I woke to rain this morning on the train from Beijing to Wuchang. I’ve always wanted to ride in a sleeper car. I shared my room with three lovely women, all teachers for the WUSIEP English language program based out of The Ohio State University. My husband is teaching, and I’m tagging along. I’m working on a new novel, teaching a fiction workshop at Hankou University, and visiting friends in Nanjing and Taiwan. This is my first time in China–strange and wonderful so far.
We missed our first connection out of Chicago, so we lost a day of touring. Didn’t get to see the Forbidden City or Tian’anmen Square, but we did walk the Great Wall and visit the Hutong neighborhoods (built over 750 years ago!). Then we attended a Chinese Tea ceremony in the Bell Tower, headed off to dinner, and then caught the train in Beijing station for Wuchang.
I read several books before coming to China, so I felt a little prepared. River Town, Oracle Bones, China A to Z, and Lost on Planet China all gave me good insight into coming to China for the first time. Some things, though, you’ve just got to see for yourself. Here are a few of my first China moments: two sweet Chinese boys engaging us in conversation in the Park Plaza Hotel in Beijing so they could practice their English (Hao, Ken and Max!)… a clear view for miles around (no smog due to a recent rain, thank goodness) along the Wall… lots of great people-watching on the Wall, including an old grandmother in dance heels and beehive hairdo and a beautiful girl in a white dress with two gold medallions hanging on her wrist from a red ribbon and a young father running downhill (very steep) with his toddler on his shoulders… a woman who wouldn’t take no (buyao) for an answer in the Hutong Square (trying to sell me fans) and followed me screeching Buyao! until I turned around and stared at her… too many Chinese-style toilets (squatting over a stainless-steel hole in the floor).
I’ve made lots of new friends – American and Chinese – on this trip. One of my new American friends, Josh, is going to write a book called Learning to Love, Learning to Poke, which is all about joking with your sweetheart… or is it? Stay tuned to find out.
I’m on day three of China time, only a few steps ahead of the jet lag jag. I woke up at 1am last night, thinking it was time to get up. Thirteen hours is a big change. Time for a nap, I think. No music this time–my tired brain can’t figure out how to upload Youtube videos yet. Soon.