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I think I'm going to go for a walk :)
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(Unlike my catch-up posts, this one was written at the time.)
On the whole, things have still been more good that bad, but getting from Chengdu to Xi’an really put a damper on my spirits. More specifically - getting from the hostel to the train in Chengdu and the train to the hostel in Xi’an really upset me. The train ride itself was fine.
I’ll start by saying I wasn’t in the best shape starting off that morning. I’d just gotten over a sinus infection and the antibiotics, which, when added to my unaccustomed use of prednisone, gave me yet another problem. The morning we left I got to go try and explain to the girl at the pharmacy, the guy working with her, and the woman there getting her own stuff what I needed. They don’t have Monistat here. The woman gave me something, which I took and ran. I looked it up before doing anything with it and I’m unclear if it’s treatment or just for the symptoms, but it’s dealing with the symptoms (though it feels a bit like tiger balm, and that is quite uncomfortable for the first few minutes) so I’ll keep with it another day and see if it’s actually clearing things up. We’re not exactly having the most romantic honeymoon.
So, with that setting the stage… We left the hostel with plenty of time to get to the train station and then spent nearly an hour trying to get a cab in the rain. We might as well have been invisible. Worse than invisible. The last cabbie to refuse to pick us up didn’t just content herself with ignoring us, she quite obviously told us off in very loud Chinese through her open window as she sped away after seeing us up close. That disturbed me. Actually, if I‘m being honest, it made me very, very angry. That was the end of us trying to get a cab, especially since plenty of time had now turned into me worrying if we were going to make it.
We ended up getting on an already overcrowded bus with all our stuff, hanging on for dear life and trying not to get us or our stuff slung into some poor soul that was sitting down. Because of the jerky way people drive here it was a more difficult proposition than you may imagine. With my forty (plus) pound pack on my back, the jerking about played hell with my bad shoulder; it was on fire by the time we made it to the train station and I was just generally not doing well.
We made it into the train station with a few minutes to spare and found space for ourselves and our stuff. We didn’t take up a bunch of seats; in fact our stuff was on the floor and I was standing. A man walked over with his three or four year old son and sat down in the seat next Rob… and then had his son sit on the narrow strip of Rob’s seat that he wasn’t sitting in because he was turned toward me. There were plenty of open seats, some right on the other side of me. I was livid. Furiously livid. Not because of the rudeness, but because the man was actively training his son to be rude. I wasn’t speechless, but everything I wanted to say to the man he wouldn’t have understood (or he would’ve and then there would’ve been an incident). So a vented a little bit to Rob and did nothing, which still galls me a bit.
The train ride was uneventful, but I was not anywhere near back in a good headspace when we made it to Xi’an at 530 this morning. Where we were once again completely invisible to the legitimate taxis. Not to the in your face, come with me and I’ll charge you ten times what you should be paying con artists, they were out in force and made sure we knew they saw us, but the actual taxis wanted nothing to do with us. So we started walking, I didn’t want to deal with standing around for an hour trying to get a cab only to end up walking anyway. Rob convinced me to stop and wait for a bus, which was slightly less crowded than the one in Chengdu had been. Of course, we didn’t have a good idea of what our stop was, so we missed it, and all in all ended up walking the equivalent of 90% of the way to the hostel on foot anyway. And my shoulder is still screaming this evening with Hua Shan coming in the morning.
Then there was the internet fiasco. The touted wireless didn’t actually reach our room and wasn’t consistent enough to even connect to in the lobby where it was strongest. The wall outlet, which I was told should be working, wasn’t. After trying and then getting help (and being treated like a moron - is your wireless on? Are you sure? Let me check…) and still not being able to connect, Rob and I went to Starbucks so I could use the internet there (by then it was a mission, so even though I didn’t have anything I really *had* to do I wasn’t giving in). Got to Starbucks, ordered a drink, set up to connect to the wireless. Then discovered that you had to sign up for the free wireless using a Chinamobile phone - which we of course do not have. If I were the crying type I would have been in tears. But I’m generally not, so instead I got completely stony. I was actually beyond my capacity to be outwardly angry. I was just defeated. We got back to the hostel and I paid for the use of the slow as molasses computers in the lobby to check my email and send out a couple messages.
Rob was awesome through the whole mess - his capacity for handling my moods amazes me; and though I really am trying to be less touchy and more resilient there’ve been only minor improvements. Still, he loves me and gets me through; I’m absurdly lucky to have him.
Tomorrow we climb Hua Shan - so for a time at least I won’t have anything to worry about but putting one foot in front of (or above) the other. I’m a little scared given my lack of physical conditioning, but Rob believes I’ll be all right - so I’m going to pretend I do too.
Rob had the idea that to help us prepare for Hau Shan we should take a long walk. Several hours long. I agreed and the next morning we set out reasonably early for the Green Ram Temple. That was the destination we picked as our turn around point. Getting there was a long walk, but not really a problem since all we had to do really was follow the ring road (because a lot of the cities were once fortified towns, many have a central city area, surrounded by a ring road, surrounded by the urban sprawl). It was a temple, basically like every temple we’d been to already. Rob got some pictures, but I didn’t.
The problems started when we headed back. We had decided that instead of going back along the ring road, we were going to follow the river/canal. This seemed like an excellent idea: it would be a much prettier walk, and it was also the long way around by a little bit. We cut through people’s park (which was quite pretty and in retrospect I really wish we’d stuck around and explored) and found the river. Which you cannot, in fact, walk along. We had a map with us, so this wasn’t a problem. We looked at where we were, plotted a course back, and headed that way.
The map of Chengdu we had named the bigger roads - not the hutongs and small streets - and in Chinese cities the names of the roads often changes every few blocks. So finding yourself on a map by looking at what street or crossroad you are on is a lot more difficult than you would expect. Than I expected anyway. It didn’t help that my directional sense is apparently totally dependant on landmarks and doesn’t work for shit in completely unfamiliar places. We got pretty thoroughly lost in about half an hour and I was so turned around that I kept thinking we were going the wrong way. Which understandably frustrated my husband a bit after a while.
We wandered for probably close to an hour and eventually wandered into what I think was a “nicer” neighborhood. Where some kind soul who spoke English saw our confusion (and our open map) and asked if we needed help. He showed us where we actually were on the map (not too terribly far from where we thought, but far enough that we’d have wandered for quite a while longer before finding a main road), and we made our way back to the hostel.
All in all, our long walk took nearly six hours. For the latter half the temps were already in the 90’s. I was a little sunburned, and a little cranky. So Rob gave me no argument when I suggested we stop a block short of the hostel for food.
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