January 19: Complete Story of “The Spy Who Shoved Me”

PS for those who’ve kept up, I’ll post the last of the China photos at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com today.

THE SPY WHO SHOVED ME

Sun3

The name’s Bind. Jimmy Bind. On mission to China. I can tell the flight attendant wants me diced on a tiny tray. Time for some airline food.

*

He comes at me with a poison toothpick. I click my pen and squirt gas in his eye. He reels and hits the Wong twins. Two Wongs make it right.

*

The Wongs knock the flight attendant out cold. I unclick my pen and accidentally poison myself. When I wake up, we’re in Beijing. Smooth.

Mon4

Tracked the faux attendant to a meeting in Chinatown. Too bad Beijing IS Chinatown. Got distracted buying shoes. Stumbled across baddie.

*

Baddie is Mr Fu. The girl with him is Yen. I chase him and he throws a shoe at me. It explodes. He runs. I bind my wounds with duct tape.

*

I follow Fu and corner him in an alley. He throws some kung fu, and I throw some bricks. “Who’s your boss?” I scream.

“It’s her!” he weeps.

Tue5

I’ve a yen for Yen. She’s small, dark, and deadly, like an expresso. I track her by smell and find her sleeping. “Where’s the jewel?” I ask.

*

She yawns, briefly distracting me. Her leg wraps around my neck (also distracting). Suddenly she yields to my good looks and leans closer.

*

I wake up strapped to the side of the Great Wall; tied firmly with two rolls of my own duct tape. Curses!

Wed6

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I notice writing on the wall: “Forgive me, mother. The ruby is at. . .”

I fall.

*

I fall among Shaolin monks, who immediately attack! Luckily I have my blow-up gum and I spit it at them just in time. Kaboom! No more monks.

*

Due to budget cuts, my car is a matchbox car. Luckily it has vertical grip and a camera. I discover the ruby is at Solo – in Indonesia.

Th7

I go shoe-shopping, hoping to dispatch Yen and/or get hiking boots before I leave. An old saleswoman is suspiciously attractive.

*

I neck-chop the woman and she says blearily, “Yen? Is that you?”

“Yes,” I say (femininely).

She says, “Your stupid brother stole the ruby.”

*

Is my wall-writer Yen’s naughty brother? Is Fu as powerless as he seems? Is the boss Yen or her Mum? And are these boots the best or what?!

Fri8

Another flight. Fu appears dressed as a fat woman and slips me a note. “Meet me in Solo,” it says – “come solo!”

I nod.

*

“Yen’s my sister,” Fu explains over unripe-coconut milk. He tells me to search in the temple.

I put sleeping-gas in his drink just in case.

Sat9

The temple staff make me nervous after the Shaolins. Suddenly they spit acid! Luckily I’d already wrapped my torso in duct tape.

*

The holy men’s acid burns through my precious tape. I grab some gum but all it does is freshen my breath! The Indonesians close in. . .

Sun10

I can hear tourists jabbering above my cell. Even when I beg for help in nine languages, all they do is clap. My last meal was airline food.

*

I make a gun using duct tape and my matchbox car (which is made mainly of cast iron and black powder, plus of course matches), and wait.

*

Yen appears. As I scrabble to light the match to shoot her I accidentally click my pen, gassing us both. We instantly sleep. Together.

Mon11

Yen slaps me awake. I sit up fast. If she spoils my good looks all will be lost. “Where’d you take the ruby?” she says.

I say, “Huh?”

*

She shoves me back onto the floor and storms out, slamming the door so hard she breaks the lock. I run out and shoot the guard dead.

Tue12

I find Fu shoe-shopping, and demanded the truth. “It’s a bomb,” he says, showing me the glowing ruby,“and only a volcano can destroy it.”

*

“Give it to me,” I say.

He says, “No.”

“But –”

“No.”

“I –”

“No.”

“Pretty please?” I say.

He says, “Oh, if you put it like that. . . no.”

Wed13

Fu and I walk up Mount Bromo at dawn. He says, “I don’t like my family, and I don’t like you!” and shoves me into the steaming crater.

*

Sulphuric rain falls, choking my lungs and coating the crater’s sides in poison! Luckily my duct tape retains some adhesiveness. I climb.

