The weather is sunny with blue skies from the day I arrive. Gradually misty cooler overcast overtakes but not smog. It’s the national holiday, a week off for the toiling masses who leave Beijing to visit family or vacation, leaving the massive city deserted, abandoned to the locals and stray visitors who wander leisurely.
The streets are immaculate, the cars pass in orderly lines without honking horns. The drivers politely refrain from pressing against your leg if you cross in front of them. They park in proper places that are clearly marked on the side of the street leaving the sidewalks unobstructed. Peddlers were banned from most public places a couple of years ago.
Some shops are closed, their owners having taken the week off. Many more are open, selling clothes, phones hardware and services like haircuts and massage. The big malls are busy as usual but with fewer clothes.
My emotions are loose, raining tears, nose snuffles, eyes blur. Weishenme? Perhaps it’s the aroma of hong cha hui nai he tang or is it the breezy guitar tape playing over the casual conversation of the American girls breakfasting two booths away or the Asian boy playing hockey puck with his dad.
After working a few hours on my blog I go out and travel by subway to the Lufthansa Center to meet Volker Muller at the European Union Chamber of Commerce. We sit in the intimate conference room with a view within the quiet office. Dear reader, are you wondering what’s Chery doing now? Volker, his Chinese name Mi Fu, is wondering the same thing!
Before leaving on this trip, I sent messages via LinkedIn to several Beijing contacts. He is one who responded and gets high marks for friendliness and networkability. The interview extends to a prolonged lunch where we discuss what seems to be everything under the sun regarding Europe, the US and China business before revolving to book publishing. In conclusion, I provide him with my CV [curriculum vitae] for two possible job opportunities for which Chery is qualified!
Driving to the Saga Hostel during rush hour yesterday took two hours. The holiday is over and the millions of Beijingers are back to work. Blue, blue sky, the way I remember, welcomes me back from DPRK.
This time my room is on the third floor. I share common WC for women, my first experience like this in a long time. I fasten a towel around my hips and head for the shower.
I thought my internet would be fixed by the time I returned from Pyongyang, but I find it is worse ─ no Skype with husband or son ─ no connection to my Squarespace site. The phone, though, can access my Gmail.
This morning the museli comes with toasted pumpkin seeds, cubed red dragonfruit with black specks and walnut halves. I pause in writing as tears crowd my eyes and I shudder in a silent sob. Blurry vision. I’m so affected by the DPRK trip. I remember the sweet people. Please world people, let’s stop with the lies and hatred and the ineffective banking sanctions. Love and peace please!! Fortunately music in the bar covers one strangled sob. I dab at my eye and can’t see to write. I’m begging. Stop the hatred for these DPRK people.
Today I take the subway to Beihai North to view the dagoba. It sits on the edge of the presidential compound called Zhongnanhai. It is surrounded by a high wall, metal gates, guards and police. Stepping in a hole, I bung up my foot. I hope its okay by morning.
This morning it’s cooler with slight overcast. David and I take the bus to meet Mr Mark for lunch. He’s the Beijing Travel Agent handling things for Korea International Taekwando Travel Company, or KITTC, on this side.
At the noodle shop: New words: Qing, bu yao jia wei jing. 请不要加味精 Meaning: Please, no MSG.
The staff welcomes me with enthusiasm and delivers in minutes xiao noodles wei la, bu che rou he jia wei jing and fruit soda for 16Y or $2.62.
A Spanish man from Madrid enters the shop. In a few minutes he joins me. Surprise, he’s also a writer, having completed five novels. His most recent is about a love triangle between two men and a woman.
While sitting on the terrace catching up on dear diary, a German woman wanders out in pajamas. She is in the automotive business on holiday.
Women from the hutong are tending the garden in high heels, picking peppers and greens. A bumblebee trundles by at my elbow and rumbles into a hedge of roses. Hand laundry hangs on racks at the far corners of the terrace. The gardener in a red shirt, a large, handsome man with the Han face, joins the ladies.
A hostel guest, a tall, good-looking European man, carries his hand wash to hang followed by a hutong lady with her day’s laundry in plastic bags and an armful of wire hangers. A slight breeze flutters the clothes and a stray leaf.
Yi huir jian!