When I think of Beijing, I think of walls. I think of the Great Wall, that fortress meandering over a panoply of mountains surrounding Beijing, built to keep foreign invaders out of China.
Today, foreigners can be found all over Beijing, a city that in 2008 warmly welcomed them to the Olympic Games. But sometimes, no matter how open things seem to be, the walls still remain.
I was hitting a wall of my own in Beijing when I couldn’t get in touch with my Chinese boyfriend, John. It was past nine on the evening of September 28, and he had promised to arrive in Beijing on the morning of September 29. But he hadn’t called to say he would definitely come, or that he had bought a train ticket — and his cell phone had lost power, so I couldn’t call or send a text message. I was in my hotel room, without the distractions of the day — a walk around Tian’anmen Square, a visit to a replica of the home from a Dream of Red Mansions — and all I could think of was this vacation couldn’t move forward without John.
A bath, I thought. Just take a bath. So, as I slipped into the tub — my last refuge from a mental breakdown — and my phone rang. It wasn’t John’s number, but I picked it up.
And, sure enough, it was John. “I just got on the train — I’ll be arriving at 7:45am in the Beijing station.”
Just like that, his words broke through the barriers in my mind. He was coming. Our National Day vacation would happen. We would be together again.
Yet, all of my elation never prepared me for the walls that awaited us, after John arrived. Because, when you’re young, in love, and traveling independently — on a budget — in China, something’s bound to catch you, sometime. Continue reading “Chapter 22: Hitting the Great Wall(s) of Beijing”