the city.

The city is a SEA of skyscrapers and cranes. The preparations for next summer’s Olympics appear to be 24/7. You cannot physically go two blocks without seeing Olympics references and logos. This country and its people are STOKED for the Olympics!

Our hotel is really spectatcular and centrally located. If you have ANY doubts as to just how Americanized this place is, consider:

• The building next door to the hotel houses both a Sizzler Steakhouse (YES, one of THOSE!) and a Haagen Das ice cream parlor.

• Across the street, our first jetlagged stop was to a Starbucks, where “mocha venti” means the same thing as it does in White Marsh. It was tasty too, and we needed some caffeine after that mind-boggling flight.

• Virtually NO ONE here speaks a WORD of English. Our tour guides said “maybe 1 in 100.” The language here is Mandarin. We know how to say one thing: THANK YOU (shay shay). We have to carry a business card for the hotel to present to any taxi driver because communication here is virtually impossible!

I’ll let the videos show the place off a little later in my journey, but this is really a wild place, where East meets West and old meets new!

We landed at 1:45 p.m. Monday (local time). We are EXACTLY 12 hours ahead here, so we didn’t even have to touch our watches.

My wife turned on her cell phone, and lo and behold, we found out via text that the Red Sox won the World Series while I was chatting with Cal Ripken over Siberia (TRUE STORY!). We also saw that the Patriots were beating the Redskins 38-0 en route to a 52-7 win. I haven’t seen any other NFL scores. The Monday night game will start here at 8:30 a.m., but we’ll be headed to the Olympic Baseball Stadium with Cal and Co. at that time. Cal is teaching young Chinese kids about baseball. This is gonna be pretty cool!

We checked into our hotel at 4 p.m., just in time to see the 4 a.m. replay of the Red Sox-Rockies game from first pitch on ESPN International. Rick Sutcliffe was doing the color from Coors Field. My wife held on to watch Jonathan Papelbon dance, but the TV crew cut the broadcast before then (I don’t feel like I missed a whole lot, really!)

We went on a “wild duck” chase, going with the delegation to do some pearl and jade shopping, only to have traffic hold us up so much that the stores were closed by the time we made the 35-minute journey through the most horrendous traffic I’ve ever seen on the planet. You should see the people on top of each other on the buses here!

We can see that Beijing is going to be the devil in disguise: traffic, smog, delicious food, friendly people, and OH — did we MENTION the traffic? So far, we’ve been enchanted by its frenzy and its peculiar charm.

The economy here is BOOMING with Americanization and lots of people making (and apparently SPENDING) lots of money!

It’s 9 p.m. now. That’s breakfast for you. We’ve been up – more or less – since 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, when we set off for Dulles Airport and this amazing journey.

We just came back from an amazing Taiwanese dinner, where the bill came to $23. And tipping is frowned upon here. The food is CHEAP!

We’re already having a blast, seeing things we never thought we’d ever see in this lifetime. And we haven’t even gone to sleep yet!

Lots of Yao Ming posters touting the 2008 Beijing Olympics on every corner. Sports Illustrated billboards everywhere, touting Yao as well. We’ve even passed a handful of McDonald’s and KFC’s.

So far, so good.

More reports to come soon…

Hope you follow our journey through China, Hong Kong and Tokyo this week.

Good morning, Baltimore!

I’m going to BED!

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