Destination Beijing! That’s it, it’s decided, what is it then, Beijing or Beijing, well the term Beijing was first used by the French Jesuit Nicolas Trigault, but the term Beijing is the transcription of the name of the city according to the official system “Pinyin” (汉语拼音 hanyu pinyin), set up by the Chinese authorities since the 1950s. In 1977, the Third United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names recommended that the Chinese phonetic alphabet (Pinyin) be adopted as the international system. So the Chinese say Bei jing, and the French who have already been there say Beijing too, and at the same time, since Katie Melua’s song “Nine million bicycles”, the majority of people say Beijing, as far as pronunciation is concerned, that’s another matter. The alarm clock goes off this morning when he was quite dumb these last few days, it’s a shame it’s going to end like this, we have to go back to work today when it’s the middle of the week. I set the alarm clock yesterday, but that was to tidy up my luggage, have one last Chinese breakfast and get to the airport, as I was still on holiday and still in Beijing. I didn’t want to go back to work, but I went anyway, no luck, despite the movement of the yellow jackets I still found some diesel to drive on, otherwise it would’ve been fine. When I arrived in front of the company’s door, I had the feeling that I’d never been on holiday in Beijing, like in a dream, time lasts longer, but when you wake up you realise that you were just following the Ariadne’s thread, unless of course you were dreaming about a pretty woman, then you try to go back to continue the dream. However, sooner or later reality catches up with us and brings us back down to earth, with a little headache and a bitter aftertaste, like after an evening drunk with tequila. Travelling to China was also my wife’s dream, she wanted to go thousands of miles away to see the Great Wall, she said, “it’s my dream to see China, she also said that you have to see the Great Wall of China before clapping”. She was quite right, because it was necessary to see this wall to realize the beauty of the place, she had the same dream as the Chinese have, they too dream of seeing France. They wanted and they dreamed of visiting Paris, and my wife dreamed of seeing China, I should have exchanged my wife for a young Chinese girl who wanted to visit France, I could have satisfied two people at the same time, as the proverb says “To kill two birds with one stone” I would lose weight for sure, but I would gain in exchange. We were in Beijing during the first and second yellow vests demonstration, but over there nobody talked about Gilles and John and at the same time some of them don’t even know where France is on a map, they know Paris and the Eiffel Tower but not France. The Chinese call the Great Wall Changcheng, it’s an impressive fortification, and at the same time, it’s only a wall, but when I learned that its construction started in the 3rd century BC, and it’s 6259 km long, it deserves respect right away. So I’ll tell you about my trip if you’ll let me.
First of all the entry visa to China, not so obvious, between going to get the documents at the consulate, fill them out well, and especially not to forget to mention the small details completely useless, it was necessary to pay sixty euros per pipe head anyway. Arriving at Beijing airport, after leaving the plane to go to passport control, a guy blocks my exit, and there, he makes a gesture with his hand to indicate a direction, unfortunately he only speaks Chinese. It was to make fingerprints on automatic terminals, fortunately the machine speaks English, but with a Chinese accent anyway, in short, you had to take the prints of all ten fingers and for both hands and you had to pass each finger three times, it was laborious. Once you passed, the machine gives you a pass ticket and after that the guy who was blocking your way steps aside to let you go to the next step. You’re filmed, photographed, observed from every angle, however one amazing thing that day, they didn’t give me a cotton swab to take a DNA sample, maybe it was a day with simplified formalities, sarcasm aside, it’s a bit heavy. As I left the airport, first shock, people were spitting on the ground, it was weird, it was as if they had all passed the word “it’s ok, you can go” after leaving the airport, they can relieve themselves, it’s simple, the sidewalks are lined with spittle. Later, I also noticed that to blow their nostrils they block one side of the nostrils and they blow through the nose, but yes, ladies and gentlemen, but I can reassure you right away that they don’t blow on one side of the nostrils, they blow on both sides. In short, I don’t think the word handkerchief exists in Chinese, believe me, I’m not bullshitting you, directly on the ground or on a wall, and they do that while walking, while you’re right next door following them in a line to get to the subway, they do that in the subways, on the sidewalks and everywhere. In France, in some city centers, you’re zigzagging between dog droppings, over there the sidewalks are full of spittle. I thought people put masks on to protect themselves from pollution, but no, the quality of the area was super good, I took measurements throughout my stay, in fact if people put masks on, it’s to avoid another guy sneezing on your face and moreover without saying sorry, while you’re in the metro, you can’t kill him, there are too many people, so I understood why they took my prints. It seems that it’s in the Chinese culture, it’s better to be outside than inside the body, it’s certainly better, but beware, you mustn’t tell them they’re carrying a kilo of shit in their belly, otherwise they’ll stop every five meters to take a shit. Ah, but maybe that’s why there are toilets every five hundred metres, because there are some who know they’ve got shit in their belly, but you have to be careful not to throw too much paper down the toilet, it’s not advisable because toilet paper pollutes.
