Even as our bus came into the city limits, I could tell that Chongqing was going to be special. The main part or the city is located on a small peninsula where the Yangtze river and the Jialing river intersect, so the layout is like a miniature version of Manhattan, very dense with a lot to see within a small area. The weather was foggy but much more mild than the previous cities that we’ve been to, and the tree lined streets are reminiscent of Los Angeles. And one more city comparison: as we climbed up the peninsula, with all of the battles that might have taken place here in olden times, and with the distinct advantage that the hilly topography would give this city, I couldn’t help but think of the LOTR city of Minas Tirith.
Point being, this was one hell of a cool city.
So the next day, I tied up my running shoes, pocketed my room card and my I’m-a-dumb-tourist-and-got-lost card, and set off for the eastern tip of the peninsula. It was a great run. The Jialing river was beautiful. People were going about their daily lives as I weaved through them, some of them off to work and some of them chatting at roadside food stands. A children’s hospital that I passed was staging a performance with children dancing and singing along with a recording. Parents stood by and watched. I was sucked into this world, made all the more rich and enticing by my lack of understanding.
(Funny cultural aside, so far I have not seen a single person running here. Aside from people avoiding cars or attempting to get to work on time, it doesn’t seem like something that is done, especially given that every time I go out people stare at me and occasionally laugh at my weather-inappropriate clothing. But anyway.)
Then I got lost.
Now, I usually pride myself on having an impeccable sense of direction. I can discern compass directions in most locations and can remember directions to a new friend’s house after the first visit or two. So when I say that I got lost… It’s more that I got bored after reaching my goal, set off of the northern end of the city, wound my way through the labyrinth of poor neighborhoods, and proceeded to (more or less) traverse the entire peninsula for the next two hours. I guess what I’m proposing is this: should I really call it getting lost when every detour I made brought me closer to seeing the city’s heart beating?
But yeah no, I was pretty damned lost.
So, I pulled out that nifty card that I mentioned earlier (actually I had holding it in my hand the entire run, gripping it between my whitened knuckles like the lifeline between me and a life not spent sweeping streets with twig brooms that it was), hailed a taxi, and the taxi lady promptly delivered me to my beloved hotel for a modest fee of 10 yuan– $1.62. Nobody in the quintet was worrying about me, and I was back in plenty of time to recover and prepare for our performance that night.
My quintet members think that I am crazy and reckless, I can tell. But I have been through a few travel pinches, and I know: there is a way, there is (for me) a safety net, there is someone willing to help you. And in the event that none of these things are there for me, I can always, always count on myself to get back up, brush myself off, laugh it off, and move on.