We got to PEK a tad late and felt like we could have flown on even longer, cleared passport control quickly, collected our luggage and cleared customs with no issues besides the fact that we had too many bags to maneuver easily. LiLi’s new Ayi and her bright English-speaking college-student son were there to meet us holding a sign. I stopped at the airport ATM and got some RMB. It’s always tough to decide how much cash to carry around but I knew we had the taxi and then whatever expenses at our friend’s place for a few days.
We had to queue up for a taxi and the announcements in Chinese and English were informing us that it might make sense to take some sort of van shuttle because there were fewer taxis owing to the Spring Festival. It’s my understanding that it’s the largest human migration in the world, that movement from the City to hometown during these two weeks of Chinese New Year/Spring Festival. After quite a long wait during which I chatted in English with Ayi’s son and she chatted in Chinese with LiLi, we finally made it to the front of the line and got two taxis. There ensued a loud debate between the taxi drivers and the apparent queue manager, only somewhat less loud from Ayi and her son, about whether instead of the roughly rmb 120 fare for the cabs whether we shouldn’t pay rmb 500 for a van whose boisterous driver joined the fray. After what seemed to be a long long period of indecision (possibly mine, in my zombie state it was tough to say at what point I was to assert myself) we opted for the taxis and, with me, LiLi, Ayi and some bags in a cab driven by a maniacal woman, and Ayi’s son and more of our bags in a cab driven by a very loud and angry man, we set off for our friend’s place in Wangjing.
We found the apartment complex with little difficulty and went underground to the parking garage in search of a lift. The complex was many buildings that were apparently connected underground so locating the proper building (numbered with letters and numbers and a few dashes too) was no small feat. There was much speeding down aisles of parked cars the wrong direction, slamming on brakes, reversing quickly, K-turning, and whatnot. It seemed like an unnecessarily stress-inducing exercise. I called our friend who recommended going back outside and up to the main gate but neither cab driver was interested in doing that and eventually we were put out of both cabs next to a very run down looking warren of deserted hallways one of which lead to a locked elevator vestibule. I called our friend again and read the series of numbers and letters and dashes and she said she would find us, she was coming down. Before she got there, though, a woman opened the door coming out, and so we began to move the five suitcases into the vestibule and onto a lift.
We were nearly on the elevator when our friend found us. Boy, was she a sight for sore eyes at that point. We rode up to their floor and wheeled the cases into their enormous two story, very clean and lovely four bedroom apartment. The girls went crazy with greetings and then a suitcase explosion occurred. American Girl dolls and clothes were found and carried upstairs to the bedroom porch area playroom. Most apartments still have the porch areas off the bedrooms or living rooms where laundry is hung to dry, things are stored, sometimes washers or pantries or other life things are kept. In these modern apartments those “porches” are really rooms that run the length of the apartment and are glassed in on both sides so that the living spaces get their light and air from the porches. Our friends’ kids’ playroom was this space that ran the length of the kids’ bedrooms. And each of those kids also had A.G. dolls and stuff so LiLi fit right in. The kids met last summer when we were staying in the same service apartment close to GuoMao (where the subway lines 1 and 10 cross; near the BJ World Trade Center) and were excited to be together again.
So. We arrived. I find myself walking around and stopping dead in my tracks. Looking up. Looking around. And thinking: we did it. We are here.
We now live in Beijing.
We now live in Beijing.