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Lost in Beijing ....Responding to this Week's Question

I was in Beijing with my Tai Chi Class last April, (you may recall giving me advice before that trip ... yeah, right!). Anyway, it was our first morning there and after being instructed NOT to wander out alone I immediately took off for a 'walk around the block'... how lost can one get around the block?

Walked up the street to the corner, hung a right and kept on walkin'.... but couldn't seem to find another corner! But the sights and sound were interesting and what the heck, I could always backtrack. I just followed the crowd. As I finally approached a corner, ahead of me was a large iron gate, one side of it wide open with cars and walkers passing right on through.. so I continued to follow the crowd. I hadn't gotten more than 300 yard when I was approached by a man pointing at me gesturing and shaking his head. It became clear he was looking for some kind of permit or badge ... he certainly seemed somewhat annoyed. Through gestures I asked if he wanted me to turn around and go back from where I came from.. he nodded as I pointed and headed back to the gate.. he walked along side continuing to "chat" and as we approached the gate, he steered me away and to a brick building.. (uh-oh!). In the room are 3 BIG men, in suits and they all start talking somewhat loudly among themselves pointing at me asking me questions (I think!) While I just kept saying, it's okay I can leave! They finally all herded me back out the door to what was apparently a "guard post" ... and started questioning the guy ("guard"?) standing there. After conversing among themselves with gestures and looks at me, they turned to me, nodded and waved me to go on .... NOT OUT the gate but back in the direction I was originally headed! After making SURE that's the direction they wanted me to go in, I continued on...

Five minutes of walking lead me to a dead end... buildings all around.. .. so I turned around and headed back out. On my walk out I passed the same gentleman who had originally stopped me, now on a bicycle cheerily smiling and waving as he approached and passed. As I got to the gate, the "guard" smiled and waved as I went on out.

I took a left out of the gate and figured I had two more corners to find before I got back to where I started ... imagine my surprise to find myself back in front of my hotel less than a quarter mile down the street!

PS: I'm a birder and in that "compound" I saw a large flock of birds I'd never seen before. Not having had my binoculars with me, I went back about a half hour later (with a couple of friends) and while they stayed at the gate I approached the "guard" and through gestures managed to let him know my friends and I wanted to go down to that big tree to get a better look at the birds... darned if he didn't smile and wave us on in!!!

I still don't know where I was... the only sign in English was one I spotted on a building saying "Port Authority".



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