In transit again, I had no idea how I’d cope with/on the next new wonder. Heights are not my thing. Ever. I made note of our bus’s license number since many buses were alike. A zillion people swarmed around us as we prepared to follow on what seemed the only path. Holy Moly. Rooted to the spot at what lay ahead, I imitated a statue; Mary hiked forward.
Even as I screwed up my courage to follow, people turned back. I moved in a trance, neither nervous nor shaking. Signs warned against causing the bridge to swing. It moved plenty for me but I managed moving forward. Don’t look down!
Looking down almost unhinged me. Grown men clutching the railing announced to passersby in a quivering voice, “No way my cup of tea.”
A couple yards near the end, a woman clutched the railing, paralyzed with fear. A man unstitched her fingers and in a calm voice told her to look him in the eye. We all behind them, halted while the two inched forward at turtle speed. Once on terra firma, the woman’s relief and deep exhale engaged us all. How would this older woman make her way back on the return pass?
I cannot believe the pictures I took, tons more than I can share.
I had no preconceived notions regarding the long trip ahead. The Malaysian disappearance, still fresh in the news, I refused to ponder the distance, time, or mystery of sufficient fuel to complete such a long flight. No point in dwelling on what I couldn’t control. I refused to mull over anything—numerous times. Had I allowed my apprehension to take hold, I might have never taken the wild limo ride to the airport.
We boarded a United Airlines Boeing 777 (I think), Flight 851, non-stop as in direct to Beijing. My seat: 41E in Economy (center aisle, middle seat). Sue asleep, I begged the guy on my right to allow exit for a bathroom break and for strolling to keep my blood moving. When both he and Sue snoozed, I climbed over Sue. I watched three or four complete movies (whose titles escape me), began others but lost interest, and read to pass the time. I could not sleep. I’m the type that needs to stay awake to make sure everything is copasetic. The sandman peppered grit into my eyes. Eye drops helped but. not enough.
We had two babies or pre-toddlers who fussed little for which I am grateful. How the mothers managed is beyond me. The couple in the seats on Sue’s aisle side was difficult to ignore. By their appearance and attire, we guessed they were Amish or Mennonite. One seat was empty, which afforded the wife to lie across the seats her head in her husband’s lap. She had the nastiest head cold and coughed and sneezed the whole way. It’s a wonder her ears weren’t plugged for how could she fly?
Smushed in the middle seat, I juggled my purse, the offered pillow and blanket, a light jacket (it got cold off and on), my book and/or my iPad, I had little room to manoeuvre. Arms tucked in close to my body, I realized why sardines don’t have elbows either. I’d worn full body compression wear beneath my yoga pants and top as a precaution again swelling. My feet sweat in my running shoes, though. Had I been born double-jointed, it might have been easier to untie them.
As the engines roared, I crammed the pictures and stories from the movies into every corner of my brain to restrict anxious thoughts. The fellow on my right watched our flight progress on the screen instead of movies. I noticed our flight path headed upwards to Alaska instead of due east and assumed we were lost. My seatmate noticed my near-panic and explained, but what I heard was garbled. My brain refused to process the information. I believe he said something about gulf-stream.
We’d eaten three meals and downed countless glasses of water. An hour or two before Beijing, I speculated the water tank (rain barrel?) must have ran low for the water tasted swampy. I cut myself off. It stuck in my throat. Yuck.
Thirteen hours and 35 minutes elapsed. Beijing airport materialized at last and our imminent descent announced. All window shades were thrown up with enthusiasm but no-one clapped on landing. I wanted to applaud and then kiss the ground. The time difference threw me. I hadn’t expected daylight although I knew we were to land at 3:40 p.m.
Has our luggage made it from Toronto?
We deplaned with the couple we’d met in Chicago, Russ and Bonnie from Wasaga Beach. Russ, who had memorized the layout of the humongous airport, helped us find the baggage claim. Shortly afterward, we met Jim and Carolyn from Ottawa. Our tour guide, Robert, holding a sign: English 8, awaited us. Ernesto and Lorena from Mexico arrived a half-hour later. Sue and I made eight. By 4:30, we headed to our hotel by tour bus.
I’ve been held up doing the rounds since I started poking around a bit yesterday. Thank you for the lovely e-mails over the summer although I avoided my keyboard most of the time. I wasn’t home much and at times my laptop was broken under attack of one kind or another.
I confess the summer vanished much too quickly. Whoosh! You cannot believe the trying circumstances situations I found myself in time and again. Nothing like a little excitement to keep the old ticker going, or more likely, almost squash it like a plum.
