There’s much to be said about the crazy traffic and packed subways. Nothing new, I suppose if I lived in NY City. But, it is definitely something I’ve not experienced before where I come from.
Personal space? Forget it! Everyone squeezes tightly in the train. We hang on for dear life in the taxi. But, somehow we make our destination without too much wear and tear.
It was while in Beijing we had our first experience with the subway. It was a Sunday. It felt like it could have been any day of the week – Sunday doesn’t lessen how packed the trains are. We transferred several times, and it was interesting how efficiently these trains worked. But, there was an urgency to get on board quickly as the doors were set to close within seconds. We literally had to push our way into the cars….and push our way out! I recall seeing two wheelchairs trying to nudge their way onto the train – we are a long way from ramps and select seating here…let alone space.
It was after reaching our destination and surfaced to the world above, where we immediately found ourselves transported back in time. Or, so it felt. Cobbled streets, and ancient looking homes nestled below tall apartment buildings. As we walked the streets, tall walls bordered the one side. I saw these impressive red gates and asked what that was. “A school,” I was told. Immediately next to the school another large gate opened into a courtyard that felt like more than a century old. I’m especially a fan of Pearl S. Buck who wrote so descriptively of her China, that I could “see” much of what she described in her many written works. Time stood still – if only I could have spent more time just contemplating the beauty of this place and ponder on its history.
Where we stood this Sunday morning was what is now called a 3-Self Church – Beijing Chongwenmen Church to be more precise. It was established in 1870, and is the largest 3 Self Church in the country. We attended the service here, which provided translation. It was a lovely experience.
It was here a funny thing happened. Waiting in a line for the women’s restroom, I noticed and elder woman “cut” in line. Others just let her through and I figured it was more important she get in there than the rest of us. It wasn’t long and she emerged, coming straight for me. She prompted me to go ahead in line! She didn’t want this guest to wait. I had a good laugh over that!
Later, we “enjoyed” another subway trip to the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square was across the road, but since it was quite a warm day, we opted for the Forbidden City. I’m glad we did. Layer upon layer….as we entered the massive courtyards, we began to see a hidden city emerge the further back we went. No pictures can illustrate as well as actually “being there.”
Our day was filled with interesting Chinese history, culture and personal interaction with our translator/guide.
Oh, and we had hot pot for lunch! I think there is actually a restaurant by that name in my home town. Time to check it out.