I was too excited to sleep well, and was up well before the alarm went off. I had three dragon eyes (a type of Chinese fruit) in my pocket from tutoring friday night. I got out the travel guide and a pen full of ink and munched on the sweet sticky fruit while I flipped pages. The hotel priced great wall tours at 300 RMB a person, about $50 for a trip that we could probably do for around $10.
We ordered breakfast from the hostel, but there was some confusion with Nate’s meal, and it ended up coming out late.
Sticking around the hostel waiting for Nate’s meal wasn’t so bad, they had an adorable fluff ball of a puppy that could keep us occupied for hours if necessary, and an old scraggly cat that the dog liked to chase. The hostel itself, named The Red House, was beautifully decorated in hanging red lanterns, and an every flowing waterway jam packed with coy fish. The courtyard had once been the outdoor courtyard of a traditional Chinese house, but had been given a roof to extend the indoor space. As we were finishing our food, the peaceful pond became a maintenance issue however, as water began to leak from some pool or pipe.
For Nate and I traveling Beijing was easy, to Meiqi it was a maze of unintelligibility and confusion. She seemed a bit overwhelmed. My unending stream of stories probably didn’t help, but I was just so fricken’ excited! We went to the imperial palace and forbidden city first. We still couldn’t get in to the main attraction, but we discovered a whole new area that we hadn’t know was there the last time we’d come. One of the most beautiful things was a huge hall dedicated to the ancestors that was held up by huge trunks of wood. Intricate wooden patterns decorated the ceiling.
There was a sign that said: “ring the bell three times 10RMB”, and a big gong stick sat beside the bell. A pile of coins lay at it’s bas and on it’s top. Nate dug out three jiaos for each of us to throw. I threw mind first, and “ting” hit the small bell on the top square in the middle. Both Nate and Meiqi looked impressed. “Do you think that if we ring that bell three times they’ll give us 10 RMB?” Nate joked before he threw his. He hit it too, though not quite as neatly as I did. Meiqi missed. “Don’t worry,” Nate joked, “Jenn missed too, she was trying to hit the big bell.” I laughed along with them but kept my mouth shut, as I had been aiming my coin in nice ark trying to land it to rest on top of the big bell, and had not even noticed the small bell until I heard that metallic dinging sound from my jiao pinging off it! In fact my first thought as I watched the coin soar was “damn it I’m going to miss, it’s a little too high.”
We took two busses out to the wall, and planned to stay in a hostel from the Lonely Planet guide and the base of it. It was a bit of a rush to make sure we got there ok, but we made it. Meiqi was having a rough time. I was perplexed. Sure it was cramped and hot, but we had seats and were relatively comfortable. It was practically first class compared to out trip to Tai An’ over spring festival. I looked around trying to determine what was the matter. No one was spitting, and nothing smelled particularly bad. I figured she just needed space and sleep. I tried to think back to the beginning of our trip and imagine how I would have seen things back then, but my head spun trying to remember. Had I really changed so much in six months?
We’d asked another passenger to tell us when we’d reached our stop, which she did, but with no prior warning. We were left to grab our bags in a scramble. Nate lost his buff, he was in morning for a long time, but at least that was the worst of it. The second bus was, to our surprise, a city bus. It was much cooler then the first bus, but definitely not safer. Once we left the city behind us we began careening around sharp turns and bumping around on lazily paved roads.
Meiqi was talking longingly about a hot shower and hot meal once we reached the hostel, but it was not to be. We were the last passengers on the bus, so they dropped us off right at the hostel’s front door. It looked more like a house than a hostel, designed in the classic Chinese house style: concrete and courtyard. The woman in charge came out of the building when we were dropped off. We hadn’t called ahead and she looked confused. Once she realized why we were there she bustled us off to a room. It had a TV, a heading unit, and a bed long enough for Nate’s legs. The second bed that Meiqi vetoed was squishy and comfy, very rare for China. Things were looking up… or so we thought. Nate reached over to flick the switch as a man followed the woman into the room. “No,” he told us trying to get his point across. The couple spoke no English. They also had no power (which meant no heat, and no bath). The woman brought us a plate, a candle, and a lighter. She dripped melted wax onto the plate from the base of the candle and used it to hold the candle stick in place.
Nate and I began working out dinner with her in our poor Chinese. I could see that Meiqi was trying hard to keep it together. The food at least was delicious.