The top three headliners of my summer were:
I got hacked (cost over $200 to clean laptop but no banking information lost and new cards now)
The same tooth abscessed twice. After antibiotics, a week later, again. Had it pulled. Lots of problems afterwards. Ouches.
Windows10 messed up laptop. Best Buy removed and now Windows 8.1 again. Desktop was okay, but Windows 10 messed that up yesterday.
I won’t bore you with the rest of it.
Some pluses were spending a couple days with one sister and a couple more in cottage country with all four sisters.
Now, I n.e.e.d. a vacation. My fourth sister to retire did so in April and when I heard her ‘thinking’ how to celebrate, I was in. Snap! Yeah like that and asked point blank where she wanted to go and I was coming.
We are going to Newfoundland and Labrador soon. Exchange rates for the Canadian dollar are heart-stopping and I’m glad Mary found something domestic. Sigh. A vacation is a vacation—no, she’s not paying… Maybe I should have negotiated that small detail. *giggles* This sounds an amazing corner of Canada with mind-boggling views.
There you have it. I’ll be flitting in and out for the next week and a half and then take to the sky and away for a couple weeks.
I appreciate all of your welcomes and smiles. Feels like I’ve been away from home, but now I’m back.
When I come back, my worth ethic will change. Instead of clearing the decks (e-mail, blogging, commenting) first thing every day, I won’t get to any of that till much later in the day. I may not be a constant as before, but I plan to visit every chance I get.
What’s with WordPress making unwanted changes again? I don’t like Reader and I’ve noticed now one follows in Reader. Sheesh. Another thing: why makes the menu bar spastic and how does one stop it?
This week’s prompt: …the scent was overpowering… + 100 words
First a wisp, then the smoke billowed denser and angrier.
“Boys? Georgie? His mother peered through the doorway across the rolling fields and trees. “Georgie!”
She dashed inside, rang the fire-hall, and face alabaster, charged out again. Two boys hooted and swayed towards her in drunken fashion.
“You okay? How’d the fire start?” The twelve-year-olds howled with ridiculous laughter. She grabbed each by an arm and tugged towards home. “We’ll talk later. Better hope the house doesn’t catch fire.”
The wind shifted and the scent was overpowering. Fire bells clanged nearby. The odor seemed familiar, yet… “Lordy. Someone’s marijuana crop’s burning in our backyard.”
We woke at 6:25, dressed without showering and headed for early breakfast. After the cancelled excursions the past two days, I noticed passengers appeared antsy to go on the Shibaozhai trip, scheduled for 7:45 a.m., weather permitting. No cancellation was announced at breakfast. By the time we arrived in our rooms, a reminder blared over the PA to anyone leaving the ship to pick up a ship’s pass. The tour was on.
Sue proceeded to take a shower after breakfast as I plopped into the chair at the desk. The outing hadn’t interested me because of the damp drizzle with or without an umbrella.
My heart stopped. I glanced out the balcony doors and gulped. A ship coasted towards us and I knew we were going to crash. I leaped to my feet. I don’t know why. Not unlike a pillar of cement, I froze poker straight expecting the inevitable crash. We were going to die and there was nothing to do about it.
The drifting stopped mere inches away. How did they do that? Everything trickled rain: the balcony floor, the railings and chairs. I read the name on the side: President Cruise. It was smaller than ours, old and rusty. Curtains hung haphazardly missing hooks on rods. Clothes lines strung with laundry crisscrossed inside the rooms so close I could have reached across and pulled them off—maybe not quite—but too close for comfort. The Chinese passengers who came out on the back deck (the poop deck, I think) to see what was happening didn’t appear well-off.
A third ship moved alongside the second one, bigger than both of us: the Century Emerald. It drew closer and closer. The curtains pulled back, windows on the main deck revealed a fancy dining-room featuring round tables draped with milk-white cloths and bright yellow chair covers featuring bows on the back. The third ship floated towards the one between us. I waited for the crunch. It didn’t come. I watched a female cleaner (maid?) wipe down the railings on one of the balconies. What a hard worker, but why bother with this useless task?
The fumes were suffocating and the engines noisy even through the closed door.
The Chinese boat moved away in the opposite direction. Once again I held my breath as the Century Emerald inched towards us so close I could almost touch their balcony railings if I stepped out and leaned forward. A few curious international passengers on the Emerald watched us for a while. I wondered which of us were watchers watching the watchers. Soon, they returned to their rooms and closed the curtains. Maybe we weren’t that interesting.
