God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When Going to the National Capital of the Most Populous Country,

I had the most eventful day in Beijing on Wednesday, October 1st, National Day. It began the night before in Tianjin, a city southeast of Beijing. The Family in Tianjin came to our room at 8:30 p.m. They left at 11:20. It was one of the best nights I have ever had. We talked for almost the entire time. They asked great questions and I had to think hard for answers. The entire time I was thinking this is what I want to do for life.

The next morning we went to the train station. On the bus ride there, the driver stopped for less and less time until finally he barely slowed down enough for people to get off. This is fine for young people, we can drop and roll. Older folks, not so much. One man was standing away from the door and by the time he stood up and got to the door, the driver started to close it. As he stepped out it clamped down on his arm. The driver started to drive away and people went crazy. The driver stopped, but not in time. The man fell. The driver stopped and one woman started yelling at him. "I CAN'T BELEIVE YOU DID THIS! YOU NEED TO PAY THIS MAN BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU DID! HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU GIVE HIM? YOU SHOULD TAKE HIM TO THE HOSPITAL! TAKE HIM TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW!" The driver got out and helped the man get up. The older man seemed dazed but not hurt. The driver shook his hand and attempted to go on, but the woman would not stop. She made the older man get back on the bus and we carried on.

We got off at the next stop and got on another bus to the train station. Then we had the best train ride of my life. 30 minutes from Tianjin to Beijing. Unfortunately, we were not the only people in Beijing this week.

We arrived at the South Station in Beijing and it was gorgeous outside. We needed to take the north exit, go to the bus 102 and then ride all the way to our hostel. One problem. We couldn't exit the north exit due to construction. Therefore we walked out of the station and had to walk around. However, we needed to walk a mile to get around the tracks and then walk back to get on the bus. So instead (after walking about two miles trying to find a way around the station) we decided to take a taxi. He did not know where to go. So I called David Langley, a local Worker in Beijing. His wife (who is Chinese) couldn't explain to the taxi driver where it go. I decided to show him the bus stop we were to get off. We were on our way. I was so tired from travelling, I fell asleep in the front. Then I heard, "is that the right one? Graham, tell the driver that is the right one. Graham! Graham!" I woke up and could barely see straight, but pointed in some direction until I saw the sign to our hostel. He drove us right to it and we checked in. No problem. This was around 12. At 12:30 we decided to go to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. David would meet us there to give a Lonely Planet book (the lifeblood of travelers) and eat lunch with us. We started to walk towards the square and then we saw them. The sea of black hair. We came closer to the square. The sea grew. We arrived in Tiananmen Square. Going underground to cross a street took 10 minutes. We had to cross 4. At 1:45 we finally made it to the entrance. What would normally take 15-20 minutes took 75! David waited for an hour!

We were starving. After eating an expensive lunch at the Forbidden City, we decided it was too late to go inside, so we (I) decided to go to the underground city. So we hopped into three buggies and took off. There was one thing we forgot to do: bargain the price. That’s when the worse thing happened. The ride took about 10-15 minutes.

When we arrived, the underground city was closed for renovation. While deciding whether to get out or go back, we asked the drivers how much to pay them. They said 200 RMB (about $27) per buggy which meant 600 RMB ($81) total. Of course, we were not going to pay it. So I said 10 RMB ($1.50) per buggy. They began to argue and yell at us. We told them we were teachers and knew how much to pay. They came down to 150 then 100 each. Bekah gave one driver 20 RMB ($2.70) and then walked away. The rest of us walked away, too; however, Jade was left behind. They pushed him against a buggy and held his arm. I saw him and walked back very forcefully to get him. They let him go I took his hand and pulled him to the others. That left me as the last person. The drivers grabbed my hand and blocked me with their arms up. In football, they teach us to do a spin move when someone is blocking you. So I did one. They were so surprised it took them a second to realize I got passed them. They ran back to block me again and I did another spin move. This time they were not amused. They thought I was mad, so they baited me with fists. They wanted me to hit them so they could hit me back then get me in trouble. Obviously, I was mad but not stupid. By this time, another foreigner who had his driver ask for too much money called a police officer over. The police officer came over and talked to the drivers and then talked to us. We gave the drivers 20 RMB each and walked away. Next time, he suggested, we should call him earlier. Next time we’ll negotiate the price before we get in.

Not wanting to experience more interesting things, we went to Outback and ate ribs, steak and salad. After a walk on Wangfujing street (the Time Square of Beijing) we went back to our hostel and went to sleep. The moral of this story: When going to the national capital of the most populous country, pack a lunch.