Back in Beijing … Again

     I was looking forward to a hot shower, shave, and dinner with John.  Still had to pack…not a problem …problem was how to handle the key.  I didn’t want to have to leave at 8 am when John left but couldn’t think of a way to give him back the key.  My departure wasn’t until around 4:30 so maybe he could get home a bit early and I could sleep in while nursing myself back to health.  I am still sniveling and coughing. Welcome home…

        Well I made to the home subway stop and walked in around 6:30.  John was talking to his partner on Skype so that gave me a chance to shower, shave and sort out a little.  My flight doesn’t depart Beijing until 7:40 pm so I don’t have to be at the airport until 6pm…solves the key problem and frees me to see more of Beijing before leaving.  There is a park I have wanted to visit…and maybe John will let me use his computer again if I don’t lock it up again.
         We went to a small Mom and Pop Southern Chinese food restaurant , had a beer and sampled 3 choices that were all good.  John treated and we returned home for NyQuil and early bedtime.
          I vaguely remember waking, taking a bathroom visit and another NyQuil.  I must have slept well as I woke just as John was leaving for work. He left a message that the maid would be coming after 9am and maybe it best for us both if I was gone.  He would be back at 4pm today to see me off.  I checked my email, finished my coffee and exited for the ATM across the street.
         I still had taxi fare to the airport and didn’t want to take any Chinese Yuan with me so was trying to withdraw the minimum amount to get me through the day with snacks and kleenex.  The machine that I had used before only gave me one choice…balance.  I had about $150 left in cash but wasn’t offered a withdrawal.  OK it isn’t 9am and the back isn’t open yet so I went to the 24 hour ATM next door that I had used before…invalid transaction!  Oh Oh..have the police checked the guards and found a strange forgiener was staying in the building then checked the cameras at the ATM’s and saw a tall American withdrawing money…then  checked the time and the machine to determine the account…then put a stop on all withdrawals???…then…Now I’m getting more nervous.  I only have to be on that flight at 7:40 pm.  Maybe I should return, get my bags, leave a note and go to the airport now.   No the maid might be there as it is 9am now.  I have my transport card with money on it to use so I’ll ride the subway until 4pm?  No…I’ll go to the Park as planned.  I did but wasn’t sure where the park was and didn’t have the map. I did get off the right stop and the Lama Temple was there.  I found another ATM and it did not have a hold on my account so withdrew about $14, stopped for coffee then paid to get a ticket to the temple.

        The ticket was a mini CD with a recording on it and a bar code for admittance.  Can’t wait to see what is on the CD. The temple was packed with bus loads of tourist and turned out to be one of the finest I’d visited.  It was where the Chinese Deli Lama was educated in Medicine, Arts, etc.  It was a huge complex and very beautiful with lots of visiting Monks making a pilgrimage to this holy place.  Many Buddhists offering incense and prayer in all the different shrines.  I spent about 2 hours and found out they take Visa so bought the cheapest Amulet of my birth year I could find.  It is to bring me good luck and health as well as keep me from smelling.  Worth $15.
      I left the temple very hungry.  This area was all souviener stores and junk shops intermixed with very high end jewelery, antiquities, and art work.  I stopped in a restaurant and ordered cabbage and white meat soup.  It was sour, hot and delicious…but very hard to get in my mouth with chop sticks and without burning my tounge.

      David strolled toward the subway.  It was now close to 1pm so he figured a nap was in order.  One store caught his attention with chanting coming from a speaker near the entrance of the shop.  A smiling middle age handsome oriental man came out smiling and greeted him.  David indicated he would be interested in purchasing the CD but was leaving tonight and would the man accept American dollars.  He did and David acually got a small discount.  The man spoke perfect English and wished me a safe trip.  He also said this music would bring me good health but refused to put that in writing with a guarentte money back if I should not get better.  David arrived at his home subway stop with 20 Yuan left in spending so splurged on a taxi for 10Yuan or $1.70.  Hereturned to the apartment to discover the maid had NOT been there yet.  No nap, no internet,..quick use the bathroom, grab the computer and get out before she arrives.
       Now he was at the ATM again.  The very same one that refused him that morning.  Was all his fears grounded NO…he got money!  The police aren’t watching.  All that hiding your face from the subway cameras was in vain and you now have another $14 to spend.  
      To use up some time, David decided to stroll the neighborhood.  He went the opposite direction from his usual trip to the subway and ended up at a main street.  He turned left and discovered a Pharmacy that had Robitussin and  Mucilix to clear the congestion out of your lungs.  He bought some then visited the side street we ate at last night…all the way to the end.  Great neighbor hood….check out the bread baker on the left…awesome process for baking bread. School was letting out too.

