The next two days were spent in a whirlwind of tours, the second day being spent getting to and exploring a section of the Great Wall. What an experience! This is a man-made feature that can be seen from space.
I would have loved to have seen the Three Gorges Dam, but it was too far from Beijing.
The first day found us staying in Beijing itself where we got to see the Lugou Bridge, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
Arriving back at the hotel on the evening of the first day, I approached the concierge and asked if she could arrange for me to get an acupuncture treatment at the Beijing Hospital. I explained that I had been suffering from neck and shoulder pain and that I had been told that the Beijing Hospital was renowned for teaching and treating with acupuncture. Since our group was scheduled to visit the Great Wall the next day, I suggested that I didn’t want to miss that part of the trip, but would like to get to the hospital the following day — the day that Yeung would be there. I also told her that a morning appointment would work best as that would allow me to re-join my group for its afternoon schedule. I knew from the information that L.T. had provided that Yeung always took treatments that lasted most of the morning.
She obligingly consented to see if she could arrange an appointment and would leave a message on my room phone.
I returned to my room, showered again, and changed clothes for dinner. A knock on the room door came as I was finishing my toilette. Puzzled as to who might be calling at my room, I opened the door to see the two ladies with whom I had dined at the Seattle airport.
“Mr. Tallent,” one effused. “We were just going to dinner at the Oodle Restaurant and were wondering if you would care to join us.”
“Well,” I replied, “I was just about to go in search of a place for dinner and I’m sure such charming company would make the meal so much more pleasant.”
They giggled lightly in unison as I pulled the door closed behind me and joined them in a walk to the elevator.
The Oodle Restaurant in the hotel is a lavishly attired eating establishment serving a wide variety of traditional food, and the dinner passed in meaningless conversation and luscious food, accompanied by and followed with a glass of plum wine.
By the end of the meal we had become “Michael,” “Louise,” and “Maggie” and — I admit — I had seldom had as good companionship on any other assignment.
Both ladies were from Plymouth, Indiana, and had driven together from there to Chicago to catch the flight. Maggie had lost her husband to pancreatic cancer about eight months previously and had been convinced by Louise to go on the tour. Louise was happily married with one daughter in college. Her husband, a junior college professor, was unable to get away for the trip but had encouraged her to go anyway. Both were delightful to be with and took my mind briefly from the serious business that brought me so far from home.
As we left the restaurant, I begged leave from the ladies explaining that I needed to check on an arrangement for two days hence, thanked them for a lovely evening and said that I would undoubtedly see them tomorrow when we visited the Great Wall.
I walked to the concierge desk. I said that I thought I’d check while I was down and see if she had had any success.
I’m not quite sure what Plan B would have been had she said no luck, but fortune was on my side and I had an appointment for 0930 in two days. She gave me the address and the person to whom I would be reporting. She also informed me that she had requested an English-speaking technician and that many of the staff speak English so I should not have much difficulty while there. Chinese efficiency!
The next day was a somewhat tiring but full day as we visited and walked a good deal of the Great Wall. One cannot help be amazed at the manpower that must have been expended in creating this vast network, especially considering that it was constructed some twenty-three hundred years ago.
It follows the contour of the land, rising and falling with the hills and climbing many of its sections proved too much for some of the tour group. It can be an exhausting endeavor and our tour bus dropped off a group of weary travelers as the second day came to a close.
I guess Louise and Maggie probably thought it would be a bit improper to come knocking on my door again for the second straight day, so I wandered from the hotel that evening to see what sort of dining might await out on the street.
It seems strange that, about a block-and-a-half from the hotel, I found a restaurant serving Italian fare.
I had hardly been seated when Rasmussen came through the front door of the restaurant. He seemed not to notice me at first, but then I caught his eye and he waved a familiar greeting and walked over to my table.
“Mr. Tallent,” he exclaimed. “I guess we had the same idea about getting out a bit to find someplace to eat. Do you mind if I join you or would you prefer to eat alone?”
“By all means, have a seat. But if we’re going to be dining partners, you’ll have to call me Michael.”
“Of course, Michael. Harold,” he said, extending his hand.
My meal included veal parmesan, pinot noir, and small talk. But the company was welcome and I learned a good deal more about him than he about me.