Before departing for Chengdu in a week, I better rewind and tell how we got here to China and what happened… I know you can’t wait!
23 June 2005 – Beijing
We have a Chinese buffet breakfast. It’s horrible, no tea, and nothing hot! From now on in China, I’ll be buying/travelling my own food. Or, did I tell this all before?
So much happens to me I can barely keep up with it all… I’m going to go and check… Hold on… I can’t find June 22nd…? But, maybe apart of June 21st…? Ke garne? Keep going… If I stop to ponder too long, days will go by, weeks, as we pass through the void at the speed of 30KM per second… We’ve already traveled thousands of miles just thinking about it!
Beijing, yes Beijing, the Washington D.C. of China, the home of the Ti’an Namen uprising in 1989, and the Summer Olympic Games in 08, the two events some (almost) twenty years apart! But, don’t forget the guy who stopped the tank! Where is he now? There was courage!
I found June 22nd, now the 23rd:
Speaking of Ti’an Namen Square we take a taxi to… We’re doing the tourist thing… Visiting Mao’s Mausoleum. I’m neutral. But, when I find out I have to check my backpack, no way… Mao will have to do without me! I explain to Nisha, as she’s curious… Young people… So much to learn about life and living (besides school). I offer to wait, watching all of our hand bags. We decide where we will meet later (across the street). I’m happy to wait in the shade of a tree as the ‘discomfort level’ is off the scale! Maybe it’s Mao’s bad energy! Nisha runs up, having forgotten something (they won’t let her take in her purse even).
While I’m waiting I take some photographs of life in Beijing (in ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org
I’m standing there observing Chinese humanity when a Chinese woman gets my attention. She wants me to read something she’s written. But, it’s in Chinese. She’s carrying a young boy on her back. She tried to convey something, but I could only guess. My intuition told me that this woman was widowed (the child orphaned) in the ’89 uprising, and she wanted me (others) to know. I would think, if this was true, that this is a dangerous thing to do, as there are police everywhere. I offer some money, which she accepts. Maybe she’s just a beggar!
After she departs I lay the written material on my backpack. It isn’t long when a young Chinese woman walks up and is curious about this. She squats and reads it intently (see photograph in ‘Gallery’ atwww.cyclingpeace.org
Nisha, Subodh and Mira return in something like thirty minutes. They’ve seen Mao’s body lying ‘in State!’ I haven’t missed much I’m told! I have a theory that it’s a Disney version of Mao… Who would know? Who cares? Even the present government admits ‘he made mistakes!’
Now, we’re off to World Park… I have no idea what this is, or where… I just follow along.
Nisha is trying to figure out which bus to take, when a Chinese man, physically handicapped no less, seems to want to help us! Of course, he’s selling something, but after what he did (we followed him several blocks to get to the correct bus stop), I would have bought whatever it was he was selling… What was it…? A map, some memorabilia? When I offered a donation he wouldn’t accept it however. A man with integrity!
We board a double-decked bus and climb above and sit in front. The view of passing Beijing is good, although right in front of me is a blaring TV set (ubiquitous). In the next row I observe a mother taking very good care of her young son (about eight- years old). She fans him. She offers him water. Ah, mothers, amazing… I thank God for mine!
We go on and on, must be one hour before Nisha indicates we’re getting off. We’ve finally arrived at World Park, and now I remember seeing it yesterday, riding back from the Great Wall (Badaling). I have a very good memory for things seen.
We are suddenly deluged with people selling drinks (it’s horribly hot), and restaurants (‘Come to ours, it’s the best!’ they must be saying). We pass one and end up in the second, and quite a nice place it turns out to be. It’s air-conditioned for one thing. The food is good and fast, the service solicitous. Nisha and Mira eat like Trojans! I am weary of eating, and constipated. But, they think I have to eat to keep up my strength when just the reverse is true! They don’t know it, but they’re ‘killing me with kindness!’
After lunch on to World Park in the afternoon heat! It’s insane! There is no one in the Park, they’re all smarter than us! But, we only have this afternoon, and this is a part of Nisha’s plan. Thank God we rent an electric cart with guide. I would have passed out walking! The discomfort index is now off the off-the-chart reading! But, I’m there as photographer, and pose Nisha, Subodh and Mira in front of the Eiffel Tower, the World Trade Center (prior to 9/11), the Taj Mahal, pyramids in Egypt, Niagara Falls, etc. – all smaller scale replicas of things that identify that country.
Later when I post these in ‘the Gallery’ (don’t forgetwww.cyclingpeace.org
) my captions mislead on purpose and sure enough, someone is fooled. He sends me an email message telling me it’s not London Bridge they’re standing in front of but some other bridge in London. We got around ‘the world’ that afternoon in about one hour.
