Memories of China

I remember that obtain my visa was a big adventure! I wasn’t really attracted by this country, but I was curious to see…

We were in Oulan Bator and we collected all the papers we need to have to do this chinese visa. I still remember this charming chinese woman at the embassy desk, her high voice, she was screaming on everybody. We understood that there was a problem, cause she was yelling on everybody.

Once we arrived on a front of her, it was the same for us. I remember her words : “Invitation! You need an invitation”.I was asking why and she was repeating : “You need a chinese invitation!”And me : “But I don’t know any chinese, I just want visit your country!”

But she was obstinate, I was trying to stay calm, but I was annoyed, she was so disagreable, but it was not possible to make trouble in the chinese embassy… That was not a good idea! So I said nothing.
We learned that the rules had just change one week ago! We were lucky! Why? Nobody knew. We learned also that Tibet was forbidden to tourists! The borders were closed.. Apparently the government didn’t want us on the country.

The chinese visa is one of the most binding to obtain, you must give all your details to the government : your bank account, your flight tickets to enter and go out of the country, differents ID, your program in the country… Many things…

But new rule : we needed an invitation about a chinese guy writing in mandarin, signed by his hand and all his details also…

After few advices, we went back to the travel agency where we made fake flight tickets for free. Yes fake one! That’s common to obtain a chinese visa, you need to book flight tickets that’s prove your entrance and your exit of the territory. So you have no choice you make fake one.
All these things were ridiculous cause we will entered by bus in the country, and leave it by plane with an other flight ticket.

This agency couldn’t help us for the invitation. But they told us to go to the chinese restaurant, to try. Thirty minutes later we were in this chinese restaurant, we were asking the owner of the place, he was not here, and nobody was there.

I was thinking, that will be complicated and maybe I shouldn’t go there.

But at this moment, we will see three men going out from this restaurant, so I will go talking to them : “Sorry, we are french, we travel and we would love to visit your country but there is a new law now, to obtain this visa, we need an invitation about a chinese people. Can you help us? Please.”

These chinese didn’t know this new law, the youngest one told us : “Really! I don’t know this, but I will help you!”

In two minutes, this man was agree to help us, with the smile! I was surprised! That was so simple!
Finally we will go to China!! This man was ready to give us all his details to go to visit his country! Big thanks.
He will send all the details, all the elements. We will go back to the embassy to see my best friend and we will be so happy to tell her : “We get the invitation, we get it!!!”

I remember arriving in Beijing by night, really tired by a long travel : Oulan Bator – Beijing by bus!
A really quite border crossing, but of course they were asking us a paper we didn’t get with us, like a lot of passengers : the vaccination record! So a little fine to “Say hello!”Thanks I really appreciate!
But anyway after 15 hours of bus we were happy to be in Beijing, it was the time for us to sleep. So we stopped in the first guesthouse we found.

The next day I was so excited to discover China! We were in the center of Beijing near by the mausoleum of Mao Zedong. I was ready to explore this city. Beijing represented what I thought about China a mix of excess and authenticity.

I remember the parks in China, these places where chinese meet each others, they play cards, dance, juggle, practice Tai chi, gym and badminton… A place of life and sharing where all the ages are mixed. A big playground. I was loving this type of place.

I remember the sky in Beijing, during one week we will not see the sun. The sky was so grey, that was not because of clouds like where I live in Normandy, but just a big amount of contamination.

I remember when we get to hospital for my friend, she was not in good form. But after spending time in Mongolia and eat some special meals, that was quite normal.

So we went to the hospital. There were nurses to welcome us. They were wearing special clothes. We could’nt be wrong, these women were wearing a little white hat with a red cross, and a white coat really close fitting and quite shirt. They were sexy these nurses! I was not the feeling to be in the hospital… Maybe it was a joke? A special event ?

The clothes they were wearing was looking for to the costume of nurses in the film for adults, this costume who make fantasize a lot of men…

I was laughing and I was regretting to not have my camera with me…

The kind of things you couldn’t see in France, the things you can see only in China!! And of course I was just thinking : “Chinese are crazy!”

It was apparently a campaign to give a better image to the hospital and nurses.
Welcome to China! Only in China! Made in China!!

I was impressed , how quick they did exams to my friend, certainly the fact to be european, to see a european woman in the hospital is not common, not a good sign.
My friend did a lot of exams : blood test, echography… She will even obtain the result of the blood test in 15 minutes on a electronic terminal! Yes, that was so quick and so high tech here!