On the language side, Chinese is very difficult, but with a bit of good will, you can make yourself understood, not by speaking but rather with your hands, sign language was not found by Juan Pablo BONET or he went for a walk in China before. So Chinese is difficult, but it all depends on the person who speaks to you, there are some, when they speak to you you want to tell them, but what’s happening to you man, go fart a blow you’ll feel better, and there are others, it’s prettier when they speak, it’s singing, it even makes you want to learn. As far as the songs are concerned, it’s really something, my wife has found a new talent, singing Chinese opera, you like it or not, everyone has their own tastes, I loved it. Over there we didn’t meet a person who could put two words of English together in a row, yes, maybe a French tourist we met in the temple of Confucius and when he asked us if we spoke English, because he wanted to ask us something, in view of his accent he was immediately unmasked.
The ground, I don’t know how they manage to plant something in the ground, but maybe it’s the time of year that makes the grass so yellow, we didn’t find a single green spot in the whole city, and even when we went to visit the Great Wall which was one hundred and twenty kilometres from the centre of Beijing, we didn’t see a single green spot. So we can say that the dominant color of nature is yellow. Concerning the tap water, it is polluted, it is not drinkable, either they boil it and serve it hot in a thermos, and if you don’t like to drink water at a hundred degrees then you have to either buy mineral water or let it cool down, drinking water directly from the tap is strongly discouraged if you don’t want to catch all kinds of diseases. Life is expensive, we left with the minimum of clothes thinking we could buy some there, but we realized we couldn’t buy anything. Food is expensive too, eating in a good restaurant is five hundred yuan, that’s sixty-five euros, so we found a good little Chinese restaurant, the Jin Ding Xuan, at 77, Hepingli Xijie, where we went almost every day, at an average price of a meal of two hundred and fifty yuan for two and it was excellent, a bit like ZAM ZAM in Singapore. To get to this restaurant, you get off at the Yonghegong Lama Temple blue line stop, you go out by the subway door A and then you cross the little bridge on the right, it’s three hundred meters next to a theater called the Moby club. To choose, it’s very simple on the table, there is a small pencil and a small paper where you have to write down the number of the dish and the quantity according to the photo of the dish displayed on a menu, but be careful because to change a little bit my wife ordered a chicken dish, it was among the most expensive and she had the unpleasant surprise of having caramelized chicken feet, not obvious, when she saw that it was marked chicken, she said I want that, very good presentation on the photo nothing to say, the poor her face changed color when we put the plate on her. As far as the traffic is concerned, it’s really a pain, it goes in all directions, the proof is that if you want to rent a car, it has to be with a driver, otherwise you risk crushing a lot of people. When the lights turn green, don’t be careful, it doesn’t mean anything, just follow the people doing the same thing, it honks everywhere, but nothing bad, you can go anyway, I think they like the horn, it makes music.
Transport, we mainly took the metro, we got there quickly, but it’s always crowded, I rarely found a seat, maybe once or twice. To get into the subway station, you have to go through security gates, there are security gates at every entrance, there are a minimum of six or seven security guards who examine you, and once you go through the security gate, there’s another guard who comes with a handheld scanner to scan you again by touching your pockets gently, it’s really professional, you feel they’ve touched you, but they don’t go over the edge. Of course if you have a small backpack, you have to put it on the carpet, just like at the airport, the bag also goes through the scanner, and if you feel like having a good beer, something other than Chinese beer, which isn’t really bad, but it’s like cat piss compared to a Heineken, so you have to take your beer out of your bag so that security guards can check the bar code to make sure it’s actually beer you’re carrying and that it’s not a flammable liquid or a product to make, I don’t know what, a bomb maybe! Personally, I don’t know how a bomb can be made out of beer, I have to find out, I’m interested, yes, I forgot to tell you to be careful, the metro closes at eleven o’clock at night and the last train is at 10:30 p.m.
