Shaken , not stirred in China


First big day on my own in downtown Beijing and I’m so excited to go see Forbidden City and Tienneman Square!

It’s walking distance from the hotel and I’m up early, confident, deodorized and pottied (that is a big deal here for Western ladies not accustomed to squat toilets).

I walk.

And walk.

And go through police checkpoint after checkpoint, having a newfound appreciation for “illegal search and seizure”.

And I walk.

Then realise that I’m now at a subway stop.

I’ve gone too far.

I suppose I was expecting to see night herons or escaped zoo animals.

I consult the Chinese paper map. No landmark for forbidden city. Just Tienneman.

I text my husband via WeChat app since FB is banned here.

I head back East, merrily backtracking until I get to the Chinese “White House”.

Suddenly, the police begin yelling, waving arms, running at me and a few others and motioning for us to run and go back!

I’m freaking out.


Prison in store for itching my head?

We’re all confused. I text my husband about what happened. He freaks and calls.

I’m reassured by our kind Chinese American friend by phone that it’s probably an event or motorcade or something going on, clearing the area.

After a few minutes, a young policeman comes up to me and asks where I’m headed. I don’t know how to say “forbidden city” yet, but do have a photo from driving by the other day. I had it all along.

He points me in the right direction. It’s ACROSS from Tienneman! Doy!

When I get there, the lines are huge, the crowds have swelled to Disneyland hell size and it’s hot as Hades. I’m completely shaken, remembering the bomb that went off near our hotel in Lima, Peru in 1986. My confidence is totally drained. Hardly any food yesterday, none today and I’m on the verge of tears.

I feel like I have failed.

The National Museum: I can go there. Food, AC.

I wait in line an hour.

Older, unsophisticated men with tee shirts that read “Parfashion Dior” or “Miamibeaches Play” siddle, hoping to catch a glimpse of the strange-looking American with blonde hair and blue eyes.

I think “I hope I never have the urge to get a tattoo that really reads ‘stinky tofu'”.

There are no signs that I can read. I need a paper ticket.
I go into the tiny ticket room.
I need a special Chinese ID for the free paper ticket.
The young girl motions for me to go into the next line.
30 minutes later, told to go to yet ANOTHER line.

I have had it.



I wonder how the food deprivation plus heat has affected my mind-disoriented, deflated.


I’m usually quite fearless.

Does that come from food and not any fat stores of my non-donkey booty? Dopamine and other chemical weaponry in my arsenal?

Today is a new day.

A proper dinner of Hunan spicy beef last night.

And 2 green tea cakes.

My travel scale (calibrated to meniacal nurse) reads that I’m up 2 lbs.


Egg white omelette with bacon this morning. Passport in hand-ready for checkpoints and an early start.

Travel scale or not, I feel ready to face the day.


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