Last day in China: Going down in flames.

Let me paint a picture for you, consider it an analogy to summarize
my final day in China.  Imagine you’re
sitting on your couch, everything is fine, no issues, no problems, and out of
the blue you get a urge to replace the battery of your smoke detector out of a sense
of extra precaution.  You don’t have any
reason to think the battery is bad, but you know you’d sleep better at night
knowing for certain that you have  afresh
nine volt.  Then imagine that somehow
someway while replacing the battery you accidentally set your entire house ablaze
from floor to ceiling.  This is my last
day in China.

 

I went with several members of Team USA to the silk market
to bargain hunt for souvenirs that sort of thing.  Afterward we decided to cab it to Taniman square
for some sightseeing.  While in the cab I
felt it would be best to consolidate my bags to “Ensure I don’t lose
anything”.   Those of you who know me can predict what
happened.  Yes, I left my purse in the
cab.  Purse contents include passport,
credit card, money, and only form of id.
Flight time is roughly in 20 hours.
So I stood back and watched my entire house sup flames from every
direction.

 

Here I am with 10 of my team mates, people who are new to me
who I have nothing but respect and admiration for.  I want to look each one of them in the eye
and tell them “This is so out of character for me!”  What a lie that would be.  I do this sort of thing all the time.  I used to do it about once a week, then I got
better and reduced the frequency to about once a month, now I’m rocking a
steady yearly abandonment of either my purse, keys, or phone.   We all
have traits from our parents that we love, and some we hate.  I get many things from my Dad that are good,
like being able to talk to anyone, or generally being good humored even in
rough times, but this abandonment of important items is one of the bad ones I
got from him.  From my Dad I learned that
there is NEVER a good time to put your wallet on top of the car,  don’t throw your keys half hazardly, and  if your cell phone goes through the washing
maching you have a 50 / 50 chance of recovery.

 

Everyone in my team jumped to my rescue.  Calls were made to the cab company, the
American embassy, friends who live in
Beijing, hotels etc.  Anywhere or
anyone who may be able to offer guidance. Joel backtracked with me to see if I
had left it at security for Taniman , or had recklessly thrown it on the ground
and forgotten doing it, or anything with no luck.

 

I was embarrassed and a little panicked.  I was making back up plan after backup
plan.  We went for dinner to give it some
time and let things settle.  We had sort
of run out of things to do to resolve the problem.    We then took the subway back as a
team.  Immediately upon reaching our stop
we all got confused and split into two groups by mistake.  At this point it’s about 12 hours from my
flight and no word about my purse.  As we
all are exhausted and weary from the day, navigating the streets of Beijing,
getting lost as two groups, Joel gets a text from Travis that my purse has been
found.  So I at least knew someone had it
but I didn’t know who or where it was and we’re lost.

 

We finally give up trying to walk, get a taxi that knows
where we are going, and book back to the hotel.. Our plan was to order a drink,
wait for Travis to clarify, then retrieve my bag.  Travis arrived gave me the hotel number and
the number to the cab driver who had it.
Cab driver didn’t speak any English so I asked one of the triathlon
volunteers to help.  She calls and says
that the phone is off.  I am again panicking.  She diligently keeps trying.  Finally she gets him and runs over to
me.  She seems like it is urgent that I
take a cab to meet him.  I was extremely
confused about why he couldn’t cab it to me if I was willing to pay him.  After lots of confusion I become convinced
that this guy is refusing to give it back to me unless I come to him.  I am assuming he wants something from me for
returning it.  I  borrow 100 RBM from Courtney (thank you
again) and cab over there equally angry, annoyed, confused, and sad that this
really is no one’s fault but my own.

 

Upon my arrival at the Jin Du village I walk into a Cray
scene.  There were roughly 6 police and
government officials holding this cab driver in custody.  The volunteers where really confused.  I was really confused.  I had to sign about 7 pieces of paper that no
one could translate for me.  I had to
take a series of photos including  a
photo of myself with my passport, myself with my purse, a photo of the cab
driver handing off the purse to me, and on and on.  It was insane.   Once I
got the purse back the volunteers gathered around me whispering “check it…”.  I thought there whispers were funny because
it only drew more attention to what they were saying.

