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Day 109 – Everything Tastes of Baijiu (Last Night in Beijing)

June 20, 2010

Dateline: Beijing, China – Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ah, yes. After nearly 33 years of traveling, to my memory I’ve never missed a flight, train, or bus. I’ve missed connections, but those were due to weather. I’ve been bumped from flights, but that’s the airline’s problem, not mine. I’ve come close a couple of times, but have made it every time. Guess there’s a first time for everything.

I started off well enough. Got up late, packed my hand laundry from the night before, enjoyed my private bathroom with proper Western toilet. I loaded up my stuff and met April and Lillian for a Peking duck lunch. April headed off to the airport, I hung out with Lillian at her place, doing some major entry writing and picture culling.

We were going to meet Yoyo for dinner before my train. Yoyo ended up pushing dinner till so late that Lillian and I opted for a quick meal of pizza and nacho fries at the ex-pat bar we were hanging out at.

A word on the pizza. First off, it was Mexican pizza, which was a surprise since the menu didn’t say we’d be getting our tomato sauce and cheese on fried tortilla. It was tasty, though. Tortillas do crisp up nice in the fryer.

What wasn’t a surprise, were the toppings. We ordered a ham and something pizza (can’t remember) and a donkey pizza. Yup. Donkey.

Donkey is not a bad meat. It may be a bit of a jackass in real life, but on the plate it’s red and sort of tastes like frog crossed with chicken. I realize that, if you haven’t eaten frog, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Think soft, mild, with a hint of crrrroak.

What can a say. I’m not feeling very descriptive right now.

I liked it, but didn’t love it as much as pork which, in contrast I wanted to eat over and over again the first time I had it. Bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good. Mmmmmm. . .

Where was I? Uhhh. . .yeah.

So that’s kind of how it went for dinner. Yoyo showed up and I totally lost track of what time it was. By the time I hailed a cab, it was fifteen minutes past my planned departure time. Note: If you’re in Beijing, the drive to the Beijing West Train Station is a lot farther than you think. A lot.

I tapped my foot, then remembered that didn’t do anything, so instead I slowly cursed under my breath. Not because I was going to be late (if that was going to happen, it was going to happen) but because I knew that, to make a good faith effort at making this train, I’d have to run. I hate running, unless it’s for basketball, ultimate, or it’s from a horde of topless supermodels who fetishize unemployed Filipino lawyers. In all cases, I run sorta slow-like. Though, in one of those cases, it might be a little on purpose.

I hefted my bag onto my back, got in the spirit of China and shoved old ladies and babies out of my way, threw my stuff on the x-ray machine, and ran straight to the wrong gate.

I did this on purpose mind you, because as I was running and trying to make sense of the train board, I realized I couldn’t make sense of it. I was so desperate at that point that I threw convention to the wind and asked for directions from a guy taking tickets at a gate. Any gate.

He pointed me to Gate 9. I ran there, noting with dismay that none of the boards displayed my train. The ticket lady was, Chinese polite, which meant she treated me like a disobedient two-year-old, rolling her eyes, looking like she wanted to smack me on the mouth. She took me to the top of the stairs, pointed at the empty tracks, and said something loudly and—because she was speaking Chinese—angrily. (All Beijing Chinese sounds vaguely like the conversants are on the verge of domestic violence.)

With that, I decided that I didn’t need to leave Beijing after all and that what I needed was to exchange my ticket. I walked upstairs. I walked downstairs. I found the exchange/refund counter and was told I needed to go to the actual ticket counter, which made total sense because this is China and sometimes things just don’t make sense.

I waited in line, exchanged my ticket, and got a stern warning from the ticket lady, “Don’t be late.” I looked at her and smiled. “Don’t be late,” she repeated. Then she rolled her eyes like I’d said I was big in Japan and let me go.

Lillian let me crash her place, taking some of the sting out of spending an unplanned night in Beijing. It would have been worse if I’d had to book another hotel. She worked, I wrote even more, and we both drank copious amounts of baijiu, China’s version of vodka made with rice and way more alcohol (104 proof).

She let me try two bottles. To her delight, I liked one more than the other. Turns out my favorite gave her a pounding headache the last time she drank it. She worked on her bottle. I worked on mine. So long as I didn’t go blind or have vertigo for a week, I’d be fine. Since I’m writing this, you know that I was. (I can touch type, so I guess it’s possible that I am writing this blind. . .)

And that’s that. An unplanned night in Beijing. Tomorrow, I’ll be on the train from Beijing to Xian to see me some Terra Cotta Warriors. I feel like I’ve said that already. . .

Come back tomorrow to see if I actually make my train. Don’t be late.

GALLERY: Nothing but the pics above. Again, click through to see them bigger, though you can always click on the pics in the post to enlarge them. So really, just click through if you like slide shows. Man. . .it totally feels like I’ve written this before. Bizarre.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. sally permalink
    June 26, 2010 7:24 pm

    I have, and always will, run faster than you. I will never let you forget that.

    • June 27, 2010 4:47 am

      What’s really remarkable is that you can move your little legs fast enough to make up for our limb length disparity.

      • sally permalink
        June 27, 2010 5:08 pm

        Upon your return, I will once again whip your ass in the 50m, 100m, and quarter mile dashes. I’ll even help you up after I leave you eating my dust.

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