A Series of Unfortunate Events

Let me tell you, Lemony Snickett has nothing on me and Jess. We were both itching to get out of town for the weekend since after Wednesday’s flood the temperatures skyrocketed and things got very smoggy. We wanted to go to the Kangxi grasslands but figured they would still be soggy, so we hit the internet.

Nicole: “Hey, there’s a fast train to Shanghai we could take! And it’s cheap.”

Jess: “Yay! Let’s go to Disneyland!”

Nicole: “Oh, nope, wait, that’s the one-way price…never mind…”

So, then I started searching train tickets to random cities.

“Hey let’s go to Wuhu! Just because it sounds funny!”


“Oh, no, wait, that’s like a 36 hour trip…”

After a few more misattempts, Jess suggested a day trip to Cuandixia Village in the mountains outside of Beijing, then spending the weekend in a hotel in a different part of the city for a change. Also partly because our shower was flooded and we didn’t feel like dealing with it. And because the hotel had a bathtub and I haven’t gotten to soak in a bathtub since I left the States. So we booked a hotel on line, threw some things in a bag and took off.

Of course when we arrived at the hotel, near Wangfujing, they did not have our reservation on the books. We got a different room and went straight to sleep so we could get up at 5am Saturday morning. From there it was a 40 minute subway ride to Pinguoyuan, where supposedly bus 929 would take us to Cuandixia. However, bus 929 was nowhere to be found. After wandering around for a while a security guard pointed us in the right direction. We found the right bus stop, where we were informed by the driver that the bus no longer goes to Cuandixia and we needed bus 892.

We finally got on the bus and were headed out of town when it hit me that I did not take my debit card out of the ATM when I had taken out cash that morning. At this point we were well outside of Beijing, somewhere in Mentougou County, but we got off the bus and took a very expensive cab ride back to Beijing. Did I mention that in all this time we hadn’t found any breakfast? No, well, we hadn’t. So we stopped at the McDonald’s near the hotel where a raving homeless guy was yelling at passersby and throwing things. Naturally he followed us inside to sit next to us and stare.

So after we ate we headed straight to the ATM where I knew I’d left my card. I called the number on the machine where the ABC Bank lady informed me that they do not manage that machine and I should call another agency. Which I did. And the lady there informed me that she would have someone check the machine on Monday and call me. At this point we had very little money (Jess was down to the equivalent of $15  US until payday before we even started, and I only had the cash I had taken out in the morning, much of which was spent on the aforementioned taxi.)

But we decided to just go have fun anyway and set out for Beihai Park, one of the oldest parks (construction began in 938 A.D!). The park was very close. However, it was walled off and the only entrance was a very long walk away. (By the way, the temperature hit 108 degrees Saturday…)

The park however, was beautiful. The lotus blossoms were opening all over the place. In some places there were so many and so close together that you can’t even see the opposite bank of the river. There were boats out everywhere. We got to climb up to the top of the temples and view was amazing.

Lotus Blossoms
Lotus flowers in bloom


People write prayers on these wooden plaques and hang them in front of the Buddhist temples. There were prayers in several languages-German, Chinese, English, Spanish…


It was nice to be surrounded by nature for once; you can almost forget you’re in Beijing at all.

Of course, by the time were done we were both sunburnt. Or, as Jess put it, “You look like a strawberry donut.” But I had fortunately remembered that I had a backup credit card. At home. In the apartment. So we took a cab back and as we pulled up to the gate…

Jess: “Oh.”

Nicole: “Oh, what?”


Nicole: “You left the apartment keys at the hotel, didn’t you?”

Jess: “Yup.”

Fortunately the security guards know us very well by now. As does the locksmith, seeing as this is the fourth time Jess has locked herself out since she moved in, and the second time within two weeks. He didn’t even ask questions, just went straight to our apartment, where we grabbed the money and went straight back to the hotel. Where we were locked out of our room.

Apparently our reservation had eventually shown up in the hotel’s system so they switched us to the room we had originally requested. So we packed again and dragged our stuff down the hall.

Then finally, relaxation. We took our baths, blasted the air conditioner, ordered pizza, and watch a movie till we fell asleep. For about 10 hours. From there on out the weekend was smooth sailing. Except for Jess leaving her computer behind (it was recovered), and a minor bike collision (everybody’s fine). But stay tuned for more amusing disasters when we head out to the mountains again next weekend!


Update 7/26/16:

  1. Managed to retrieve my debit card successfully from ATM. I have to say the ABC Bank folks were extremely helpful. And when they opened up the machine there were several cards besides mine that had been captured so I don’t feel quite so stupid.
  2. Discovered source of shower drain clog: coins. Yes, coins. In China, the washing machine is pretty much always in the bathroom and shares one single drain with the shower and the sink. So apparently all the change we forget to empty out of our pockets came out in the rinse water and stopped up the drain. Chalk it up to another #chinaproblem.
  3. Thought my luck was turning today. Things were going really well, I even found out I get an unexpected 5 day break before my next teaching job starts. Then I came home to no electricity. I checked the electricity box and we still have money on our card. (Here electricity is purchased with a prepaid card, so it’s not unusual for us to forget to refill the card and run out.) Jess checked with a neighbor and found they still have electricity. Then she approached the maintenance people, who basically laugh whenever they see her coming now. The same guy who fixed our shower came upstairs and starts flipping switches and rearranging wires. Essentially what we found out is that the fridge is broken. We can plug anything else into the outlet, but as soon as we plug in the fridge it’s lights out everywhere. So once again it’s two steps forward and one step back…

2 thoughts on “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

  1. You guys sound like at least you made the best out of a horrible situation! I’m still jealous but i don’t think i could’ve handled all that


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