Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beijing with Al and Whit and Noah and Al

The words "14-hour layover" could conjure some pretty unpleasant feelings. But when a frugal woman sees an affordable flight to Seoul, and those 14 hours happen to be in a city she enjoys very much, it's a less bitter pill to swallow. We began plotting the best way to spend our evening in "cool, breezy Beijing." {-Donny, 30 Rock}

As luck would have it, we learned just days before our departure that our sweet friends and fellow Aggies, Whitney and Alex, are living and working in Beijing. We eagerly planned our night on the Beijing town with the Putnams, but our hopes were dashed when most visa info online suggested it was $140/person to visit the Middle Kingdom regardless of duration. We hopped on the plane with their local number and our fingers crossed, and were greeted at customs with what Noah described as a "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" response.

Passports stamped, we embraced our new found freedom and hailed a cab to Tiananmen Square.

Tian - AHN - men?
TI - an - an - muhn.
Ti - AH - an - MEHN?

I know my Mandarin leaves much to be desired, but we can't be the first foreigners to catch a cab to the most commonly visited destination in Beijing. It was reminiscent of catching cabs back to our village from the city when I was living there in 2005. We'd hop in the Citroen AZ and proceed to attempt every combination of tones and emphases on the syllables "mei-yuan" until we finally landed on something that returned us safely to xué xiào.

But I digress... we remarkably met up with the Putnams ("we'll see you there!" could have been a foolish move, but we found each other pretty quickly), took our pictures with Mao and other people took their pictures with us. 

From there, we resisted starfish, but opted for fruit along the Wangfujing pedestrian street. Then Whitney used her mad Mandarin skills to get us to the Olympic Park. Markedly less confusion with her pronunciation, thank goodness.
After the Olympic sites, we made our way back to their place where they outfitted us in their comfiest Aggie gear and we crashed on their couch in an attempt to head jet lag off at the pass. 

Morning came far too quickly and we were sorry to wrap up such a pleasant visit after just a few short hours. But soon we were returning to the airport and engaging in my favorite international travel ritual: browsing the duty free shop for the most expensive eye cream and moisturizer and pampering my poor airplane air-ed face with the trial bottles.

We couldn't have asked for a better start to our trip - thank you for your very sweet hospitality, Putnams! Xie xie!


melissa said...

You crazy world travelers! I don't know your friend, but please tell her that I think she's super cute. I want to tour Beijing with her. And I'm not weird.

The Sugar Loaf said...

Wow, what a couple you both are. It is my culture night to read your blog and see the beautiful places you travel. Vernal is nice....but......
Glad you are well and enjoying the time you have together always. Isn't it fun to have a mate you love and enjoy being with.
You both look wonderful. Excited to see you in November at the big wedding. How fun it will be! Love you both so much. Herk and Perk from the sticks.

Melissa said...

What!? And you just take a spontaneous trip to Beijing? I adore and envy you two all at once! :) Such a fun life you lead, we need to see each other more just so we can live through all your stories, we're dying to hear them!! I love how you guys think and live and travel and eat up life. Can we vicariously live through you? No really. :) LOVE YOU!