China Crisis

Nicholas Quirke was relieved to have reached China on 31 January 2020 and despite all the horror stories about the virus and the devastation it was causing he felt peaceful and calm and as the train chugged its way through the landscapes of the orient he was thankful he had decided to press on with his plans. He was disappointed that his friend Wei, who had gone to home in Sichuan for New Year, was now not going to be at Beijing to meet him at the station, particularly as he wanted to avoid another taxi wrangle. Initially on waking up, much of the scenery felt familiar, particularly from his ride on a bullet train to Xian two years previously and he was content to let the scenery, the landscape, the agriculture, farms, and houses, the cities and industry and tower blocks pass by him and feel the pleasure of being in a truly foreign land. However, he was not prepared for the grandeur, the scale and the beauty of the mountain passes that he found himself travelling through. The most thrilling gorges he had ever seen kept opening up as train 24 disappeared into tunnels blasted into the searing mountain‘S escarpments. The photographs and video did nothing to capture the sheer scale and beauty. Completely jaw dropping and he didn’t know what to do., film it, Photograph it, just sit and absorb it. In fact, the range seemed to go on so long, he got to Participate in all those activities. The conductor came and told Nicholas that he needed to fill in two forms for the rail company. It was in Chinese, so between them both they worked out the information that was needed and the conductor completed the form. He found it difficult to relax the last 30 minutes of the ride and felt maudlin that this stage had come to an end. He might be in Beijing for a while and Even put down some roots, if he got a job though with the Virus situation he may not last long. As he got descended from the carriage he could see that he was in fact, the only person on the Train. The station seemed unnaturally dead. Before he had left Moscow he had been in touch with a social networking group for ExPats Called InterNations. As a new member he was assigned a Person to welcome him, Dominic. Nicholas had asked some questions about Money and he had signed up for Alipay but the response had not been terribly helpful, particularly as on arriving in Beijing he only had the equivalent of £12, thanks to Rita, and he was not sure where his hotel was located in relation to the station he had arrived at And would he have enough to get a taxi. He had two major tasks ahead of him and the first was to get some money so he could get to the hotel and get some food as he had not eaten since the day before when he had the remaining roll and cookies and fruit Left over from his breakfasts. The second was to get himself a Sim so he could get connected to the internet. He dragged his suitcase round the forecourt trying to get a bank or some place where he could get money. This took about an hour in which once again he was beset by taxi drivers. He did have the wisdom to check how much he would have to pay. And when he was told 160 yuan he knew that a proper taxi would be a lot less. At one point he was talking to another taxi Driver when 3 of them harassed him and he went into a mime about being intimidated and they laughed at him. He joined the queue and was still being harassed. By the time he got to the front they had left him alone and as he was about to get the next taxi the guys organising the queue asked where he was going and then grabbed his bag and said I will take you. ‘I want a proper taxi’ he shouted, “I am a proper taxi” the man retorted and Nicholas’s bag was in the car. “How much?”, “170” , “It’s not that much” “Yes it is” I don’t have that”. “How much have you got?”, Nicholas had lost the battle he was paying the Yuan he had and being conned by yet another Taxi driver. He wasn’t even going to get a snack with what he had left. He asked the receptionist at the hotel where he could get some money and she directed him to the top of the road he also asked where he could eat. He got to the room and collapsed from the stress of it all. He set off to find a bank, The streets were empty, the one he was directed to was closed and he walked and walked till night fell, and he still hadn’t found one. He was reluctant To go to a restaurant and he eventually found a small “Family market‘ that was open, he checked that they took Alipay, bought some instant noodles, water and a smoothie for the morning. He got home to the hotel ate his wares and drifted into a satisfying sleep telling himself he could get to a bank in the morning and get a Sim.

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