Monday, December 19, 2011

11. And then it was the last day.

In the morning I have some time to kill, so I plug the camera's card into the computer to start sifting through all my photos.

It shows me one photo, and then stops. The whole system hangs up. My photos are gone. There's not on the computer; they're not on the card when I put it back in the camera. They're just gone. 600 pictures, oh well! I could cry.

One of my friend Lai Sheng's fellow graduate students picks me up at the hotel to take me to his apartment, where I can leave my luggage for the day's explorations. My flight is at midnight, dinner with Lai Sheng and his family at 6. I've got the rest of the day to go back to the fabulously decorated Chen museum with my camera, and time to follow up on a lead on a shop selling books in english, in the hopes of coming away with a photo book of the city or the region.

First thing: Miss Yuan has only been to Lai Sheng's once, and is not at all sure how to get back there. She phones him three times on our way, and we finally do arrive to the beaming smiles of his mother and the contented cooing of his baby son. Such a fat-cheeked baby! Suddenly I realize that I've left my gorgeous painting at the hotel. The box with the scroll is too long formy luggage, and somehow I didn't notice not having everything when I left. So I have to go back for it, and Miss Yuan has to go back to work. Will I be able to find my way back to the apartment on my own?


Good question.

I have his phone number, and take careful notes on my way back to the metro station. His alley is the one with the big key sign on the main road. There's a guy with a sewing machine halfway down it. Turn right up the road, past the electric company, past the Happy Springtime Hotel, to the T intersection by the shiny new womens hospital. Right again down the hill to the metro. Easy as pie.

Get my painting, drop it off with the grandmother who only speaks the local language, and out into the fairly sunny day.

All this running around has worn me out. At the Chen place I marvel at the decoration through my zoom lens and spend quite a lot of time just hanging around. I had thought to go around the city, taking new photos of everything I liked so much - the Liurong Temple, People playing hackysack in the park, the view of the city from the top of a hill.

But I don't have much heart for it. I walk back to the temple, which isn't far from the Chen museum if you don't get lost, and spend some time there, enjoying the real quiet now that it's mid-week and most people are at work. I feel much more out of place this time, with the grounds not bursting with people everywhere.

After that, I just want to find the bookstore and be done with it all. And I find it, but they don't have any books full of photos at all, at least none with captions in anything but Chinese. The English language section targets Chinese people working on their English - lots of pulp fiction and language books. There is a small section with travel guides, but they're all for Beijing or Shanghai. I buy a book by a european guy who spent two years travelling around the country quite recently. To compare notes.

Back to the apartment they're laying on a grand buffet for me, and I'm famished. It's wonderful, simple, food. Just never mind the seaweed soup.

Li family chicken

Lai Sheng heard from Miss Yuan about my photograph disaster, and we spend an hour recovering my pictures. They're in there. The card seems to have picked up a virus (where??), but he gets almost everything back for me. I'm so happy!

Off to the airport on the metro. It takes a while, but we get there. Once airside I have an hour to kill, and a last fistfull of yuan to get rid of, so I spend most of the time wandering around the gift shops, amazed at the prices as much as 10 times what you'd pay elsewhere. And then, what's this? A simple t-shirt with a great dragon printed on it, just my size, and just right to empty my pockets of yuan. Deal!

The view from the window
I'm settled into my seat, blanket up to my chin and eyeshade on, a good hour into the flight when I realize I've left my painting behind once again. No going back for it this time!


Bagman and Butler said...

I'm speechless...600 photos of China gone...I've felt the kick in the stomach shock of losing pictures befoe but never on such a grand scale. My heart goes out to you.

NanU said...

Kick in the stomach indeed! I was almost depressed enough not to even walk around replacing the ones from Guangzhou.
But Lai Sheng got them back for me. Hooray for Lai Sheng!

GingerV said...

I knew when you said you dropped off the painting that this was leading to leaving it behind... thank god the photos were recoverable - I think virus is an universal term like organic (no longer meaning live versus man made) - used for everything not understood. I have a cd of photos made in France by some guy in a internet store - he downloaded my memory stick - onto CD - using a french program.... he filled the cd too full, and some photos won't open (?) I keep the cd hoping to run across a Lai Sheng that can recover it for me.
you trip sounds wonderful.

Niamh B said...

Phew - there's nothing less replaceable than photos... except em, perhaps paintings :-( oh well, at least you have your memories.

NanU said...

I was really looking forward to the serene scene of bamboo and two small birds, hung in my office where it would do the most good!
In science, "organic" just means composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms.
I think the term virus refers to the way the unwanted parasite propagates despite our best efforts.
Or whatever. I'm just tired from this new day of travelling not being over yet. THough it should be - my dad is in St Louis trying to pick me up at the airport, and I'm hanging around in Minneapolis.