 He went to the local coffee shop to type this journal.  Wow…this is up scale and $7 for a latte…oh well.  Now how long can I do this before they kick me out or my battery runs out?

       I have to say that none of this would have been possible without CouchSurfing and a generous host like John to enable it to happen as well as share his open, friendly, intelligent, personable, self. Thank you John and thank you CouchSurfing for making my travels to China so interesting.  This experience would never have been this fullfilling especially if I had stayed at the Five Star Beijing Hotel with Hillary Clinton.  My 4 nights in Pyongyang cost me $495 a night with a shared room.  Yes that included the breakfast buffet but not the 20 Euros for the Circus, 10Euros for Pizza, 150 Euros for the Mass Games, $30 for Tips, $30 for gifts…etc….was that worth it.  Yes but only because of the group we were with and the fact it was a once in a lifetime chance to see something that will someday hopefully never exist again.  One man controlling an entire race of people with intimedation, fear, and force.  The last Stalinist country in existence…Putin…will be history….and I believe…Kim Jun is next.  I have no real political views because I have no control.  I do have respect for those who do stand up againt tyranny and risks there lives to defend freedom and individual human rights of people everywhere.  So much for preaching. Amen.  So Be It! Time to get off the soap box and return to my room…I hope.
        I arrived as the maid was leaving .  She seemed startled not to see John and wanted reassurance that I would lock the door.  I showed her my key and she left.The guard at the gate with the “Neighborhood Watch” called someone on his cell as soon as I returned.  Perhaps I am getting paranoid but rather be one step ahead considering my departure is only 4 hours away.  I left a note for John and in my haste…my good pair of shoes.  My bags were packed and I bolted with the first cab and was at the airport by 4:30…through customs, immigration, and at my gate by 5pm.
          I read the local China Daily.  It seems our foreign diplomacy is not so diplomatic after all.  When the war ended China claimed those disputed Islands that were owned by a Japanese who recently sold them to Japan who now claims them.  Panetta, our Secretary of Defense  is now saying that the US will not take sides in this matter BUT they have a long standing Treaty with Japan that includes those disputed Islands???  Now it sounds to me and the Chinese that he and the US is talking out of two sides of their mouth.  Either you are not taking sides or you are siding with Japan?  Not a wise move.  Go home and let them settle the dispute and stay out of it regardless of the UN decision.
      Well I went to freshen up in the Men’s room and the attendant fawned all over me.  First he put a large plastic bag out on the floor like a mat for me to place my bags on.  Then when I pulled out my toothbrush he grabbed the paste, broke open the plastic, took off the cap and broke the seal…then put the toothpaste on my brush.  Then when I took off my coat to wash up after brushing he laid out paper towels for me to put my coat on then turned on the water for me to wash.  When I finished he presented me with paper towels to dry off and helped me on with my jacket. Now that is service.  They won’t take a tip either.

       I then  paid a ridiculious $5 for a Starbucks Grande Latte and inquired about a connection to charge my computer.  The attendant came out from around the counter and pulled a chair away from the wall for me to plug into the outlet.  I have found most all of the Chinese people to be very helpful and friendly…except the taxi drivers and when your in the subway.  They will elbow you out of  the way and take your seat before you can.  Other than that, they have all been friendly and helpful.
      I just read an Englishman’s critique of the public restrooms.  His big thing was how clean and free they were. Wow.  If he thinks they are clean I don’t want to visit London.  Yes they are free…what is the big deal about that.  McDonalds has been providing free clean bathrooms all over the world, not to mention, KFC, BurgerKing and Papa Johns.

        Every public bathroom I’ve been in was either dirty,without soap or  paper towels, or a hole in the floor and no toilet paper.  I seldom saw anyone wash their hands on the way out.  The airport and some public facilities as well as the 5 Star Beijing Hotel did provide those amenities but seldom.  The food overall was good but you had to know what you were ordering.  You could accidently order stir fry rice with Cicadas or something so hot you would never put out the fire for 2 days.  Some like that…not I.  I sure have to say despite my illness, this has been one of the outstanding trips of mine.  Thank you China and John for enabling this trip to happen. Now I will try to get the free Wi-Fi advertised in the airport to check my email.  To do that I have to find an Authorized station where they make a copy of my passport or verify that I’m not a spy…Later in Seoul…I hope.

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