Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the first twenty-four

sensory overload.
when i got to beijing i got off to a bad start. i had my perfect little post-it note of directions frmo the airport to the hostel via two easy swings of the subway. but after i bought my ticket and went through the bag scanners (who knew they had scanners for a subway...not a kid from wolfville) i was asked if i had a knife. sure did, my leatherman. i am afterall i master woodsmen. so i was refused entrance to the subway. i had to go return my ticket. which was an ordeal and a half because i kept saying return but the only english word they knew for what i wanted was refund...which took me far too long to figure out. it also made me very aware of how much europe and even thailand teased me with their basic knowledge of english. for the rest of the day i found myself using hand gestures and trying my best without butchering the to pronounce the streets i was trying to find. after being refused on the subway i had to make my way to a bus which lengthened the twenty minute journey to two hours, and three transfers. after the first hour and a half bus ride, and spending ten sweaty minutes walking along side a major highway looking for my next bus, i gave up and headed for the only route i knew, the subway. i pulled a sneaky and put my knife into my sports bra, so that it wouldn't come up when i put my bags though the scanner. i was right! with ease i made it to my next destination. and during the quick five minute journey i basked in the airconditioned, yet packed train cars. i walked the ten minutes as mapped out on my post-it from the last train stop to my hostel.
after getting settled, and by settled i mean showering off the layer of sweat, and skyping mom and dad, i went for a stroll. i was in search of food not sold on skewers in the street (for now) and cold cold water. after meandering past men who walk with their shirts above their belly as if they got stuck on their way completely off, hearing street vendors shouting their products at me, and seeing so many tourists snapping their cameras, i found a little restaurant with locals only inside. i went in a was greeted by an excited girl, around my age. she was thrilled to practice her english. i ordered a basic, veggie dumplings. they kicked all dumplings i've ever had butts. the waitress brought a younger girl to sit with me. im assuming it was her sister. she told me they were from mongolia. i got out my journal to show her the map i drew of mongolia and where i want to go. she was smiling constantly. i got out my itouch and let her flick through photos of fmaily and friends. and while i ate she would ask me qustions. where? who? friends?
after dinner i practiced my first chinese and said goodbye. which they were delighted to hear me practicing. then i headed back towards my hostel. on the way i remembered that loraines cousin mike had mentioned something about leo hostel. it was right beside mine. so i went in. loraines cousin mike has been traveling the world for over twenty years. by the end of this year he will have been to every country. he has kind of been like a travel idol. i follow his adventures on facebook and through his colorful emails. and last week i saw that he was going to be in beijing at the same time as me so we planned to meet up. and that we did. when i walked into his hostel i saw him right away. i walked up, introduced myself and joined him for couple beers and a couple hours of exchanging unreal travel stories. i hope to see him again over the next week, while he is waiting in beijing for his north korea visa to come through.
and that was pretty much my first day. right now it is early. i am heading to find the mongolian embassy today in hopes of getting my visa started.
and i am still looking forward to that moment like i experienced in switzerland. i had been traveling for about two months already, and then one day out of nowhere it hit me. i was walking down a street in lausanne towards a great big lake in the middle of the alps and it hit me like a wave. you are alone, you are traveling, this is it, you are in it now. i have a feeling that moment will come a lot quicker this time, but i am twenty-four hours in and still waiting.

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