To the woman who offered to bus my table today because you saw that I had two squirming children with me, thank you. You probably will not read this, but in case you do, I want you to know that you are appreciated. You brightened my day.
Have you ever had a day that you still cannot believe happened? My last full day in Beijing was like that. After finally getting to bed at 5am the night before, I woke up at 10am with big plans for my last day. There were still a couple of things I needed to buy for my family so I decided to go to the Silk Street market, a famous place in Beijing where foreigners go to bargain for cheap knock-offs of luxury brand goods. My second goal was to get a haircut. I hadn’t been to the barber in a while, and I figured that between my mediocre language skills and the natural flair for creativity that most hairstylists have, I might end up with a haircut worth writing about.
BLCU is in the northwestern part of Beijing, and the market is about an hour away by metro, a couple miles east of Tiananmen Square. (I always reference Tiananmen, because on a map of Beijing, Tiananmen sits at the center of the rectangular city that surrounds it). By taxi, it is about 15 miles (22km +/-) and I was too cheap to get a taxi by myself (A taxi costs about $10 US, and the train, $0.30). So I took the train.
There were seventeen stops between me and my destination, plus two transfers, so the trip was going to take a little over an hour. I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, and there was only one stop after the second transfer, so I decided to skip the last stop and walk to the market. That way I could get something to eat and see a new neighborhood (another opportunity to wander). Including the subway ride, the walking and lunch, I expected to be at the market by 1pm.
The arrival at Beijing International Airport was uneventful. There were some slow moving lines at the immigration checkpoint, but the Chinese officials soon changed some of the foreigner lines over to general entry lines, and I quickly made it through. It continues to be a mystery to me why some lines would move so much faster than others.
I would have liked to have been Zachary Auerbach today. There was a hostess at the airport who kept walking around baggage claim with a white piece of paper with his name typed on it. The third time she walked by, I looked a little closer at it. Apparently, she worked for the Ritz-Carlton and was going to take him there. That would have been nice. My Chinese language skills were not good enough to convince her that I was Zachary, so after picking up my bag, I walked over to where the express train from the airport to downtown leaves from. As I walked out of the airport and into the train station, I realized I was not in Portland any more. The blanket of heat nearly knocked me over.