Nanjing, getting up early

My train arrived to Nanjing as the night was falling and the first thing I did was to get my ticket out of the city. Lucky me I did because there were no tickets left in the trains I wanted and I had to take one leaving a bit earlier and arriving quite early in the morning. But it is done.

Next thing was to take the metro to the station where my host lives. I had agreed with her to meet her up in a KFC quite close to the station, where I could get Wi-Fi and wait for her to finish her late meeting. As I had time I also had dinner in the meantime and after an hour or so, she picked me up. Her house was really close and after getting a shower we could catch up a bit with our lives. She gave me some maps and some hints of where I could go the next day and that was it, because she was working the next day and I had to leave with her. Which meant I had to wake up at 7am.

I had a nice sleep in her couch but the wake up was dreadful and I quickly got ready and left the place with her. At the corner of her house there were several food stalls where we got our breakfast for the way. She asked for me a roll of red rice with other stuff rolled inside and she got rice porridge for herself that I wanted to try as well so I got one for me as well. It was weird to have salty food for breakfast, I mean, I was used to the noodles and the rice but this was different… I missed nutella sooo much. And then I missed coffee.

But the real revelation of the morning was to see the metro at pick time because if it had shocked me to see how many people were in the street at that time, the metro was something else. Yvonne knew the exact time that a metro was passing by empty and we waited for it. I couldn’t believe how people run to get a free seat as they were running for their lives. I didn’t get one and stood next to her, who was trained in the art and sitting down. I got off a couple of stops after Yvonne to go to the Purple Mountain. A mountain where lots of imperial tombs had been built and where it seemed to be nice to wander around. I had absolutely nothing ready of what I wanted to see when I arrived to the city and no idea what there was around but this had seemed a good idea the previous night. But it was too early to have any feeling close to joy. I used to be a morning person but surely I am not any more.

After taking my time to get to a point where I was something closer to a person, I started my hiking around the mountain and got lost here and there and got to check different of small museums, a garden where some old people were making Chinese music and singing and also got to the free tomb. I was not interested in seeing them all and I also felt that I have had a very good experience with this in Vietnam and was way much better because I was with my friend Phuc who also was an architect and made the experience very cool. Yvonne told me that the other tomb was very worth it in autumn but it is almost summer so it was decided. It was cool and there were good views although not perfect because of some fog around that I wasn’t sure if it was due to the humidity or the pollution.

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Climbing to the top of the tomb

On my way back I really needed some food that I got covered with part of the breakfast but then I got a craving for sweet because I had been thinking of it all day and I went to look for some shop where I got some milky tea I getting addicted to. Since I left the mountain, I decided to check out some part of the city that seemed interesting and I had marked in my map and I happen to come across a huge museum. I got in and it was more than worth it, it had a bit of everything, very well sectioned and it surprised me the most when I got to some recreation of an old Nanjing, with shops, a tea shop and… A Chinese opera performance that I stayed to enjoy a bit. Although it was obvious that I couldn’t understand anything, I got to gather that the first performance I saw was something similar to Romeo and Juliet. The other one I was not sure but I stayed to hear them, to see their makeup and dressed, to listen to the music and to be amazed by their gestural performance in general.

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Watching Chinese opera

Then, I realised there was some free Wi-Fi in the place and I sat down to have some rest for a while and also to download pictures and make something nice to wish my sister a happy birthday later on, once I had called her. That made me waste a lot of time, although I also needed to rest a bit, and at the end I didn’t have time enough to climb to the viewpoint where the funicular was going, but I suppose it was alright because of the fog anyways… And after they were closing down the museum I only got to a lake at the foot of the mountain where the sun going down was reflecting, making a too romantic scene for a person alone.

I went back to the closest metro station to go back home and the mess started: I had to find the building and the apartment and they all were the exact same. Also, it had been to early in the morning to have a fresh good memory of my exact steps when I left the building with Yvonne and I only had written down the apartment number, the floor and the building number. The building numbers were in Chinese so the last piece of information was pretty useless. I also knew the front door of the building was supposed to be unlocked all the time because it had been broken in some fire event… I went to the first building where I was almost sure I left this morning. But the front door was locked. Well, I thought it could have been fixed just that morning. And I waited for someone entering the building to sneak in with them. I went to the 12th floor and… the number of the apartment I was looking for wasn’t there. So I was in the wrong building. As this seemed the last building in the row of buildings, I went back and tried my luck in the one before it with the same tactic. Once in the 12th floor, I found the number of the apartment but something seemed odd in the exact location of it. It was like in the opposite side of the building as I was remembering. I had my doubts but there were also some red Chinese stickers on the door as Yvonne had at hers. I turned on the Wi-Fi on my phone, as it should be connecting to hers immediately but nothing. Okay, not here. I was not knocking this door if I was not entirely sure simply because I wouldn’t be able to explain the mistake. I went down and checked the building before but just looking at the entrance I knew it wasn’t it. I thought of going upstairs again but I was afraid people started noticing me too much and this is full of police everywhere checking your bags, your key and everything and I was feeling like a terrorist. So I went back to look for Wi-Fi in the KFC where I met her the first day only that I found it closer and then I texted her to come and pick me up. When we arrived to her building I saw what had been my mistake: the first building I sneaked into was the one, only that it was split in two and I never got to see the other entrance where the apartment was. So close!