*

Mrs Fu appears on the crater’s rim. “Not so fast!” She stomps on my fingers but I grab her ankles.

She tumbles down and smashes to bits!

Th14

The waiter at my hotel smells of sulphur. My foe, Fu! “Your mother is dead,” I say.

He says, “Thanks,” and stabs a fork into my shin.

*

I grab for his apron but the strings slip through my fingers. Luckily I catch a glimpse of an Aussie flag on his boxers. So that’s next.

Fri15

Yen sits beside me on my flight to Canberra. “Mum wanted you to have this,” she says – and kisses me on the cheek.

It burns! Acid!

*

I rush to the tiny bathroom but my face is permanently scarred. In a white-hot rage I pull Yen’s hair until she screams. Then I gas her.

*

Yen is arrested at the airport. That leaves Fu – and a bomb shaped like a precious jewel.

Sat16

I spot Fu in rehearsal for Australia Day celebrations, and drive my spare matchbox car camera up his leg and into his fake chest hair.

*

He goes to the Chinese embassy, and between bursts of static from the ASIO bugs I discover he plans to bomb Questacon. No! Not the children!

Sun17

I cunningly disguise myself as an eight-year old girl and wait for Fu near the Earthquake House. He comes in dressed as a staff member.

*

“I have you now, fiend!” I cry.

Fu attacks me with a remote-controlled chest-hair fireball, but I dodge. I punch him in the nose.

*

Fu collapses. I grab the bomb. It has just minutes to explode.

Ripping open the lightning cage, I throw it in, fold back the cage, and duck.

Mon18

I wake in hospital, and realise at once the doc has thrown in a little plastic surgery on the side.

Yen lies beside me, getting hair grafts.

*

“Bind,” I whisper through my bandages. “Jimmy Bind.”

She smiles at me sweetly and says, “I’m in a bind myself. Can you bust me out?”

*

I look into her dark eyes, and suddenly I have a plan. My shoes are beside my bed, so I grab the left one and make the necessary calls.

19 Jan

Yen is sent to a high-security tropical island for the criminally insane. I volunteer to help her readjust to society.

It’s what I do.

THE END

January 18: Don’t eat yellow snow, and don’t. . .

drink “Golden Lemonade”. I did a week ago today, and I’ve been sick ever since. It’s got all the ingredients of regular home-made lemonade, plus syrup, cordial, and egg yolk. It was pretty nice – like home made lemonade, but much more so. Powerful stuff.

Yesterday I drank undiluted cordial, which is apparently quite a good antidote to food poisoning (and no-one knows why). Even Dr Karl Kruzelnicki (so iconic here in Australia that we’ve learnt to spell his name – he’s the *ultimate* authority on SCIENCE) recommends it.

I bet Jimmy Bind wouldn’t have gotten sick. He probably has at least three cast-iron replacement stomachs in one of his tardis-like pockets.

January 17: Bali Bogan

For those who haven’t heard the term, “bogan” is Australian for “white trash”. They’re the kind of people who hear that the government is helping young families, and start popping out kids at one/nine months. They’re also the kind of people that all seem to end up in Bali.

My partner and I came home via Denpasar airport. It was terrifying stuff. The whole airport overflowed with shiny whiny Australians, who in turn overflowed from their teeny tiny outfits. There were a few skinny little bleached-blondes, but the overall average weight was obese. Lots of these weird and frightening creatures featured low-cut tops apparently designed to show off their saggy bits, plus singlet sleeves (or no tops at all, for the men) to show off their brilliant sunburn and/or equally saggy tattoos.

It was a scary thing.

Curiously, they wear their hair just like certain Russian women I observed in China – bleached-blonde, almost every single time. Why is that?

January 16: Kamikaze Horse

Finally, the blog I’ve planned for months: Mount Bromo.

Mount Bromo is an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia. It’s inside a national park, and even the surrounding area is high enough that I get altitude sickness every time I go there. It’s over 2,300 metres (yes, metres) above sea level, and is certainly not the highest point around. The region is about ten degrees cooler than nearby parts of Indonesia.

Since our camera responded to the Great Wall of China by going on strike, I’ve had to take these pics off the net.

