Today we managed to sleep in until 5:30 AM - pretty good for changing our body clocks a full twelve hours! That gave us just enough time to tidy the room and get ready for the hotel's breakfast buffet which opened at 6:30. The buffet had a lot of non-breakfasty things like sushi, shark's fin soup, dim sum and various stir-fried dishes. It also had cereal, eggs and fruit plus congee for the Chinese or the adventurous.
Dad and I wanted to be sure to be there early, because before our trip I gave him a book called "China Survival Guide" where the author warned about breakfast melees where people lose their seats while getting their food and so on. We never experienced anything like that, but we were still always the first people to hit the line, in order to be on our bus by 8!
Our hotel is possessed of a gigantic and fancy lobby:
There are actually vases of flowers inside the revolving door - it's divided into four sections, and two of these are for the revolving decorations.
The first event of the day was our orientation. The group assembled in a little conference/dining room
at 8 AM for mutual introductions and getting the lowdown from Fred.
Fred Su (Chinese name Su Xiao Tong) is our program director, which means he will be with us through the whole trip. Unlike in Egypt, where Ihab was both program director and guide, here in China we will also have a series of local guides in the various cities and on the Yangtze river cruise. This means that between guides and drivers we sometimes have to tip as many as four different people a day, which gets irritating, but whatever. Fred is a native of Xian, where we will be in a couple of weeks, and he has a fourteen year old daughter and a wife who is a Communist party member. This last seems to mean he is inclined to give us the party line on various issues.
Fred had us go around the room and introduce ourselves. There are four or five retired Air Force men and their wives on the tour, three Genes including Dad (one female), and four Diane/Dianas including me. Actually I am the only Diana; the others are all Dianes.
Fred refers to us as "Fred's Family" and encourages us to treat each other like family members: with respect; for example it would be bad for the family for anybody to be late for the bus or to wander off on their own while we are on a tour. The whole family would have to wait and would be inconvenienced by the actions of this one member. You know, I think that speech told me a lot about the Chinese mind! He then gave us the means to "call Papa" - he stuck a sticker with his name in English and Chinese and his cell phone number on the back of our tags. If we get lost we just find someone with a cell phone (there are LOTS of cell phones here) and get them to call Fred! This is pretty smart. He also gave us a bit of new vocabulary: to wit, the Happy Room. This is what we now call the restroom.
Orientation over, Lilian met us at the bus and drove us off to see our first big sight: