Sunday, January 31, 2010

Heat in Beijing 8/01- 8/04

Japan was just as hot as China in August. But the smog, trash, and street life made Beijing feel like the hottest place on earth. Brad and I stayed at the Far East Hostel in Beijing. Which was just a short walk from Tiananmen Square.

On the evening of our first full day in Beijing we made the long walk to the rail station. We walked there as the sun was setting and it was concluded that in Beijing private life and public life exists in the same space. Not far from China is Japan where people eat in separate rooms in a restaurant. But, in Beijing, we saw women washing clothes in front of their homes and a man fondling a woman at dusk in a public park.
Once we got to the rail station we weaved in and out of the people sleeping on cardboard boxes and diverted our eyes from the old woman who pulled her shirt up to her chin to fan herself. After an outdoor beer it only felt right if one of us walked home shirtless. And that night we slept on a bed with the air conditioning on high.
Shirt-less City

Fate timed everything perfectly the following day when we got on the same late bus to the Simatai section of the Great Wall as those French sisters. I sipped a coke and waved a fan, in attempts to fight off inevitable motion sickness that would find me in the back of that Chinese bus. We were then ushered off the bus and into a van with two blonde girls from France. The older of the sisters begin to negotiate the price in Chinese. The driver's voice raised as the French's girls did. She told us that there were no more buses back to Beijing. Brad and I had train tickets to Mongolia for early the following morning. After yelling and finger wagging a price was negotiated that would get us to see the Great Wall and a ride home that evening.

Fluent in Chinese Friend

After the French girls yelled and screamed in Chinese they ran up the stairs of the Great Wall to beat the sunset. Brad and I found level ground. I admired the view and hemp leaves next to the wall.


Let my hair down

The frantic Chinese driver called the French girl's phone and we had to run back down the stairs to catch the driver before he went back to Beijing as he had picked up more passengers.

Fluent in Chinese Friend
On the way back we veered in and out of dogs and bricks in the road. The driver stopped to get a sausage. Of all the truck beds and minivans I have ridden in in Asia this ride back to Beijing was the most horrifying of my life. The driver seemed to have a death wish on everyone in that car. But, we made it. We saw the Great Wall, there were no crowds, and I got some good pictures and being there was just really nice.

The Bus Out 8/01/09

My last evening in Japan was spent with Brad's wonderful Japanese teacher, Mirori Sensei at Cafe Bubo in Naruto. She corrected the way I held my chopsticks. I had held them incorrectly for two years. Then we went back to Sarah's apartment where I shoved that Care Bear I won in Tokyo into my last box to America and I figured out how to use my new fancy camera.
new camera
That was six months ago. It was really hot and I had a lot of money. Tonight my back is up against the radiator and I have exactly four dollars in my wallet for bus fare for Monday. The last moments I spent in Japan were perfect. I went out to lunch wearing a tank top and tight shorts. Women commented on my summer attire I understood this subtlety. I had just stopped caring.

Brad and I set a $50 per day budget for our trip and a goal that after we left the Beijing airport we would not arrive at another airport until we left for America, whenever that may be. We had a plane ticket to Beijing and from there a train ticket to Mongolia. We had an approximate date we would arrive in Prague to see my host family. And a lot of stuff we wanted to do and learn as we traveled across the world.

Brad's supervisor was one of the many people at the bus stop to see us off. She brought the new Naruto English teacher's. They looked confused, bored, and hot. We waved to them from the bus that was taking us to the airport and I was thrilled to know I would never feel the way those new people were feeling again.