After a lengthy drive (or a short walk/drive from the hotels nearby), most people take a horse across the dead edges of the national park. It is a vast plain of sand and mud and ash – black and grainy underfoot.

The whole region is peppered with volcanoes, and Bromo has two sisters.

Of the three volcanoes here, Bromo is the wide and steaming crater on the left. You can also just see the Hindu temple at its feet (the temple gets rebuilt fairly often, as you’d imagine).

Bromo exudes a constant cloud of sulphuric steam (usually MUCH more than is pictured here), and the volcano behind it puffs out smoke at least once or twice an hour. Nearby cities are absolutely filthy from volcanic smoke and steam and ash (and by “nearby” I mean several hours’ drive away). The air is still clearer than Beijing, though.

We crossed the sea of sand on the backs of rather unwell horses (passing many other mounds of green or yellow droppings). My partner’s horse never stopped drooling a white and green goo. As we began to climb winding and soggy paths up onto Bromo, my own horse revealed its own little quirk: given a choice between a path and a sheer cliff, it would always head directly for the cliff. That certainly enlivened the trip for me (plus the increasingly ungentle sloshing of my belly).

After a couple of kilometres spent riding suicidal and drooly horses, we reached the bottom of Bromo’s concrete stairs (built onto the part of the montain that is too steep for the horses). We dismounted and climbed by foot.

Bromo’s entire crater (which is about a kilometre in circumfrence) was shrouded by the smoke, and I knew enough to know things were about to get nasty.

Any reasonably healthy person can get up Bromo’s stairs, but I don’t think anyone would find them particularly easy. About halfway up, when I was breathing hard and trying not to think about the journey back (and how far away the nearest toilet was), the sulphur cloud hit us. It hit hard, and I physically restrained myself from vomiting.

Sulphur smells like rotten eggs. Climbing Bromo, olfactorily speaking, is a little like cracking several eggs into a bowl, leaving them in the sun for a week, then covering your head with a towel as you lean over the bowl and breath deeply.

Bromo is absolutely worth visiting, and the journey is relatively simple. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy.

Coughing, retching, and gasping, we reached the crater’s rim. When the wind blows the smoke away, you can see all the way down to the fissure where the sulphur comes from. What breath you have left gets taken away by the glimpse of earth’s secret fires.

Because it was wet season, Bromo was largely deserted. I looked for Fu and Jimmy and Mrs Fu, but saw nothing. My partner and I both heard the eerie howling of the wind inside the crater, however, so perhaps Mrs Fu’s ghost was wailing for revenge.

January 15: Story so far

Sun3

The name’s Bind. Jimmy Bind. On mission to China. I can tell the flight attendant wants me diced on a tiny tray. Time for some airline food.

*

He comes at me with a poison toothpick. I click my pen and squirt gas in his eye. He reels and hits the Wong twins. Two Wongs make it right.

*

The Wongs knock the flight attendant out cold. I unclick my pen and accidentally poison myself. When I wake up, we’re in Beijing. Smooth.

Mon4

Tracked the faux attendant to a meeting in Chinatown. Too bad Beijing IS Chinatown. Got distracted buying shoes. Stumbled across baddie.

*

Baddie is Mr Fu. The girl with him is Yen. I chase him and he throws a shoe at me. It explodes. He runs. I bind my wounds with duct tape.

*

I follow Fu and corner him in an alley. He throws some kung fu, and I throw some bricks. “Who’s your boss?” I scream.

“It’s her!” he weeps.

Tue5

I’ve a yen for Yen. She’s small, dark, and deadly, like an expresso. I track her by smell and find her sleeping. “Where’s the jewel?” I ask.

*

She yawns, briefly distracting me. Her leg wraps around my neck (also distracting). Suddenly she yields to my good looks and leans closer.

*

I wake up strapped to the side of the Great Wall; tied firmly with two rolls of my own duct tape. Curses!

Wed6

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I notice writing on the wall: “Forgive me, mother. The ruby is at. . .”

I fall.

*

I fall among Shaolin monks, who immediately attack! Luckily I have my blow-up gum and I spit it at them just in time. Kaboom! No more monks.

*

Due to budget cuts, my car is a matchbox car. Luckily it has vertical grip and a camera. I discover the ruby is at Solo – in Indonesia.