The nurses will guide us in other part of the hospital, to make others exams. There was here a nurse, she was not speaking english. So it was a bit hard to understand.

The nurse was showing us a cup. We were sceptical, we didn’t understand this woman.

I was looking my friend : “Do you understand?”. My friend : “No!” Me : “Maybe you need to spit on this cup? I don’t know”.

The nurse was starting to make some crazy faces, and showing us the cup… We were trying to decode the message, but in guessing game we were no good… She was trying to explain us something… But why this cup?

And finally she started to imitate the posture you get when you are sitting on the toilets!!
We will guess the message!!! We will understand all the crazy faces!!! So we started to laugh together!!! Yes, the mime are really an universal language!! An unforgettable moment!

At the end, after two hours spend at the hospital, my friend will get a big list of medecine, she got a bacteria. We will be reassured and we will remember this moment all our life!!

With the sickness of my friend, we decided to go to see the chinese Great Wall (like locals) by train and to the nearest place. We chose the most simple way, the quickest and the less tiring, but of course the most touristic one.
But we were not thinking to see so much people!

Cause touristic in China, that’s not just hundred people, but more around thousand people, when in a little city you have twenty millions of people, and in the country more than one billion of people, necessarily when chinese start to travel, that’s make a lot of people and that’s become like Disneyland.

So yes, we were not alone in the Great Wall!!! But almost the only foreigners!! We even became the main attraction. We were doing the pic’s style !! With the two fingers !!

But even there was all this people, this place, this infinite wall, this relic of the chinese history, this work of the Quin empire was so impressive.

It was difficult to imagine how this wonder was build by the human hands on thousand kilometers, during months, years, stone after stone… That was incredible!

There are ramps to help you to walk, cause this wall follow the mountain, the way is so steep, never straight, slippery and all the time they renovate it.

This place is giant, like this other work of the Quin empire in Xian! The mausoleum of this emperor!! This mausoleum has more than 1868 soldiers perfectly lined up, each statue is perfectly the same. This statue are not really special, but the number, this army, make this work exceptional, huge, imperial.

So a little city in China, that’s a big city of more than a million of people!!! So that’s become quickly noisy, unpleasant, and I understand why chinese fight to queue up, fight to catch a place on the train, or speak loudly to be heard.

Their culture, their custom are really differents.

For exemple, they don’t say “no”, in their education they never say no.
Their food is excellent, I rediscover the tofu in China. It was delicious. And not all the chinese eat dogs…

They are curious, shy, they don’t talk or talk a bit of english, but when you ask them your road, they are so happy to help you, and really surprised you ask them something. Maybe they will not bring you where you want (that’s happen many time to me), but that’s just because they don’t understand, they have good faith, that’s just the barrier of the language.

I had certainly some bad idea of chinese before I came to China, but everybody helped me with the smile.

The young generation try to change, to travel, to be open to the world. I met some chinese in Nepal, they wanted to understand what was happening in Tibet, they were happy to touch and read a book of the Dalaï Lama, totally aware that this book was forbidden in their country, they were trying to understand why this book were censored. They were surprised to learn that we were forbidden to enter in Tibet. They were starting to understand what was doing the government.

I was not thinking to say that one day, but I really enjoyed China, chinese and this country let me an unfinished taste. I would love to go back, be lost there.

Of course I was not fan of chinese cities, there were so big, to much people, to much high tech for me. But all the countryside I crossed without the possibility to stop, cause I didn’t get enough time, were amazing. China is an unexplored country. I get the feeling to fly over. That’s not easy to access, and there are a lot of control, but this country get an incredible nature, ethnic groups, borders, cultural mixing, the countryside is extraordinary and you meet beautiful smile and simple people.
This country is the country of all the contrast between the cities so high tech with big buildings and the countryside really lost with traditional houses and ethnic groups.

I remember this woman in the bus, we were crossing the Sichuan province, she probably didn’t meet a lot of foreigners, she was so happy to see us, she was smiling, really beautiful, she was wearing a black hat, traditional clothes sign of an etnic group and a velcro white sport shoes. She had beautiful wrinkles marked and malicious eyes. She was offering to us some candy by sympathy.
I can’t forget this moment!

There is meetings, smiles, who give you the smile. And this woman is part of it. The power of a smile, of a little attention, a true meeting.

So I would love to go back to this chinese countryside.

Memories of China, memories of a travel of a life.

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