Thursday, September 20, 2012

back in beijing

me and christoffer
instead of taking the train back to beijing i flew. it was about the same price, and twenty eight hours shorter.
the night before my flight i met up with my friends who had just finished the mongol derby. one of them had the same flight as me. so christoffer (who came in 4th in the derby!) and i set off for beijing the next night. when we arrived in beijing christoffer asked if i wanted to share a taxi into the city.
i explained that i was couchsurfing and told my hosts i would be taking a bus to where they live.
christoffer wasnt having any of this ridiculous 'bus' business, and insisted on a taxi.
we consulted a map and figured out that we were both headed in the same general direction.
christoffer was headed into the heart of the city to go pick up suits from a tailor. then he had to find a place to stay for the night.
he asked where i was going.
"couchsurfing" i said with a smile.
he didnt know what it was. i explained all about it. which i now do with pleasure. but every time i talk about it, it always sounds like im trying to get someone to join a cult.
"youve got to try it"
"everyone is amazing"
"ive told my friends about it and they joined - you should too..."
christoffer was intrigued.
when we got to the tailors i gave him my cs'ers phone number in case he needed help with something. i wished him luck with the suits, finding a place to stay, and his flight home to sweden in the morning. i also reminded him that if he got stuck, he could always call my host and they most likely would welcome him for the night if he was in a pinch. we hugged, said our goodbyes and then i was off in search of yue (the mom) and tong (the dad).
yue and tong sent me an offer to host me on couchsurfing after seeing an open couch request i had posted for beijing.
yue and tong are around my mom and dads age. they live in an apt in central beijing. they have one daughter who is a couple years older than me.
when the cab driver and i left the tailors i gave him tong's cell number to call so she could navigate us to her location. it worked like a charm. i could hear her on the other end of the cabbies phone rambling off directions in mandarin. and it worked. soon enough it was about 10pm and the cab had pulled over. i thanked him profusely and handed him the fare. when i turned to open my door i saw a short chinese women with a huge smile, nodding and opening my door for me. it was tong.
"hi!!! i made it!" i said while wrapping her up in a big canadian hug. which, by the way is by far the best greeting. screw europe and their stupid one, two and three cheek kisses, or the ever popular handshake. a hug is where it's at. and im a good hugger. i like to showcase my skills early on.
i released tong. she thanked the cab driver, helped me swing on my pack and we were off.
on the walk to her apartment i explained how my flight was. that i had taken the cab with my friend christoffer from sweden.
"from sweden?" tong asked.
"yes, gothenburg" i replied. and then replayed my answer over in my head to make sure i didn't say gotham city, a common slip - surprising for a non batman fan such as myself. although i could go for christian bale in a tight black suit any day.
"is he visiting beijing for a while?"
"nope, just picking up some suits and then finding a place to stay for the night before his flight in the morning"
"he doesnt know where he is staying?"
me and yue in front of their apt
"nope, he was considering a hostel, hotel, and was even going to try using charades to ask the tailor shop if he could sleep in the shop until they open in the morning"
 "what a shame, you could have told him he could stay here"
"well i did give him your number in case he got stuck, or needed help translating with the tailor, so he might call"
"it would be nice to practice my swedish" tong said as we entered the apartment.
"practice your what? speak swedish?"
"didnt you see in our profile? we used to live in sweden, i even have studied swedish, and our daughter had lived in sweden since she was ten"
i couldn't believe my ears. christoffer would loose his mind.
tong opened the apartment door.
"we are home!"
and from around the corner popped yue with a plate full of sliced peaches. he helped me off with my pack. and we all sat in the living room. well, yue and i sat at first. tong raced about the kitchen preparing plates and plates of food to offer me. i felt like royalty.
i was still excited and intrigued about the swedish factor. i was asking so many questions they could hardly keep up. i explained christoffer and the tailor, and i asked about their daughter, and why sweden, and for how long. and then the phone rang.
tong whipped her head in my direction and smiled.
she answered her phone in english.
and then the phone was handed to me.
"think i can come stay with you tonight? would they mind?" asked christoffer.
i looked up into the eager and awaiting faces of tong and yue.
"when can you get here?" i asked with a smile.
then i handed the phone back to tong who then gave more directions to a cab driver christoffer had hailed. and within twenty minutes, christoffer too was sitting in their kitchen being stuffed with tea and freshly sliced peaches.
that night was a whirlwind of excitement. we stayed up talking late into the night. no one could really believe the chances of this group of people finding each other. especially christoffer, who now has a strong appreciation for my cult like love of couchsurfing. and the wonders it produces.
the morning came too soon. we all had more of a nap, instead of a nights sleep before we all woke for christoffers send off.
tong made us a big breakfast and we all left the apartment and walked christoffer to his cab for the airport. cameras in hand for a round or eight, of goodbye photos. 
 i spent the next four days becoming tong and yues 'white' daughter. i loved the position. family meals three times a day. family swims each night before dinner. even all three of us would cuddle up on the couch after dinner to watch tong's favorite chinese soap opera. beijing youth. even without subtitles i was able to follow the story line and become an addict.
pre-dinner swim at a lake near their home
tong and yue treated me like family. they helped me buy tickets online for my upcoming train rides. making sure i got good sleeper cars. tong even had a friend at the post office who got me a sweet deal on sending a package home. my stay with them was perfect. it satisfied a homesickness need i didnt realize was there. 

tong helping me send a pkg home
i dont think the world is a small place. that common saying is a little off. actually, it is a lot off.
the world is a huge place.
a huge place full of people that will surprise you.
surprise you with kindness. with hospitality. with generosity. with knowledge. with time. with stories.
and i really do love a good surprise.
when i have experiences like this one with christoffer, tong and yue, it really makes me think.
it doesnt matter where i am.
it is the people that make my trip.
goodbye dinner
sure being on the wide open plains in mongolia was unbelivable. but without the silly belgium, my friend sarah, or my horse henry, it would have just been me with a gorgeous backdrop.
i really do like traveling alone. i like me. i like spending time with me.
but i like those chunks of time to be sprinkled with surprise.
and couchsurfing and travel sure helps with the sprinkles. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing ! I am happy you are back and updating more often