Th7

I go shoe-shopping, hoping to dispatch Yen and/or get hiking boots before I leave. An old saleswoman is suspiciously attractive.

*

I neck-chop the woman and she says blearily, “Yen? Is that you?”

“Yes,” I say (femininely).

She says, “Your stupid brother stole the ruby.”

*

Is my wall-writer Yen’s naughty brother? Is Fu as powerless as he seems? Is the boss Yen or her Mum? And are these boots the best or what?!

Fri8

Another flight. Fu appears dressed as a fat woman and slips me a note. “Meet me in Solo,” it says – “come solo!”

I nod.

*

“Yen’s my sister,” Fu explains over unripe-coconut milk. He tells me to search in the temple.

I put sleeping-gas in his drink just in case.

Sat9

The temple staff make me nervous after the Shaolins. Suddenly they spit acid! Luckily I’d already wrapped my torso in duct tape.

*

The holy men’s acid burns through my precious tape. I grab some gum but all it does is freshen my breath! The Indonesians close in. . .

Sun10

I can hear tourists jabbering above my cell. Even when I beg for help in nine languages, all they do is clap. My last meal was airline food.

*

I make a gun using duct tape and my matchbox car (which is made mainly of cast iron and black powder, plus of course matches), and wait.

*

Yen appears. As I scrabble to light the match to shoot her I accidentally click my pen, gassing us both. We instantly sleep. Together.

Mon11

Yen slaps me awake. I sit up fast. If she spoils my good looks all will be lost. “Where’d you take the ruby?” she says.

I say, “Huh?”

*

She shoves me back onto the floor and storms out, slamming the door so hard she breaks the lock. I run out and shoot the guard dead.

Tue12

I find Fu shoe-shopping, and demanded the truth. “It’s a bomb,” he says, showing me the glowing ruby,“and only a volcano can destroy it.”

*

“Give it to me,” I say.

He says, “No.”

“But –”

“No.”

“I –”

“No.”

“Pretty please?” I say.

He says, “Oh, if you put it like that. . . no.”

Wed13

Fu and I walk up Mount Bromo at dawn. He says, “I don’t like my family, and I don’t like you!” and shoves me into the steaming crater.

*

Sulphuric rain falls, choking my lungs and coating the crater’s sides in poison! Luckily my duct tape retains some adhesiveness. I climb.

*

Mrs Fu appears on the crater’s rim. “Not so fast!” She stomps on my fingers but I grab her ankles.

She tumbles down and smashes to bits!

Th14

The waiter at my hotel smells of sulphur. My foe, Fu! “Your mother is dead,” I say.

He says, “Thanks,” and stabs a fork into my shin.

*

I grab for his apron but the strings slip through my fingers. Luckily I catch a glimpse of an Aussie flag on his boxers. So that’s next.

Fri15

Yen sits beside me on my flight to Canberra. “Mum wanted you to have this,” she says – and kisses me on the cheek.

It burns! Acid!

*

I rush to the tiny bathroom but my face is permanently scarred. In a white-hot rage I pull Yen’s hair until she screams. Then I gas her.

*

Yen is arrested at the airport. That leaves Fu – and a bomb shaped like a precious jewel.

January 14: The Women

PS: My partner and I are safely home from China and Indonesia – with plenty more to blog about here in the next little while. Meanwhile, here’s the secret past of the two women of “The Spy Who Shoved Me”.

Mrs Fu

All mothers want what’s best for their children, and Mrs Fu is no exception. She can and will blow up anything if she believes one of her dear children would enjoy it. She spent most of her youth in orphanages after blowing up Beijing’s Temple of Heavenly Peace at the age of four (her parents were blamed, and imprisoned).

Yen

Yen, due to a deaf servant, was accidentally apprenticed to a circus from age two until age thirteen. She made the most of it, however, and can backflip until her attackers get dizzy and pass out. She can also kill a bull with her little finger (without breaking a nail).

January 13: Not Dead

I’m sitting in an internet  cafe in Denpasar, sick and grumpy. So instead of blogging about Mount Bromo, here’s a few domestic Indonesian airline slogans I’ve collected along the way:

Wings Air – flying is cheap (especially when you recycle airplanes that would be illegal if you were an international airline)

Adam Air – now anyone can fly (but for how long?)

