Peking Duck & Lost in the Hutongs

             John arrived and we were off to dine on Peking Duck that.  It was raining a little when we left but the very nice restaurant was nearby.  We were seated and ordered the Duck and two vegetable side dishes.  The waitress has a  small computerized order device that looks like a smartphone and just touches a key everytime we mention what we want.  I had a beer and but wanted wine. They brought me white lighting 112% proof poison in a small  bottle so I mixed it with the beer.  I think I was drunk after the second glass of beer.  The cook brought out the duck and carved it at the table. He served a platter of sliced FRESH Duck that was exqusite as were the  accompanying vegetables and side dishes with sauce that went with the Duck.  
      We  returned home are retired early. It was a very nice end to a wonderful day.  Tomorrow I hope to visit the National Museum and explore the Hutongs on my own…then have to pick up my North Korean Visa at the tour agency and meet the people I will be traveling with.
      When I awoke this morning I had an alert to call Bank of America.  They put a hold on my card until I clarified why there was a large charge from Arizona and from Beijing on the same day.  Very reasonable request.  I called on Skype, spent 10 minutes explaining everything  to the Merrill Lynch represenative then to the Visa Representative all over again with account numbers, security verifications, etc. Then I was disconnected so called again to get a robo recording. Three attempts later I finally reconnected with Visa and explained everything again.  It was taken care of after a half hour on the phone.  Now I will go to a museum and on to pick up my North Korean Visa at the tour agency and meet my group.  There will be an orientation and then we meet at our departure point in the airport tomorrow at 11am.  Then I just follow orders for the next 5 days.  Everything is taken care of…as it should be for $450 a day.

           It was a sunny day though rain was forcast.  I decided I could visit a museum if it rained so took a taxi to the subway with the intentions of going a different route and exiting at the Hutongs.  Alley ways that intertwine between main street and where people live as well as run businesses out of thier homes. I visited the Hutongs the day before but they were all modern and populated with wealthy people with Mercedes and underground parking.  The tourist take rickshaws at crazy prices on tours of the Hutongs.  I decided to explore on my own.  Unfortunatley…the taxi driver who said he knew where I wanted to go, drove right past the subway stop.  I yelled to him and he explained something about circling around so I thought there was no left turn or something and he had to go down and around. Then after he did do a U Turn he darted down a side street and jumped on an expressway.  When I showed him the map and he understood he was mad at me…so I said OK you’ve gone this far just keep going and let me off at the next subway stop I would have exited anyway.  He did and it was cheap but I got off to early and found the Hutongs but was lost in them and went around in circles until it was nearly noon. These seemed to be a mix of old and new. Then I came upon a shop that I recongnized at one that I wanted to go to for Umbrellas.

They are made of oil skin and wood.  Handpainted and very beautiful and fairly priced.  I already spent my souviener budget yesterday on paintings I never really planned on buying but broke down and spent another $100 wondering how I was going to get this stuff home.  Fortunatly I don’t have to lug it around but can leave it at John’s house until I depart for Phoenix.  I didn’t want to lug it around Beijing though and I had to make the orientation at 2 pm so decided to take a taxi home and drop it then return to the subway for the meeting.
        I  tried to get a taxi to the subway like I didn’t do this morning, none of the Taxi’s said they recognized the name I gave them.  The map, I walked all the way to the Beijing Five Star hotel to get, fell out of my pocket when I departed the last taxi and was gone.  I walked to the subway and took off for the transfer spot to get to the Tour orientation.  The transfer to the other subway to connect to the line was a 20 minute walk through the tunnel. I finally got on the line to the tour group and exited.  The map they gave me said it was right down the street…yeah…about a mile.  I made it just in time to find out it was another 30 minute wait.  I had my second cup of coffee and a muffin at 2pm …my first food of the day.  The orientation was interesting but with 36 attendees and all the stupid questions, it dragged on until after 4pm.  I did meet my roommate and we agreed to try and get seats together on out early flight tomorrow.  The flight had been cancelled and changed to an Iranian airplane dated 1962 and two hours earlier.

  I returned and around 6:30, John and I went out for dinner. I visited the ATM to get more money. I returned home to find a flag on my other account with E Trade.
     When I called,a forgien call center answered.  I responded to security questions about my former employer…me….where my ex of 18 years was living…didn’t know or care….which street presented did I live on…none of them …all security questions generated by a third party…what the hell does that mean.
        I requested to speak to someone in the USA.  Legally they have to do that. This cuts employment overseas and increased employment in the USA.  The US supervisor had everything resolved in 5 minutes but overall it took 30 minutes
      I am packed and will take a Taxi to the airport to meet up with the group at the Koryo Tour desk.
It will be a better day tomorrow.

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