Beijing and All It’s Glory

bya Gabrielle at 2:50 PM

Ah, Internet.

After much searching and aching to feel these little keys at my finger tips while ones and zeros clammer through the world wide web, I have at last located an Internet cafe. I never knew how reliant I was on the Internet until just now. I’m sitting next to two Chinese men. The one on my left is busy blowing up bad guys in World of War Craft and the other is downloading and searching for things I’m not quiet sure of. I do see some weird scantily clad Chinese cartoon characters on his screen . . .

Well, I guess you may want to know how our train ride went. I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

At about 4 pm on Tuesday, we began taking our luggage down the 40 some odd steps that led to our hostel room. Phil was nice and took down the bulk of it. I played the weak and dainty girl and carried down our back packs. They weren’t light, though. Each had a lap top computer and some other odds and ends that we deemed important enough to bring with us. We stood out like the white Americans that we are as we rolled our bright purple, orange and turquoise bags down the streets of Hangzhou. Thankfully, the train station was just a few streets away, but it felt like miles with all that weight. I’ve made a promise to myself to never bring so much junk with me if I ever go to another country for an extended amount of time again.

Our train was due to leave at 6:03pm, so we made it to the train station in plenty of time. It’s always better to be early than to be late, you know, and it can’t be more true than it is in China. As we rolled our bags into the soft seat waiting room, I crossed my fingers and prayed that the ticket takers wouldn’t forbid us to bring all our crap in. They didn’t say a word and I was very much relieved. We plopped a squat and waited the hour an half for our train. The time passed quickly, and soon we heard the call for our ride – train number Z10. I was very pleased to find out our platform was on level ground and that there were no more stairs to drag our crap up. We hopped on the train and found our seat without too much of a hassle. Again our bags caused chaos. The aisle was small, and everyone else wanted to get to their seat, too. We got a lot of stares as we tried picking up our bags one at a time and placing them on the racks above our heads. I am sure that they were wondering why we had so much stuff and where in the world we taking it. Of course, they had no idea that we weren’t tourist, but instead residents like themselves and that everything we had with us were our worldly possessions.

Tired and hot, we finally got everything settled and took our seats. It wasn’t long before two Chinese people came to their seats(directly across from us – like looking into a mirror). They took one look at us and said, giggling of course – “Foreigners” – in English like we weren’t there to hear them. They then looked at the rack above us and saw there was no room for their two little bags and had to find a place to put them. Come to find out, they were on their way to Beijing to study English(they knew some English already). I think that we couldn’t have sat by better people. Talking to them made the trip go so much smoother. The 14 hours was tough, though. 14 hours on any form on transportation is hard. I managed to get about 2 hours of shut eye towards the very end, but it wasn’t enough, really. I wish that we could have traveled during the day because the only thing that I could see out the window the entire time was the light of the buildings and cities that we past. I can’t imagine the scenery would have been spectacular. I rode on a train to Shanghai once, and the scenery didn’t change at all. It was just farms and run down houses for 2 hours and some change.

We arrived in Beijing at about 7:30, just like we were supposed to. Our two new friends asked if they could have a picture of us and we obliged. We said our goodbyes and waited for the train to empty before exiting ourselves. Before we could do this, four Chinese men appeared and asked us if they could help us take down our luggage. We said no, that we could do it, but they insisted. They took down the four suitcases and started rolling in down the aisle. I thought they may try to run off with it, so I kept up with them as best as we could. As soon as we got off the train and started walking a little bit, they stopped and asked for 200 RMB. Phil and I both laughed hysterically and demanded our luggage back. They dropped the price to 100 RMB and we still laughed saying we didn’t even want them to take it in the first place. The price got dropped again to 40 and that is when we decided to take our luggage back into our possession and head for the exit. They weren’t happy with us, but I didn’t care.

We got to the exit with no problems, and met the people that were supposed to pick us up. In the world wind of everything, I forgot to take our tickets back from the ticket taker, and as a result, lost our ability to be refunded, but hey, it could have been worse. It was cold outside, but I had expected worse. Our greeters didn’t say much to us. All I heard way Morning, Cook, and Phillip. I thought maybe they didn’t speak English. They took the majority of our luggage, so I was happy. The trip to our next destination was a bit of a weird one. We seemed to be going the backward ass way, and through the worse part of town. Once or twice I was sure that the person driving was lost. The thought crossed my mind that these weren’t the people that were supposed to pick us up and that we had been kidnapped in Beijing, but that was my imagination running away with me as it normally does. Heh.

We arrived at a sketchy looking gated community that reminded me of a military base. It was actually a college campus. Beijing International Studies University. WECL, the company we will be working for in Shenyang has a sister-school here. They dropped us off at the dorm building that would become our home for the next several days and made us happy by helping us take our luggage up another 40 stairs to the third floor. Let me remind you that up to this point no one had said squat to us in English, so we didn’t have a clue what was going on. We were starving and tired, and couldn’t decide what to do first. There was a place at the front desk to buy drinks, so I got some liquids in me to hopefully quench my hunger. When Phil and I stepped out front to see where exactly we were staying a Chinese woman came out with our room number 310A and started speaking Chinese that we couldn’t understand, but we knew that she wanted us back in our room. My first thought was that we were under house arrest or something like that. Yeah, my imagination running off with me again. Heh.

We went back to the room thinking that maybe we had a telephone call, but the phone never rang. I laid down on the bed trying to figure what in the world was going on and why our room was so cold. This is the point in which I started to panic – but just a little. When I am hungry, cold, and tired, I am just not a happy person. I was all three of these, so you can imagine what I was like. Soon there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find two Chinese men holding a sink. Apparently, our sink was faulty, and they were there to fix it. A few minutes later, we had a new sink, and they left. I was too tired to care what was going to happen – whether the room would start warming itself up or how we would get food – so I did the only thing that seemed like a good idea. I slept. We both slept.

We slept for several hours and awoke to our bellies threatening to start eating anything our eyes saw. It was time to get out and find something of substance before we died. I didn’t care if the guards at the gate refused to let us out – I was going anyway. It wasn’t a problem, thankfully, and the guards let us out without even a word. And what did we see right outside the gate? The most beautiful site to a starving person . . . a McDonald’s.

More or less, we ate, we walked around a few blocks and came back home. And that was a first day in Beijing. Today is our third, and nothing that spectacular has happened. We went to the Beijing Zoo. All most all of the animals were put up because it was freezing outside. On the up side, we only spent 30 RMB to get in, so I didn’t feel ripped off or anything. Also, we went to a pedestrian street and had some yummy street food. I had some fried banana that tasted like a funnel cake. And my favorite – fruit on a stick with sugar drizzled over top.

And what is in store for us now? We will be in Beijing until the the 8th or 9th of February. Then we have to go to Hong Kong to get ourselves legal. That’s a long story; not as long as this one . . . but I’ll leave it to another day.

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