Sriwijaya Air – your flying partner (because our pilots like to nap during flights so you get to help fly the plane, hurrah!)

And Lion Air (our flight with them just ended; they have prayer cards in every seat pocket) – We make you fly (because we prefer to save funds by not using professional pilots at all).

January 11: Toilet Travails

At some point soon I’ll be writing something comparing Beijing and Indonesia (which I know a lot better) on my other blog, at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com

Why is it that Indonesian adventures are always somehow toilet-related?

My partner and I are in Indonesia now, on the same island as the illustrious Jimmy Bind (no sightings yet, though, sadly). We’ve spent two days getting to our current location (and we’re getting picked up at 5am tomorrow to go and see Mount Bromo, an active volcano) so today was a rest day.

Rest days are usually boring. *I* certainly didn’t do anything exciting. My husband, however, dutifully picked up the slack.

We’re staying in a rather nice area of a quite nice city. All the houses around here have a series of annoying security things – fences are locked down on various roads at night (you can still get to any house by wandering around, so it’s really just annoying), and each house has a huge gate out the front, which residents need to reach through to unlock (sometimes blind and one-handed). My husband, who likes security, approves of this arrangement. I don’t – if it was up to me (which it isn’t), I’d leave at least one door of our house unlocked at all times.

However.

Our house is empty because the people who live there are away. We’re staying in the guest area out the back, which has a bedroom and bathroom (both lockable) coming off a tiled verandah.

Oh yeah, and a castle. Honestly.

Immediately over the back fence is a castle, complete with crenellations (bigger than on the Great Wall), turrets, and everything a megalomaniac could want. The owner is from Saudi Arabia, and he had the castle built specially (coz it’s pretty. Obviously).

Technically we’re not alone in the house – a dog walker comes every day (which means we need to unlock everything), and so does a “pembantu” (literally a “helper”) who cooks and cleans and generally becomes a paid member of the family. Our pembantu is called Mrs Ani. She’s one of the best.

Indonesia is tropical, and it’s wet season. Breathing is a little bit like drinking, and a little bit like being dunked upside down in warm soup. It’s smelly (one reason Indonesians shower twice a day), but it’s great. The doors to our bedroom and bathroom are made of wood, and they’ve expanded in the heat. That’s less great.

So my husband went to the bathroom, and since there were two Indonesians in the house (who could choose to use and/or clean the bathroom at any time, and who don’t speak English), he closed the door.

Big. Mistake.

Mrs Ani heard his calls for help, and was the first on the scene (somewhat bemused at this wacky Australian habit of actually closing bathroom doors). I heard her yelling and came to help.

The three of us pushed and pulled at the door, and yanked and kicked it and placed our backs against it. It did nothing. My partner told me later he was all right – his only concern was how we’d get food in to him over the next few days.

Mrs Ani and I began gathering an assortment of tools. We used two screwdrivers, a hammer (whacked against a thong so we didn’t break our absent hosts’ house), a plywood shovel-thing, large quantities of detergent, an electric fan, and a crowbar.

Mrs Ani became increasingly concerned and phoned our host (who, incidentally, we’ve never met – he’s a friend of some friends, Mr and Mrs Baik, which is how we ended up in his house), our actual friends, and the dog walker. No-one answered.

Because it’s so hot and the bathroom has no windows, Mrs Ani was afraid my husband would pass out.

Later Mrs Baik told us that Mrs Ani’s message had got through to the house owner. Too bad he’s on holiday in Australia. Nonetheless, he phoned Mr Baik long distance to let him know their mutual guests were locked in the toilet. My husband has already incited an international incident. That’s not bad after two days.

After about an hour, Mrs Ani gave the door yet another hefty shove, and it suddenly opened. My husband and Mrs Ani and I stood in shock for a moment, staring at one another.

Then there was much laughing and hugging, and much drinking of cold water and having a nice sit down. Mrs Ani left us alone and went to spread the tale (with abundant joy and, presumably, embellishments). Mr Baik arrived soon afterwards, and we went to their house. About 15 people are currently staying there, and all of them knew part of the tale and wanted to hear the rest.

Welcome to Indonesia.

