So I’m writing this offline. Eileen and I are staying at what is called the Red Lantern House. Jeremy had the taxi drop us off across the street from an entrance to alley. The main road was not wide, but cars, bicycles, scooters and odd looking tricyles of all description were swooping by. Jeremy advised us not to look drivers in the eye. He said they took it as a sign and would drive right into you. Better to look straight ahead and forge in. Seemed scary to me but somehow we got across the street.
The alley was filled with people as well. Wares and food stuff were laid out for bypassers to see and buy. One man had a grill and a young woman sat in a neat small bench in front of him while he handed her little kebob like affairs with various stuff on it for her to eat.
The Red Lantern office was a hole in the wall affair. It has both rooms and a hostel set up. Jeremy quickly got us registered. I was surprised when the woman who was leading us to our room left the front door. We followed. Jeremy said that it was a two minute walk away.
We followed the cheerful woman through the winding alleyways until we came to a charminglittle courtyard. Everything is crammed into together in such an interesting way. These neighborhoods are called “hutongs” and have a long history in Beijing.
The room is neat and has a bathroom with a shower. Pretty luxurious without descending into complete Western hotel rooms (which are available here but seem pretty pointless…. I mean why come to China if you’re not going to experience something a bit different?)
We sat on the bed. Jeremy said we could get a technical upgrad to the bed if it was too hard. By this he meant they would add another thin layer of padding. We decided to ask for this.
Then we walked to Elizabeth and Jeremy’s apartment. The walk was a bit bewildering. Jeremy was keeping up his usual entertaining rap. There was a lot to take in. But I think after the walk back to the hotel last night I can navigate my way back to their apartment.
It took Eileen about two seconds to get Alex in arms. Elizabeth had ordered take out. It was a feast of four dishes which they said cost about $12 American equivalent. We had a nice meal and a chat. I got to hold Alex at one point so now I am satisfied.
Jeremy had a phone call for work from 8 to 9 PM. We goofed around with phones and computers and VPNs during this part. Also Eileen unpacked a suitcase full of stuff for Alex. Or did Elizabeth do that while Eileen held Alex? Yes that’s what happened.
By the time Jeremy was done with his call we were all a bit tired. We couldn’t quite figure out how to stay connected with our phones. Jeremy put Elizabeth’s sim card in my phone which seemed to work. But he will be picking up Sarah from the airport this morning so there is really no way to for Elizabeth and us to connect since we have her sim card and could only use it to call Jeremy.
The internet in our room is weak and spotty: low signal and intermittent. I did have about a three minute window a bit ago during which I did a quick blog post and emailed Elizabeth that we were doing fine and thought we could get back to her apartment unassisted this morning.
It’s more of an adjustment not being able to use the internet freely since many sites are blocked even after you can manage a connecction. Elizabeth installed a VPN. I think this stands for something like Virtual Private Network. Anyway, it enables you to fake out the local internet into thinking you’re actually not in China but somewhere like New York or Dallas.
Eileen put one on her netbook before we left the States thanks to Mark sending us a link. I was too lazy to do that. That’s why Elizabeth installed one on my laptop. Their old VPN expired the week Alex was born so they quickly bought a new one with only three licenses. I am now using one of the three.