Second Day in China
By: Leo N. Ardo
Beijing. After breakfast we trekked over to the subway station about a mile from our hotel. Getting on at the first station was relatively easy, but getting off required some effort as the train filled with people going to work. The second train was packed, but this was China—there was always room on transportation. We pushed and shoved to help those ahead of us get inside the doors. (We had adapted to the requirements of no personal space.) When the next train arrived, those behind us helped squeeze us into the train.
A short walk from the last subway station put us at Tiananmen Square where, on June 4, 1989, a young man in street clothes challenged the military in tanks.
A couple of interesting facts about the Forbidden City: It is symmetrical, and there are 9,999 each of certain items. The reigning emperor cannot have as many of those items as the previous emperor who enjoyed 10,000 of the same items in “heaven.” The list of 9,999 includes total rooms inside the city walls, doorknobs, lucky brass knobs decorating doors, steps, fence caps, protective carvings on roof corners, dragon carvings, etc. We did not count them, but after a couple hours of photography, it became a challenge to take a picture without some of the 9,999 pieces in the photo.
Walking through the entry gate took us to an earlier time of emperors, dragons, legends, and privilege. And yet, we were still reminded of our place in time with several thousand people posing or taking pictures in the extremely large courtyard. Photo opportunities were abundant: marching soldiers, statues, architecture, friends, family, and a basketball court. We joked for several minutes if it was original equipment.
A pattern began to develop where my wife and I kept falling further and further behind the rest of our group. We were taking pictures so fast we had to let our shutters cool down (not really, but it adds some fun to the story). Our delays became a concern of our tour guides who provided us with a cell phone.
At about this same time, two others from the group decided to rest. We would circle back for them later. We were about half way through the Forbidden City—according to the map. For the second time in two days, fast walking through an ancient Chinese shrine became a race against the clock.
It was a Keystone Kops episode as we fast walked to the next point of interest, took pictures, fell behind—again (maybe we have shorter legs), arrived at the end of Forbidden City, fast walked to last location of our resting friends, discovered they were not there, and briefly considered we were lost. The cell phone rang. “Where are you?” “At the exit?” “We will be there soon.”
A quick bus ride to an open-air market for mid-afternoon snacks: fidgety scorpions, bugs, Chinese tacos, Chinese gyros, meat on a stick, etc. The girls practiced their negotiating skills and bought more souvenirs. The smartest among us purchased a pair of Nikes.
Returning to our hotel—the busses were really crowded. Four stops ago, I was the last of our group to get on the bus. Now, the guides warned us to get off at the next stop. I checked and located the nearest door three feet behind me. A few seconds later, the bus stopped. I pushed, cursed, and wedged my way through forty bus riders, and I was out the door as it closed. I was relieved to be off the bus but surprised by the terrorized look on our guide’s face. My wife and business partner were holding the far door open. “Where is he?” “He’s still on the bus.” “Is he lost?” A few moments pass before it was clear: I was “he.” I ran toward the rest of the group waving my arms.
Before going back to the hotel, we ate at a Korean barbeque and cooked our own food at the table. The restaurant had three forks—lucky us, we needed three forks. Propane bottles, old fiber hoses, open flames, and charcoal—all the makings of a late night news report
It was a great ending to another wonderful day in China. We survived separation in the Forbidden City, scorpions, bus packing protocol, and were blessed with no leaking propane. Plus, we enjoyed a good meal with good friends.
Hoping life blesses you with good stories!
Leo N. Ardo
As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.
Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish his goals.
Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1,000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.
When the world is closing in, I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.
Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl of my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.
Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.
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© 2013 Leo N. Ardo.
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