I was expecting a bit more of interaction with my host that night but I don’t think she was in the mood and she kept on her phone and went to her bedroom to watch something so I did my own stuff.

Next morning we woke up at 7am again and the same procedure only that I got something different for breakfast (some fried stuff with sesame that seemed more tolerable than the rice porridge) and I also got a seat in the metro. Things were improving but by the time I got to the Confucius Temple some of the shops around were not even open. Which made me realise of how early it was again and I went to get some milky tea and free Wi-Fi while I watched the square getting cleaned up. When I felt like, I started walking around the buildings, the bridges, crossing the river and appreciating the nice area I was located. And then I got in to the Confucius Temple and I took very long there because firstly it was big and secondly there were tourists but it was not loaded up with them and that was something new. I felt so comfortable there that I sat down on a bench in a side of the temple and then felt inspired to put words to some things that had been going on in my head about going back home, which will happen but not with immediate effect. I spent like an hour just writing stuff and thinking.

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Some family praying in Confucius Temple

Afterwards, I felt ready and hungry to move on. Got some food, had a surprise lunch because after 10 minutes trying to get an understanding I preferred to point something on the menu randomly and got some rice with pork, green peppers, fried peanuts and soya beans in some spicy sauce. It was spot on and I continued my way to a huge park in the area full of memorials and gardens where I got lost the whole afternoon. Here I must make a special mention to the public toilets. So far it had been okay, consisting in squat toilets where the toilet paper was absent as usual but also there was no bum gun. But just now I remembered the conversation on toilets I had with a couchsurfer in Hong Kong. It was almost comical but I still didn’t feel like laughing: no doors so as you find your “toilet” you see other ladies squatting doing their business and no toilet, as nothing made of ceramic but a built-in trench where…there is no need to be more explicit as much I like the topic.

I decided to go back to the place I was staying a bit earlier with the desire of having time with Yvonne and get along with her a bit more. On the way I got pissed off with some stuff back home and debated myself in between not seeing anybody and continue my plan and put my mind off it. I continued with my plan, found the apartment easily this time and asked Yvonne to go for dinner because I didn’t have anything and I wanted her to show me something local. She thought a walk would be a good idea and went somewhere close for local noodles with pork´s blood, pork´s liver and tofu. She was surprised that I liked it and I was delighted to pump up my iron intake. Then we took a walk and I got to see around the shopping centre the karaoke cabins, where 3 people were in singing at that moment; the kids area with lots of activities like dance studios, battery classes and so on and the gym. We also went for a milky tea and maybe it was the sugar overdose or how pissed off I still was, that when I heard she wanted to get her hair cut and there was a place at the corner of her house she wanted to check because they were doing 5 RMB (0.65€) haircuts, I told her: If that’s truly the price, I will do it with you! And it was.

I had a hard time explaining how I wanted my hair, but I was doing nothing too crazy and anyways my hair will be covered in a week for a while so I had not much to worry about. The excitement of doing this kind of stuff always gets me back up and a change in the hair is always the answer to a change in your life or something to face.  I didn’t adore the result but only to get it washed it was worth it. Then, we went back home and she wanted to watch a movie, which happened to be a Spanish movie. It was great because it was in Spanish and subtitled in Chinese but it was a pretty bad movie and she went to bed and I stayed because my bed was the couch and finished the lame movie. Next day I didn’t have to wake up early because it was Saturday so it was fine!

By the time I woke up next day, I had breakfast, packed my things up and prepared to leave because Yvonne had already asked too many times when I was going to be gone. I had the feeling she didn’t want me around more time and I didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable so I left. The only thing that bothered me was that she didn’t really care if there were no lockers to leave my big bag and I didn’t understand what the hassle was leaving the bag at her place and coming back for it later, considering she had told me she was going to stay home and had no plans. But well, I would figure things out then.

Once at the train station, I asked for lockers around and some guy paid me attention and offered to help. I did my best with my body language to explain to him what I was looking for and he was only answering in Chinese. Difficult understanding between us. He offered something, started taking me somewhere and once I realised that it wasn’t leading to the train station I knew something was wrong because nobody here had been so helpful before and I apologised and made my way there on my own. I asked a police man in the middle but he just pointed the entrance. After asking many times with no proper answer, I came across that the lady checking my ticket at the entrance spoke some English and could understand me and clarify me a few things. I finally got a locker.

Feeling light, I could walk around the lake and the islands in the middle of the lake and enjoy my day until my train was due. I even walked around college and once back to the station, the mess started again because I took the Southern entrance and I couldn’t find the way to the North area where the lockers where. I asked so many people in the station. In addition, I suspected something was wrong with my ticket because the lady checking tickets at the entrance had said something to me 3 times and pointed repeated times to some words in my ticket that were in Chinese so I was not understanding anything.

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Lotus Fairy from an island in the lake

After a while I gave up and exited the station to go around it and enter by the North Entrance. By the notice at the walls with the trains, I could see how this was also the entrance for my train, because before in the other entrance it was listed but instead of a platform assigned to it, there were two Chinese characters. Just on time, I could fetch my bag and then find my train, where I would sleep for the night, just like the old times. I was exhausted after so many early mornings, so much walking and rushing up for the last hour with all the stress of not understanding anyone. It seemed like it was going to be a good sleep.

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