Now, it’s really hot! We buy cold drinks (Subodh likes his really cold!) and try to recover in the shade. But, soon time to return to beautiful downtown Beijing. Before we depart we take some photographs at the main entrance. Three ‘bums’ accost us and it’s a ‘photo opp.!’ (see in ‘the Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org
Poor Mira, I felt sorry for her, as she’s not used to this kind of running around. She falls asleep on the bus. I might have too, except it’s not that comfortable! We must have stopped a hundred times, between World Park and ‘downtown’ (this ‘local’ bus). But, we get to see the real Beijing. I can’t say it’s a place I would like to live… It has no sky, just that kind of toxic haze that L.A. or Dallas has.
But, it’s only 1142 days until the Summer Olympics begin—China making a very big deal out of this! They’d have to pay me much money to be in Beijing in 2008! Not interested!
We take a taxi to our ‘out-of-the-way hotel, retrieve our bags (I’ve kept mine with me.), and ride on to the Beijing Train station. Wow! Talk about people! There must be one million Chinese coming and going ! It’s overwhelming, just like Shanghai’s RR station—not a place I would seek to hang out!
We’re early so we sit at an outdoor café drinking more, and eating more (I buy a banana for later). We observe Chinese humanity as it rushes past, or sits and drinks like us… Subodh and Mira call home (Kathmandu) via Nisha’s mobile. This is the most interesting part of the day for me, observing the scene. I go buy film. Subodh wanders around. The ladies find a toilet.
After ninety-minute’s wait, we follow Nisha (our Chinese-speaking Nepali guide) to our sleeper car and back to Shanghai. This time, however, we’re separated, Nisha and Mira in one ‘stall,’ Subodh and me in the adjacent one (and all of us on the second level). The desirable one is the lower berth, as you have a table, and don’t have to climb up and down.
I’ve learned the trick with Chinese train travel… Buy the ticket early or you’re going to end up on the top bunk, or not get on at all. There are millions of Chinese people travelling by train everyday. Buy early for a off-hour departure (like in the middle of the night). Try to time arrivals at off-hours too, so you won’t have to deal with the ‘stampede!’ It’s madness to me!
The all-night ride back to Shanghai is jerkier and noisier than the one going to Beijing… Thus, I don’t sleep that well. The same thing for Subodh, both of us arising early… 0530. I make Nescafe coffee for us (the Chinese drink nothing but Lu Cha/green tea). All cars have an endless supply of boiling hot water! This is good!
We arrive and deal with the ‘stampede,’ rushing for a taxi which takes us back to Shanghai Second Medical University. Subodh and ladies go to Nisha’s room, I head for our hotel room and a hot shower! Some things ‘hot’ are good!
24 June 2005 (in Shanghai)
This is a day of shopping which I should have sat out. I’m not a consumer, I don’t even like window shopping—thank God I’m not married! But, somehow I go with the ‘flow,’ as Subodh has been so nice to me.
We go to the Lotus Super Mall, next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The mall is pretty amazing actually, ten floors of stores and restaurants. They look and buy, look and buy! I buy one gray t-shirt for 9.90 Yuan, or $1.25 cents. That’s the sum of my purchases for a week in China… Except for film… I buy many rolls of film. Kodak, Fuji, would be happy to know. They buy gifts to take back to family and friends in Nepal. I take photographs of them looking and buying.
We eat in one of the Mall restaurants, Subodh after something in particular. I think he’s trying to accommodate me actually, always thoughtful he is! I get my rice!
Afterwards we walk the Promenade on the Huangpu River, this opposite the Bund. At night the lights are spectacular, and we take photographs with such in the b.g. (see in ‘the Gallery’ atwww.cyclingpeace.org
I buy them Hagen Daz ice cream!
We take the five-minute ferry ride across the Huangpu, and taxi back to where we’re sleeping! It’s 10P.M. and been a hard day of shopping! We’re asleep before our heads touch the pillows (as least mine).
Being a tourist is a strenuous thing! More debilitating actually than cycling 100KM per day, which I’d much rather do!
June 25th and 26th, (I think) in Shanghai…
Two more days of doing the ‘tourist number.’ I remember more shopping. I remember ‘Old Shanghai’ (more shopping).
I remember seeing Nisha, Subodh and Mira off to the airport early one morning. I’m taking a train to Hangzhou to ‘live!’ for awhile, checking out the Apollo Development Corporation (Stephanie’s company). They’re flying to Bangkok for a few days ‘vacation,’ before returning to Kathmandu. It’s Nisha’s last moments in Shanghai, after six-years of Medical School. It’s my beginning in China!
Seems like I’ve left out Nisha’s graduation, on a Tuesday…? Oh, well… You get the idea!
Suddenly I was on my own in China, ‘no direction known like a rolling stone’… Well, not exactly! Bhuwan (my new Chinese-speaking Nepali friend) takes and gets me on the train in Shanghai. Stephanie and Benson will be at the train station in Hangzhou.
We’ll be ‘hanging ten, in Zhouland!’ or should it be ‘Zhaoland?’ Whatever… Soon continuing ‘Pilgrimage to Mt. Kailas!’ Remember…?