 

So now with purse and passport recover I head back to meet
up with the group.  I get there, Courtney
had brilliantly reordered my food for me roughly 20 min before I arrived
again.  As I am eating (10:00 pm)  she mentions that my bike is in Andre’s room
and no one knows where he is.  On to the
next crisis.   Joan tryst to call
everyone we think might be with him.  I
nock on his door, and call his room, and everything I can think of….  No luck.
Now it’s getting to be 11:00 pm, my flight is at 8:00 am.  Bike is not packed or in our possession , we
are not at our hotel we are at the host hotel 30 min away.  Cortney is getting really stressed
(justifiably so) you can feel it from her a half mile away. So I talk to
security.   I relied on the power of
language barrier and ambiguity.  They had
no business giving me a key to his room, but I made it really confusing, and
seemed authoritative, and got a key after all. So I break into Andre’s room and
retrieve my bike.  Now we want to head
back to our hotel to pack and get ready.

 

Break the bike down as much as possible  (thanks to big help from JP).  We try to get a cab, it’s after a 11:00 pm so
the rate has gone from 80 RBM , to 300.
(G*!) I initially argue.  Then the
guy drove away, we asked two different cabs, no one will take us, finally I
relent and we pay the inflated price.

 

The cab driver got lost on the way.  Cortney and I were starting to sleep a
bit.  We wake up, and we are pulling over
on a weird abandon road.   We both kind of freak out  which doesn’t help because this guy doesn’t
understand a word we are saying.  Good
news, he was just really lost.  It was
pretty scary though.  Anyhow he was
turning around, we asked some other driver for direction, and yes we did arrive
at the hotel safe and sound.  We broke
down the bike, packed, in bed by 1:30 am.

 

I woke up at 4:45 to leave for the flight.  Got a cab no problem.  People here are ridiculously nice.  I was sleeping in the car.  The cab driver offered me a cloth that could
have been a cloth napkin to use as a blanket.
The Chinese people are thoughtful as always.  We get to the airport in plenty of time.  I have a bike box, wheel bag, suit case, and
back pack to keep together by myself in the unfamiliar PEK airport.  Let me just say there was some damage
done.  I was standing there trying to
figure out how I was going to do this…..
I Iremembered reading this article years ago about a blind guy who had
been arrested in Germany.  He had been
driving to and from town by driving about 40 yards, then out and walking with
his cane to see what was in front of his car, then getting back in the car to
drive the are he had seen with his cane and repeat.  I figured that was my best bet.  So I walked about 10 feet, used my cane to
see what was in front of me, went  back
to me gear moved it about 10 feet.  What
a hassle, but so far so good.  The issue
was the slideing doors.  I hit one and
broke it.  Repair I have no idea.  I just used the other door and acted like I
had no idea idiot would have broken something like that.

 

Into the terminal and no one has ever heard of delta
airlines.  Oh no!  Finally I decifer that all international
departures go through customs first.  I
get through customs.  I then find a
tourist from Germany who speaks some English.
She directs me to the delta desk.
Upon arrival to the delta station I completely whipe out.  First off my luggage topples sideways.  Complete Timber!!!  Cart everything on it’s side.  I then somehow also fall.  It is now clear that I am serious about
needing some help.

 

Once I collect myself I approach the desk only to findout
that no one really speaks English. Seems like they are trying to tell me that I
can only take on bag and it will be $500 USD for my other bags.  So I run back find my german friend, and ask
her to help.  She doesn’t speak
chineese.  In line behind us is a guy who
speaks german and chineese. (I’m not joking).
So I tell the German girl in English what usually happens, she tells the
German guy, who then tells the attendant in Chineese.  Believe it or not this all works out.

 

They were able to call someone to help me through customs
and security.  At this point my nurves
were shot.  I was tired, exhausted,

and so ready to go home.   For now all fires are out.

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