We also discovered an oh-so-exclusive coffee that has an unusual claim to fame. Civets (big cats) apparently have exquisite taste when it comes to eating coffee beans – they only eat the most fresh; the most succulent. So after ten-twelve hours, when those amazingly good beans exit the civet, they are picked up by this coffee company and made into very very expensive cappucinos.

I’m afraid I chose not to have one. Apparently it has a lovely aftertaste, though – sweet and pleasant.

January 10: Indonesian Phrases

More data for the up-and-coming supervillians (especially you, Ben):

It’s over, fool! = Sudah Selesai, si bodoh!

Excuse me, may I please steal your government secrets? = Permisi, boleh saya curi rahasia pemerintahmu?

Don’t look at me. I’m a perfectly innocent pineapple. = Jangan melihatiku. Aku nenas suci.

Take that, naughty person! = Menerima itu, si nakal!

Your place or mine? = Rumahmu atau rumahku?

January 8: Story so far

PS photo cable is still AWOL. Photos for yesterday may or may not appear in their own post at some point.

Sun3

The name’s Bind. Jimmy Bind. On mission to China. I can tell the flight attendant wants me diced on a tiny tray. Time for some airline food.

*

He comes at me with a poison toothpick. I click my pen and squirt gas in his eye. He reels and hits the Wong twins. Two Wongs make it right.

*

The Wongs knock the flight attendant out cold. I unclick my pen and accidentally poison myself. When I wake up, we’re in Beijing. Smooth.

Mon4

Tracked the faux attendant to a meeting in Chinatown. Too bad Beijing IS Chinatown. Got distracted buying shoes. Stumbled across baddie.

*

Baddie is Mr Fu. The girl with him is Yen. I chase him and he throws a shoe at me. It explodes. He runs. I bind my wounds with duct tape.

*

I follow Fu and corner him in an alley. He throws some kung fu, and I throw some bricks. “Who’s your boss?” I scream.

“It’s her!” he weeps.

Tue5

I’ve a yen for Yen. She’s small, dark, and deadly, like an expresso. I track her by smell and find her sleeping. “Where’s the jewel?” I ask.

*

She yawns, briefly distracting me. Her leg wraps around my neck (also distracting). Suddenly she yields to my good looks and leans closer.

*

I wake up strapped to the side of the Great Wall; tied firmly with two rolls of my own duct tape. Curses!

Wed6

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I notice writing on the wall: “Forgive me, mother. The ruby is at. . .”

I fall.

*

I fall among Shaolin monks, who immediately attack! Luckily I have my blow-up gum and I spit it at them just in time. Kaboom! No more monks.

*

Due to budget cuts, my car is a matchbox car. Luckily it has vertical grip and a camera. I discover the ruby is at Solo – in Indonesia.

Th7

I go shoe-shopping, hoping to dispatch Yen and/or get hiking boots before I leave. An old saleswoman is suspiciously attractive.

*

I neck-chop the woman and she says blearily, “Yen? Is that you?”

“Yes,” I say (femininely).

She says, “Your stupid brother stole the ruby.”

*

Is my wall-writer Yen’s naughty brother? Is Fu as powerless as he seems? Is the boss Yen or her Mum? And are these boots the best or what?!

Fri8

Another flight. Fu appears dressed as a fat woman and slips me a note. “Meet me in Solo,” it says – “come solo!” I nod.

*

“Yen’s my sister,” Fu explains over unripe-coconut milk. He tells me to search in the temple.

I put sleeping-gas in his drink just in case.

January 7: Chair Skating

It’s skating. On a chair.

Specifically, chair skating is skating on a pair of chairs made of cheap iron (and plywood for the seats), welded onto an iron frame at the bottom. The whole thing is like a sled with two chairs welded onto it (one behind the other).

Since the Great Wall, our camera is NOT HAPPY. It’s functional inside (where it’s warm), but lasts about three seconds outside, and only then if it’s been in your armpit for at least half an hour. It’s a good camera, too. Fortunately we have at least one chair-skating photo, which (when we have the cable again later today) I’ll add here:

The chair skating was great. Other than the sled-chair, you get two iron thingies that resemble ski poles (sharp on the end). You use these to push yourself around. The whole place was outside, on one section of a frozen lake (which is used for paddle-boating in the summer). I’ve never seen natural ice thick enough to stand on. It was beautiful. We could clearly see through the ice, and it was about 15cm deep. Many fault lines spidered across the surface of the ice in fine lines, and shone pure white all the way down through the ice to the water. Inside the ice there were patches of snow and curious formations of bubbles, like forests of white fungus under my feet.

