Well, no, it wasn't a disaster really, let alone a series of disasters. Not everything that happened on the weekend was bad. Some good things happened, too. And watching the news always puts things back in perspective.
Anyway, it started well. I got on the bus to Yanqing and the bus left and I paid for my ticket without anybody trying to drag me off to the Badaling bus. No hassles at all. Nothing. It's almost as if seeing five Chinese guys stop the bus and run off to find the bus to Holeintheground, Changping, was enough to finally convince the bus people that this laowai who has been catching the exact same bus to Yanqing and never anywhere else for over three years now might actually know where he's going. But I'm not getting my hopes up. We'll see what happens on Thursday when, gut permitting, I go up to the village on my own.
That "gut permitting" comment will be explained soon.
So the bus trip went as per normal. Until we got to about Changping town sort of area. Then we started running into a series of short traffic jams. The traffic jams, though, just kept getting longer and closer together. Getting over the mountains took.... well, forever, it seemed like. And then once we got down onto the basin floor and back onto the main road (the bus almost always turns off at Badaling and follows the little road down to Xibozi, even if it's not stopping at Badaling) we saw why. Well, the highway splits in two at Badaling, with one branch heading off to Kangzhuang, which I presume is the Jingzhang Expressway, and the other heading down into the county town. The entrance to the Jingzhang Expressway, though, was completely cut off for resealing. I'm sure that wasn't helping the traffic. But the real reason became apparent on the basin floor. Just like the last time we went up to the village, there was a huge jam of trucks backed up along the highway going nowhere. I guess they're continuing their crackdown, stopping every truck and checking it thoroughly, forcing the transport companies to follow the rules.
Well, that only got worse. We got off at Dongguan and thought, to hell with the 920, let's just get a "taxi". We did. Fortunately the driver had the good sense to take the back roads around the reservoir, because when we popped back out on the highway we ran smack into the truck jam again. Trucks as far as the eye can see, completely blocking the highway, going nowhere. We told the driver, forget it, we'll walk from here. Fortunately we were only a few hundred metres away.
So we got back, and all was good. Until early Sunday morning, that is.
We slept on the kang, as per usual, meaning we got woken up some time before the crack of dawn, as per usual. I know, because I heard dawn crack as I was squatting over the short drop tipping my liquified guts into the cesspit. Most unpleasant, it was. Having cleaned myself up, I crawled back onto the kang feeling shittier than the hole I'd just been squatting over and went back to sleep. Then an hour or two later I woke up and repeated the whole sequence. Right back up to crawling back onto the kang, that is, because having got myself cleaned up I said I want to see a doctor. It took some convincing, but I was insistent.
So Ma and lzh took me round to the clinic, but the "doctor" (I'm not convinced this guy is actually a doctor) wasn't there and his wife was too scared to put a drip into me. So we walked the twenty-odd metres further up the road to the township hospital. Fortunately, it was quite a nice, new, clean building in a courtyard that was obviously taken care of. The inside was just as clean as the outside, and there was no need to register. Just go find the doctor you need. Well, Ma first took us to the 外科 doctor. 外科 is the surgical department in English, apparently, which does not seem entirely appropriate for what was ailing me, but that was the only doctor she knew. And besides, 外科 seems oddly appropriate for a 外国人. The doctor heard "diarrhoea" and immediately wrote out a prescription for an IV drip and sent us on our way. Fortunately somebody thought that perhaps the 内科 (internal medicine) doctor should examine me, and so she was sent to rescue me from the IV drip room. She asked a lot more questions and my mind was put at rest, or something approaching rest. She actually bothered to find out the background to my gut troubles. And she sent me to get a blood test before prescribing anything. Trouble is, all the blood test showed was an elevated white blood cell count. Well, I would guess that means I had an infection of some sort. I think I could've told her that for free without the need for a blood test. Anyway, predictably, this being China, an IV drip was prescribed and I was sent back upstairs to have medicine dripped into me.