There are many department stores, but customers who buy, “makache walou”, that would mean “There are none” in Arabic. One day we found a stand that serves coffee inside a department store, and it was in front of the women’s clothing department, which is my favorite department. My wife offers me a little black one, I tell her it’s a good idea, it will allow me to rest my feet. I stayed twenty minutes watching what was going on around, while my wife continued her rounds. There were only ghosts in this department store, I didn’t understand anything, only my wife was walking around the shelves, followed by ten saleswomen, moreover while I was drinking my coffee, I saw the cashier bored to death, I had the impression that the whole store was just a screen to make it look pretty or to pretend. As soon as you walk through a department or as soon as you cross the threshold of a store, a salesman or woman arrives with his or her calculator to ask you if he or she can help you, even though you haven’t seen anything yet, and if by some misfortune you touch an item, they ask you what size, to take it out without you having asked them, and if they don’t have the right size, they still offer you another size in case you could lose ten kilos during the night, you never know, or another article telling you that it fits you very well when you can’t fit into it, they are very strong these Chinese, they are very commercial and they know how to take people for fools. My wife used their way of doing things, that is to say that when she really wanted something, she would look at an article, which would incite the salesman to ask you how much you were offering, and she would answer “no, I’m not interested”, and he would give her a price, my wife would answer ah no I’m not interested because it’s too expensive, and the negotiation would start and she wouldn’t give in to the salesman until he died, she would put him on his knees, and this until the boss of the salesman who is listening from afar would say to his salesman it’s ok agree to sell to him at the price she proposes. Sometimes she has had an item at a tenth of the price the seller asked for in the first place, which means that if it’s someone like me who buys without negotiating the price, because I consider price to be an element that allows the seller to sell his product in a way that is fair to both parties, then I could be cheated and that’s not fair, too bad it’s a bit of a scam, it seems that negotiating is a cultural practice. It’s tiring, I assure you in a day you can negotiate two products or three but never more; I once gave a few Yuans to a saleswoman who had pitied me after my wife had won the negotiation by taking the product at a price that was humiliating for the salesman, compared to the price that had been announced at the beginning.
I have the impression that I only criticized the Chinese, while I loved China and the Chinese, my trip was one of the prettiest among those I have done before, but the facts are there, I carried the vision of an unsuspecting tourist for a short period of time. The Chinese are simple people, individualistic indeed, but kind and courteous, resourceful, hard-working, they are pacifists, and non-violent. It’s a great nation, with a great history, with a population of 1,393,034,633 as of June 2018, it makes you dizzy. They are the standard, in other words, if spitting on the ground does not seem right to me, then I am wrong, since a very large number of people do it, then it is normal, and I have nothing to say. I chose a hotel in a working-class neighborhood because I wanted to see and live with the Chinese, to be able to immerse myself in their environment. There are several popular districts in Beijing called Hutongs, they are characterized by small grey houses that are often glued together, whose doors are not triple-locked like ours, there’s just a small ankle, there are no thieves, either because there’s a lot of surveillance or because it’s in the nature of people, I allow myself to have a doubt on this subject. When we got out of the subway, it was five hundred meters to get to the hotel, at nightfall the street lighting doesn’t light up anything, it’s very dim, almost non-existent, my wife and I walked in these popular areas without the slightest fear, we were sure that nobody would attack us, and we were right, we felt completely safe. There are cops everywhere and people are under constant surveillance, facial recognition software is everywhere even in the restaurants, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, in any case, it’s a country where you feel good, peaceful and safe. People practice gymnastics in the street collectively or individually, they are not ashamed of ridicule, they are in better health than us. They love pets, contrary to what I thought, they do not eat dogs and cats, on the contrary, they look after them better than we do. They invented medicine based on empiricism, so they treat themselves with exercises and plants, without resorting too much to western medicine or medicine that has more the role of a butcher than a healer. I loved the way they make their brooms, they tie several branches of weeping willow around a broomstick and then they start sweeping. They don’t want my friend google, because they consider that a true friend, will not interfere in their life without being invited, they have modesty, something we forgot the definition in Europe a long time ago. The movement of people or even road traffic flows in harmony, when there is an obstacle nothing stops, people’s movements continue, going around the obstacle without causing any inconvenience to anyone, just as a river water continues its journey without stopping. Oh dear! On the other hand, I have to stop, I’m going to become Asian if I keep talking with metaphors, in any case, I’m already Asian with heart and soul.
I’m leaving you with a big kiss.