A lot of young children (as wide in their down coats as they are high) were there with a parent or grandparent. Three 16-year old girls gathered their courage and actually had a conversation with me (I really don’t think Beijing people care about seeing foreigners much – unless they’re selling something and you foolishly made eye contact).

Readers familiar with aerodynamics will realise at once that sled-chairs don’t turn particularly well. They don’t turn at all, unless you’re actually moving – and the only way to turn is to slide. Which is great 🙂

We also went and visited the CCTV Headquarters (aka the “underpants building” because it’s roughly the shape of a person’s legs if they were sitting in a chair with their legs far apart). It is a ridiculous building, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to go inside – it really doesn’t look like there’s any good reason for it to stay up. And it’s huge.

Interestingly, there’s a burnt-out shell of a high-rise hotel next to it (Chinese New Year fireworks happened rather too close last year). It’s so badly burnt that one wall is completely peeled away, showing hundreds of individual rooms. The rest of it is black.

Other than building a giant keep-out fence around it, no-one has done anything about the burnt hotel. Rumour has it that it’s built on the same concrete foundation as the underpants building, and helps to balance it. So if the burnt-out shell is removed, the underpants fall down.

That’s pretty much not good.

Today’s taste of the day is some kind of lolly. It’s made of gelatinous rice (similar in taste and texture to the inside of a jelly bean) coated in sesame seeds. I like it.

So tired now that when I walk I veer left.

Each morning when I wake up, I hear the scrape, scrape, scrape of the snow shovellers. There is still heaps of snow and ice and slush everywhere, and trucks are constantly passing with piles of snow in the back. Even though the scraping is unusual, I will always associate the sound of a shovel on concrete with Beijing.

Tomorrow is our last day here, and we’ll spend Saturday travelling to Indonesia (at roughly the same time as our hero). You can read more of our adventures at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com

January 5: Real Life Adventures

Today I walked on the Great Wall with my husband and Bil (my Brother In Law), who lives in Beijing.

I should probably mention about now that, on Saturday and (especially) on Sunday, Beijing had the heaviest snowfall it’s had in sixty years (you can read more at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com ).

So we caught a train (10 points for awesomeness) through the countryside (10×10 points for awesomeness) after heavy snow (10x10x10 points for awesomeness). The day reached maximum awesomeness before we even reached the Wall.

Beijing is a beautiful urban landscape made even more beautiful by the snow. I woke up at 7:30, with the sun, and saw a perfect blue sky. By midday the sky above still looked good, but every horizon was hazy with pollution.

I realised today that the reason I keep coughing when I go outside is that the pollution outside is even worse than inside the house (because the outside pollution is refreshed daily, and the filthy stuff takes a little while to really get inside – which, of course, it does. It’s the same air). The air of Beijing is so bad it irritates my throat. Yet it still has blue sky.

As we rode the train to Badaling we passed several industrial places belching smoke into the bright blue sky. Over the course of the day, the pollution grew visibly worse. For the first time, I realised that pollution isn’t something that makes things worse over decades and generations – it makes things worse minute by minute. I saw it with my own (swollen and irritated) eyes.

But it was still a beautiful day.

My partner has never been overseas, so the sudden change from flat Beijing land to instant sharp mountain peaks blew him away. Me too 😉 We saw several small structures perched in unlikely places on the way.

***

We were hungry and cold by the time we reached Badaling, so we had lunch. I remembered having “thousand year old eggs” in China when I visited many years ago, and how it looked like boiled egg that was turning black with age, but tasted just fine – so I ordered something translated as, “Preserved eggs”. I thought it’d be the same thing (and maybe it was, just a regional variation).

It was a little like egg-flavoured jello, and I barely managed to finish a single bite (the yolk part left a green residue on my chopsticks, too). Fortunately the boys were fine with it.

