Alone Together

Thus concludes a series of notes about my recent travels. I didn’t post them earlier because they were mostly written as notes or based on notes scribbled in free moments in cafés, restaurants, train stations and buses. I have tried to modify them only enough to make sense of them, not to make them read-worthy.
Exertion encourages sociability. I met more foreigners on the Wall today than downtown yesterday. Only the rare exception didn’t meet my gaze. I got a few nods, and one guy even managed a ‘Hey’ between pants. I’m crediting the difficulty of the climb with the difference. It could be the commercial nature of downtown that caused the withdrawal, but I don’t think so.

And the wall hike was certainly exerting. Anyone who has been to the wall or talked to someone who has been knows it’s more than just walking. 

Jasmine Tea

A successful climb means mounting countless indefinitely spaced steps and uncomfortably pitched ramps. 
[Refill jasmine tea here] Add snow, then have people walk all over it to pack it down and glaze it over. I hoisted myself by the handrail as much as I walked. The sun and traffic had melted it down by the time I made my return trip, but I got up in time to catch frost on the trees at the top.

I didn’t really feel bad dismissing the vendors with a bu yao and a hand wave, and I was ready to help a few English speakers learn the art, but they weren’t overly receptive. Dan paid the full price to get his name engraved on a bronze plate despite my warning. The Chinese man next to me agreed with my estimation that it was too expensive, but Dan didn’t believe either of us. Or didn’t understand the local’s concurrence with my evaluation. Or didn’t care. I didn’t when I first came. Too bad the exchange rate only favors those who understand economics.


Another lesson learned: Know the names of the places you want to go. Then, when you lose your original directions and no one at the tea house has an English map of Beijing, you can still get there.

To be fair, I wasn’t stranded. I could get to various places and find my way from there, by taxi or by memory of the previous day’s events. But that was hardly ideal when I was trying to get to a specific new place.

My good choice? Looking for the directions in the tea house before I tried to get on the bus. And having a cell phone and English speaking friends.
(18 Jan 08 | Beijing)

2 Replies to “Alone Together”

  1. Ooh, snow too? And I thought mine was bad.
    (I actually thought I’d never make it; the stairs were the ultimate pain, but I finally triumphed. What a fantastic feeling that was.)
    I’m glad you got to go. I’m pretty sure that is the coolest thing I ever got to do.

  2. I must say, while it doesn’t surprise me, I am amazed at your writing style and abilities. I find that I begin to lose myself in your depictions and thoughts anticipating the next chance to experience it all over again.

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