Chapter 11 - # months after the key is found

China is easier than anyplace else. Do you have any idea how they treat you in the states if you try to buy an international ticket with cash? Australia is worse and Tokyo impossible.

But China is easy for that, and then there's the fact that a good meal can be had for 20 yuan and it's hard to resist.

Anton and I spent our first few weeks just getting our feet. once we left the immense vault of Terminal 3 we never again met a chinese person with fluent english. We pointed to a random spot on a map, and walked for half an hour 'til we saw something that looked like a hotel. It was impossible to identifiy one with our frame of reference, neon was everywhere and little convenience shops had marble facades. The first place where I tried to get a room turned out to be a dry cleaners, the second some kind of day spa that I would later realize must have been korean themed.

Finally our passports were photo-copied and we had our "deluxe fashion room." The concierge, even the concierge, spoke little or no english, and Anton had yet to pull his bloody trick with my key, and so we had to point at the room list, point at our eyes, then mime walking up to it.

I don't remember that room too clearly, we muddled our way to an english language bookstore about a week later and realized that the prices printed on the official list, actually a brass plaque the size of a pizza box affixed to the wall next to the counter, always listed prices at least twice of their real cost. I remember the girl seeming blushing as we paid, I thought it was because she'd studied english at one point and was embarrassed at being able to say littloe more than "hello" and "now you can pay."

The constants remained, for my china years. So many buildings were new in Beijing, but even a year later it seemed they all still smelled of new paint, and no ever seemed to engineer the showers just right. Plumbers or whoever it is who glues showers together it is must have been in short supply that decade. they always made a big puddle, which when Anton took his lingering showers in that endless hot water of natural gas fired flash heaters rolled outward till a patch of the carpet by the door was soaked.

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