The temperature in our room reached a high of 24, the highest since we boarded. I opened our curtains and doors again for fresh air, but not for long. The noisy engines were deafening. Why run them? Weren’t we anchored? The ships remained side-by side like strangers on a first date.
Sue lay on the bed reading with her swollen feet up on the headboard (actually the mirror above it). She’d suspected the moveable bubble above her toes might be blood. If she’d had a needle, she’d have drawn out the liquid. I suggested she see the ship’s doctor, but she refused.
Twice in ten minutes, Housekeeping came to make up our room. We offered to do it ourselves, but that wasn’t allowed. I noticed I’d become lazy since we boarded. What’s wrong with some down time after all the running around we did the first eight or nine days after our arrival in China?
A Captain’s Bridge Tour was announced over the PA, but I felt too lazy to move. Maybe I was still feeling the effects of our near crash. A different language presentation was scheduled every quarter hour from 10:00 to 11:15 in French, English, Chinese, Spanish and German—not specifically in that order. The interruptions soon became a nuisance.
* * *
Next on January 23rd: On the Yangtze Day 16, Part 7 (Ghost City and Stairway to Hell) + More
For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page
The Wu Gorge was on our schedule for 4:30 p.m. with dinner on our return at 8:30. However, the day turned wet with light rain and mist by midday. A PA announcement advised dinner changed to 5:30 with departure at 6:30. Adding insult to injury, dinner was then rushed to end at 6:00 with the same departure time. I wondered if this was a worthwhile endeavor because of the wet spray and low ceiling clouds. I thought maybe an adventure awaited and against my better judgement, rushed to catch the bus with our group.
Robert, our first guide in Beijing, had another group on-board. When we left for the Three Gorges Dam, he took the English Group 8 under his wing. A local man, Max, was our bus excursion guide. I don’t believe he knew how to do anything but smile and appear happy. Even over the loud speaker, his soft voice and thick accent were difficult to understand and he wasn’t informative. At one point, Robert pitched in to help.
The weather grew more miserable as we continued. We arrived after an hour or so. Already, it was too dark to see anything but we were hustled into the Visitor Center. The women had the Happy House as the first order of business. We lined up for tickets to see the indoor replica of the gorge. It was beautiful and I took photos.
My hands shook with excitement, grateful we’d arrived safely, and ecstatic to see this perfect model (the reason for these shaky pictures).
The real deal wasn’t in the cards. Whose idea was it to go ahead with this tour so late? Might anyone be anything but dissatisfied? I was, wouldn’t you be?
All manner of souvenirs we’d seen everywhere were displayed in the gift shop: pearls, various colors of jade, tee shirts, as well as books about the Gorges. Ten minutes to shop and then outside into the drizzle with the local guide (Max) to the observation area, which I couldn’t make out. The pillars he pointed out were swathed in mystery like in a bad Sci-Fi movie, similar to Mount Olympus in the clouds, all mist and vapor with an inky black void below.
Robert announced our urgent return by 9:30 because the ship had been scheduled to go through the locks by 1:00 a.m. I had doubts about the bus tires in the rain as we rushed back. What a waste of another hour plus the cost of gasoline.
Rain, and dark proved to be bad companions for an enjoyable tour. I decided to disregard negative feelings, but in truth I should have paid attention to my gut. The trip was a waste of three-and-a half-hours driving in rain and biting my nails to stubs.
Upon our return, crew members with flashlights lit our way back from the bus to the ship because of the dark and slippery conditions.
“Watch your step.”
“Watch your step. Be careful.”
“We missed you.”
Cheesy, I know, but I was miserable, and couldn’t help half-believing the words after I’d heard them a half-dozen times. Jokingly, I said, “I missed you too.”
Weird what wet weather and misery will force me to do. I almost believed their words—not.
~ * ~
Next on January 9: On the Yangtze River: Day 15, Part 5 (the locks)
For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page
This week’s prompt is…and so it begins… +100 words
Tom kicked the night table. “Lousy life.” The lamp crashed to the floor, yanked back by its cord. “Time for new coordinates.” He grabbed the whiskey bottle before it tipped. The neck tight in his fist, he guzzled the last mouthful and slammed it on the dresser.
His head snapped at the urgent fist on the door.
“That your car on fire?”
Outgrown hair shoved aside, Tom snatched his knapsack and dashed to the bathroom window. Sweat streamed from every orifice. “Come-on, come-on.” He grunted and heaved.
The front door exploded.
And so it begins again. The Witness Protection Plan doesn’t work.
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