The first bottle seemed to be some kind of antibiotic, which seems to be all that is ever prescribed (or recommended, if you go to the pharmacy first) for gut trouble unless you're asking for or being recommended TCM. Too bad if my gut troubles were caused by something other than a bacterial infection. The second bottle seemed to be only saline, but that makes sense, it's a quick, effective and probably risk-free way of rehydrating someone, and dehydration is a potentially serious side-effect of diarrhoea. But the IV drip room was hot and muggy and the only way to get a breeze going was to open a door and let the stench of the toilets waft through. Not pleasant. It was alright while there were four patients and their various hangers on and caretakers there, but as others left, it got to be really boring and uncomfortable. And trying to run for the toilet while you have an IV line hanging out your arm is neither easy nor pleasant, even if the toilet has hooks for IV bottles on the wall. Especially when the hospital is built to Chinese heights and your about average height for a Westerner. So we got the doctor to swap the last IV bottle for some medicine of the edible variety and when the saline was done, we got out of there.
Now let me just make it clear that I was quite impressed with the hospital and would have no qualms going back there for basic medical care. But anything beyond basic I would demand to be sent back into Beijing as soon as possible. Basically, I'd trust them to take care of relatively minor injuries and illnesses, things that are beyond my or my mother in law's ability to treat, and to patch me up good enough for the trip back to Beijing, and that's about it. But I think that's pretty good for a small township that's closer to Zhangjiakou than Beijing. Still, it was a little disappointing to see the same old treatment being prescribed for every case of diarrhoea (that's what all four of us patients were in there for) being treated exactly the same way with no effort made to find out exactly what bug was causing the trouble. But I've been here too long to complain about that.
Anyway, I still blame the wine. That's the only thing I consumed that nobody else did, and nobody else showed even the slightest hint of trouble. You'd think that, considering how hard I was hit, that if it was something other than the wine, somebody else would be at least feeling a little uncomfortable, but no. So best I can figure out is that the wine was contaminated with some nasty bug which the yoghurt I drink every morning kept mostly at bay until something up in Yanqing irritated my gut just that tiny little bit that the bug needed to get a full-blown infection going. And I blame Tianjin, because before I went to Tianjin I had a cast iron gut.
But that blood test did bug me, because I could feel that this particular bout of food poisoning was a lot more serious than usual, and the medicine took quite a lot longer to work than it normally does with me. Anyway, lzh got a day off work and we stayed there Sunday night so I could get some rest and so that hopefully my gut would be functioning somewhat more normally by the time we left. And on Monday afternoon we left, a bit earlier than usual, and with my gut still feeling a little fragile but otherwise managing to behave itself.
Fortunately sometime on Saturday night the truck jam had cleared up and we managed to take the public bus into the county town and get there reasonably quickly. Then we went over to the bus station and got through the Monday afternoon non-crowd and onto a bus that was just about to leave, and all was good.
But there were still thousands of trucks backed up along State Highway 110 from the county town south and apparently up onto the Badaling Expressway. And as we came out of the mountains and rejoined the north-bound half of the expressway just south of Juyongguan I saw what looked like the tail-end of the truck jam. That does not bode well.
Then from Huilongguan south we were staring at massive amounts of flood water sitting on the roads. Not on the expressway, fortunately, but on the local roads beside the expressway. And then just as we were coming in to downtown Haidian the rain started falling. Well, it was less like rain falling and more like several lakes falling on us. That was one hell of a storm, and we got caught right in the middle of it.
And it seems that the rain only fell on Haidian. The rain had already left Changping as we were passing through there, Chaoyang was totally dry when we got over to this side of town, and Ma said that no rain fell up in Yanqing. Weird. Seems like all the city's rain was concentrated on Haidian, with the biggest concentration on Anhua Qiao, which is not far east of where we were caught. And we copped it bad enough, so I'm glad the bus didn't try dropping us at Anhua Qiao.
Anyway, so we're back in Beijing. lzh's work unit is planning a trip for the second half of the week, and I, gut permitting, and my gut certainly seems to be on the mend, will probably head back up to the village on Thursday.
I dunno, there's something about hanging around down here in the city that's bugging me. I don't know what. Noise? Crowds? Dirt and pollution? This part of town is pretty quiet and not so densely populated (although Wusheng Lu, which is only half a kilometre west of here, is very densely populated) and you'd think I'd be used to all of that by now. But I just want to spend some time up in the village getting some peace and quiet and clean air. I just hope they've cleared the trucks out before Thursday, or the trip across the mountains could be very frustrating indeed.