When I’m traveling, I tend to blindly assume everything’s going to come out all right. There won’t be mice in this bathroom! Of course we’ll get off this island! Sure this is the right bus! But traveling with Zorro is an endless list of bad things that could happen. What if there are no taxis when we get out? What if they cancel our flight because of bad weather?
Our adventure was somewhere between my daydream and Zorro’s warnings. Our first flight was about 2 1/2 hours late. Apparently the American Embassy in Beijing closes from 12 to 2, and as we watched the clock get closer to noon and our taxi’s meter increase, it was getting more and more like a mad dash to the embassy, like in a movie.
The taxi driver dropped us off at the beginning of a maze of embassies, and we had to show our passports to several guards to get into the complex. If I actually was running to the embassy for santuary, I’d be a citizen of Finland now. By following the guard’s directions, Zorro and I found ourselves standing outside the wrong embassy. There was a big shiny gate, actually they polish that gate every day to protect the Finnish. (Bethie, I wish you were here!)
When we found our way through a maze of broad, tree-lined avenues, all alike, Zorro’s paperwork was quick and painless. We were out of American Citizen Services in under an hour and it was time to get on with my real business in Beijing.
Can I just mention how much I love traveling with Zorro? First of all, his Chinese is way better than mine. Second, waitresses, flight attendants, security guards, taxi drivers don’t know what to make of a Chinese American. No one knows whether to address him in Chinese or English. Except for service people ignoring me to speak to him, it’s great.
The real purpose of the trip, for me at least, was to eat decent food. I remember once trying to talk Stick and some of the Griffon Games boys out of eating at Subway, but in Beijing? I was so excited to see an (almost) English menu and real bread and boneless chicken and cheese! We also went to a TCBY and a Pizza Hut.
And we went to the grocery section of the Friendship Store. This is a mythical place, previously known like Atlantis or Shangri-la, in persistant but unproven rumors.
There was bread. Cereal. Cheese. Not the Kraft singles that you can get at the Jiajiayue, either. Cheddar, edam, brie, gouda. It was amazing. I asked Zorro not to stand near me when I checked out, but he did and he’s still laughing about how much I spent. Only the embarrassment of being broke at my parents’ arrival next week stopped me from buying more.
In the airport, going home, security had never seen or heard of Nutella, and Zorro and my combined Chinese vocab was useless here. I really should learn to say “delicious spreadable chocolate hazelnut food”. Finally, they determined it wasn’t explosive or inflammable, and we were allowed to board our flight home.