Back in the ‘Jing

Written by Travel

Posted from: Beijing, China

China. I’m back.

And before you ask or hope I had a, it was a superb trip. Su-perb. Travel at its economy class best. I slept through 9 hours of the flight, sprawled across the [only] empty seat [on the plane] next to me. I watched other passengers tentatively poking their egg and radon omelets while I nipped at Hollywood food from my backpack buffet. I invoked the scathing laser-beam enthusiasm of not one stewardess smiling as though around a mouth full of live worms. I got the last room in the first hotel of my choice, a decent discount, and then held and understood an entire Chinese conversation about how to use the telephone. There’s toilet paper, hot water, and – keep your hats on – temperature control.

I’m jammin’.

The place I ended up at is two streets over from the Forbidden City and is surrounded by shops and stalls, three-wheeled book hawkers’ pushcarts, young fashion victims and gnarled fruit-sellers, roadside bike and shoe repair stands, a Beijing duck restaurant and a KFC. New is eating the old here, dissolving and consuming it in granular bits, a tragedy for the next generation to blame us for. But for now, the juxtaposition is fascinating.

The other thing that’s fascinating is that the Chinese have got us totally beat in the light switch department. I mean, I never gave it any serious thought until I stayed in a Chinese hotel, where the lighting and electrical controls for the room are hooked into the nightstand next to the bed. What genius decreed that we should only have light switches by the door, forcing us to stumble to and from bed in the dark, stubbing toes and cursing?

Anyway, I was cruising for a wangba* and taking in the humidity, deciphering street signs to stroke my academic ego. I had just been grossly overcharged for a cup of coffee, been given a Chinese lesson by my cabdriver wherein I was led to believe the most important word in the entire language is ‘beer’, fended off a swindling attempt, gaped at and condescended in the supermarket, and envied by a hairdresser. And I was passing this magazine cart at a walk when the culmination of minor incidents shuffled into perfect order, a giant hand patted and thumped my deck into symmetry, and I knew with certainty that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It’s a good feeling, ya know?

*wangba – internet bar