This page has a pocket for storing my passport. You can see the inside of my passport which features some basic information about me and a Psalm. One of its lines has been stuck in my head lately: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." The left hand page has a picture of a mural in San Francisco and some hand-journaled quotes about adventure. The right hand page lists some of the many places I have traveled and proclaims "I am an Adventurer! I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" On the right hand side, I decided to write about an adventure I had while in Beijing. I could only fit a condensed version of the story, but here's the full version for your enjoyment:
My Beijing AdventureIn 1994, my best friend Molly and her family moved to Hong Kong for a year. I went to visit, and during my stay, Molly and I went up to Beijing, China for a short week. At the time, Americans could only go if they booked as part of a tour, although we did have some freedom to wander on our own. We went with our tour group to see Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Imperial Palace, The Summer Palace and The Great Wall. Midway through our hike along the Great Wall, I stopped and purchased an official certificate boasting "I Climbed the Great Wall." The vendors had a huge round stamp, which they applied to my certificate and wrote my name in Chinese characters. Molly didn't want a certificate, instead she convinced the vendors to apply the stamp to her bicep like a tattoo. She refused to wash her arm that day, as she wanted her kids to see the stamp when we got back to Hong Kong.
On our last morning in Beijing, we had some free time to wander on our own. I was determined to go to see one of the museums in Tienanmen Square that I had read about in a guide book. We took the twenty minute cab ride from our hotel to the Square, planning to get back to the hotel in plenty of time to meet our tour group and head to the airport just after lunch time. When we got to the Square, the police were out in force. Many were dressed in riot gear, and there were metal barriers blocking the entrances to many of the buildings. Undeterred, I insisted to Molly that we go to the museum. We located it on our map and walked towards the building, which had a pair of armed soldiers and and several metal gates in front of it. Optimistically, I held up my guidebook and pointed to the photograph of the museum. One of the soldiers raised his hands in front of his face, brought them slowly together and said "Lopen."
"It's open?" I asked.
"Lopen" he replied, again slowly moving his hands together like doors closing, not opening.
I was about to ask again if it was "Open," when the other guard started talking excitedly and pointed at Molly's "tattoo." They grabbed her arm and kept talking. We had the feeling they were asking us questions, but not speaking Mandarin, we really weren't sure. Molly tried explaining it was from the Great Wall, but they didn't seem to understand her. At some point, I said the magic word "Badaling," which is the town where we started our Great Wall tour.
"Aaaah, Badaling. . . " one of the soldiers said, examining the stamp more closely.
Then they laughed at us and moved their attention elsewhere.
Molly looked like she wanted to hit me when I said in all seriousness, "I wonder if any of the museums on the Square are open." She had clearly had enough of the Chinese police, and we decided to head back to our hotel.
We stood on the side of the road trying to hail a cab for about twenty minutes. Plenty of empty cabs rushed by, but none of them would stop for two American tourists now worrying about whether we would ever get back to the hotel in time to catch our flight.
Finally, a cab stopped. We jumped in the back seat, showed him the business card for our hotel, and he took off. Just as quickly, he was pulled over by the Beijing police. Were the police still following us? Had we done something wrong? The driver and officer got into a long, heated conversation. The driver was pulling papers out of a box and showing them to the officer.
Molly glanced at me, pulled a wad of money out of her purse, put it on the seat and said, "let's go."
We jumped out of the cab and ran across the street. We raised our hands to hail a cab. Immediately, a cab stopped and we hopped in. We got stuck in traffic on the way back to our hotel and arrived just in time to join the group as it headed to the airport.
On the flight back to Hong Kong, we tried to unravel what happened. The newspaper revealed that it was the fifth anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Uprising, which accounted for the strong show of force. We think the Police may have thought Molly's "tattoo" was a sign of protest. We now believe that we were trying to hail a cab in an unauthorized zone (or going in an unauthorized direction) and that the first cabbie got stopped for violating a traffic law. We hope we left him enough in the back seat of the cab to cover his fine!