Many things had changed in Beijing since I was there in 2007. The airport was completely revamped, and about three times as large. A fast tram system took us from our terminal to another building to get our bags and go through immigration. During the cab ride, I saw dozens of new office buildings and apartment complexes that had sprung in my absence. The cab driver explained that the subway system now had over 7 lines. It only had 3 in 2007.
But many things had stayed the same. Driving remained as lawless as ever, and the memorable thick, metallic, industrial air struck my lungs as the cab wove down the expressway. People still spat all over the sidewalk, and middle-aged men wore their shirts hiked up over their protruding bellies.
The dormitory at the Beijing Language University had no internet connection and smelled damp and moldy. I was glad to get on the train.