Have you ever had that feeling in your gut gut that something is amiss? I don’t mean the big adrenaline producing “thunk”, more a gentle “oh, you hoo…” So that you are inclined to not pay attention, even though? That kind.
A few minutes later, like five, and five more miles down the highway, the “you hoo” gets so agitated so that now it is an “uh oh” and you are moved to action. Because, a nano second before “you hoo” became “uh oh”, you KNEW exactly what the problem was going to be. And it’s a doozie!
But let’s back up. I flew into Xi’an this morning, and found the little hotel near the airport that I booked on booking.com in the wee hours of this morning. It’s fine, although a bit tricky to find, tucked into a project looking neighborhood. But it is near the airport. The reviews online were favorable, and since I need to be at the airport by 6 am, it is perfect. The couple who run it it are both helpful and nice…and, as it turns out, they will drive me to the airport for free in the morning. Can’t beat that!
One of the first things I do when near electricity is start charging batteries. It seems to take forever to charge here, and no time at all to discharge. So, because of this ritual, I immediately figured out I left my iPad cable in Lijiang. Un-fucking-believable! I probably have about two hours left on my iPad for the rest of my trip (more than two weeks). So, as you might imagine, this has put me in a boohoo kind of mood.
It is only noon, and since I am near to this wonderful old city of Xi’an, a place which has nice memories of going to see the astonishing terra-cotta warriors, I decided to make something of my layover. After weighing the complications of getting the right buses when I cannot read Chinese, I decide to hire a taxi to drive into the heart of the city so I can visit the Bell Tower. From there I can just mosey around till I need to catch a cab back out to the burbs.
I grab a card from the front desk that has the name, address and telephone number for the hotel. The hotel owner has offered to take me to a place where I can get a cab, so we head out, but once the front door opened, I realize I better add a layer. It is cold. I return to the room, don my wonderful alpaca sweater, and off we go. I am so glad I brought this sweater. It is a keeper.
Getting a cab here is a strange event. The owner drove about a mile, then we got out and crossed a very busy intersection with a lane like a free way exit that we had to navigate. After a few more such crossings, we end up actually on the freeway a bit down from that exit, so that now the only cabs passing us will be headed toward Xi’an, which is about 25 km of heavy traffic away through ghastly industrial development. Three cabs pull over to vie for the fare, the hotel man acting as my agent. After sending those away, a forth comes and the price is right, 60 Y, so I get in.
Feeling quite together in terms of my little day adventure, I settle in for what turns out to be a really long, unpleasant ride. For starters, on the back of the front passenger headrest, leaning about a foot from my face, is a monitor—dead. All I see is my face reflecting back––very close. Yeah, there is the ugly stuff flashing past the side window, but is not worth a kink in the neck to look at. So I find my self looking down, which pretty much sends me inward.
I begin pondering my memory blips and this is a scary place for me. Yesterday, when were driving from Hongpo Village to Ligiang, a Beatles song, sung in Chinese, was playing on the radio. It was a really famous, very familiar one, for which I couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the lyrics, or, for that matter, the title. Freaked me out just that I was struggling so hard. Breathe, and let it go. Later, as I was trying assiduously to practice non judgement regarding my painful observations of what is going on here in terms of development, Let It Be came into focus. Kinda perfect, eh. Anyway, it is at this moment, thinking about memory, that the little “you hoo” is morphing.
Oh shit! I start looking through my wallet, my phone purse, my pockets and then I search again.
Have you figured it out? Yup. I am flying down the highway, with a taxi driver who speaks no English, in a huge city where English speakers are rare, and I neither speak nor read Chinese, nor do I have the card with the hotel name and address. I couldn’t identify one road from another let alone direction. I only have my cash wallet, my hidden money belt, my flip phone, and my little camera. I am traveling light, for once. Too, light.