And then we went to the Wall. Because of the bitter cold Winter, there weren’t many people. We walked to the highest nearby tower (leftward, for those who’ve been there) and it was very very cold and very very hard. My legs shook with exhaustion, and breathing hard just brought Siberian wind into my lungs. Being in the mountains meant it was much colder than Beijing. Being ON the mountain was much worse. Wind hits the mountain and flies up it, gathering friends along the way, then BAM it rushes straight over the wall and then (presumably) wanders off at a more sedate pace. Many snow scrapers were at work, and we saw several trucks taking away loads of snow (to dump in the next province over, I bet).

Bil’s drinking water was increasingly solid (he says that “usually happens at around -15 degrees”), my pen stopped working (not that I attempted to write anything until we were back down at Badaling), and although I’m usually comfortable in just my voluminious skirts in Beijing, I was very uncomfortable today in my thermals, tracksuit pants, AND voluminious skirts. Much urg. My super-powered down jacket didn’t stop the wind any more.

But it was utterly stunning, and worth every second.

***

Every day I’m in China, I try to eat as much interesting Chinese food as possible, and blog about the most delicious one. (So far, the preserved egg is the only thing I haven’t loved.)

Today’s taste of the day is actually Vietnamese. Although my partner and I are SOMEWHAT excited about the huge and delicious variety of Chinese food on offer (most Australian Chinese food is very Southern in style, which leaves out a lot of excellent stuff), Beijing is truly a world city, with spectacularly good food from. . . everywhere. (Bil’s Chinese housemate is becoming an Italian chef, for example.)

I ordered a dish I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. But it was a deliciously thin, crispy pancake (my absolute favourite kind) wrapped around mushroom, shrimp and shredded chicken and served with lettuce, crispy bean sprouts, and a sauce (which I also can’t remember the name of, but it was like honey and lemon with chilli pieces). The menu instructed me to cut up the crepe, wrap the pieces in lettuce, and dip them in the sauce. I did, and it was excellent.

A random man wandered by and asked about our food. We swooned a little, and said it was delicious. “Oh good,” he said, “because I own this restaurant.”

When we were on the wall, I kept an eye out for Jimmy Bind, but didn’t see him. I hope for his sake he was taped to the lee side of the wall. Wherever he was, he was freezing his shapely arse off. (But is just too darn heroic to whine about it like I am.)

January 4: Chinese Phrases (contains swearing)

Here are some useful Chinese phrases for all you superspies out there (be advised that these are (a) rather loose translations, and (b) don’t have tones, which Chinese obviously does):
Ai ya, hwai leh! – Shit on my head!
Ai ya, wo mun wan leh – We’re in big trouble
BUN tyen-shung duh ee-DWAY-RO – Stupid inbred stack of meat
BEE-jway – Shut up
BEE-jway, neen hen BOO-TEE-TYEH duh NAN-shung! – Shut up, you inconsiderate schoolboys!
Choo fay wuh suh leh – Over my dead body.
Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze – The explosive diarrhea of an elephant!
FAY-FAY duh PEE-yen – A babboon’s asscrack.
Fei hua – Nonsense.
Fei-oo – Junk
Fong luh. – Loopy in the head
Gao yang jong duh goo yang. – Motherless goat of all motherless goats.
guh jun duh hwoon dahn – A true bastard
gun hoe-tze bee dio-se – Engage in a feces-hurling contest with a monkey
With thanks to Joss Whedon and everyone that ever worked on “Firefly”.

January 3: Bind Your Mind

Welcome to your new theme and new story, “The Spy Who Shoved Me”. (The actual tweets will appear late tonight, since my parents are posting them – China doesn’t allow twitter at this time.)

Our hero is Jimmy Bind, the lovechild of James Bond and someone even prettier.

He speaks thirty-two languages fluently (and none of them are Klingon), can shoot a thread through a needle at three hundred paces, and is so handsome 33% of women who observe him on the street faint instantly.

His tools include:

Sleeping gas pen.

Blow-up gum.

Two matchbox cars (including matches and gunpowder)

Piercing blue eyes.

A whole lot of high-quality duct tape (or gaffa, as we call it in Australia).

The Spy Who Shoved Me: The Scenic Tour

“The Spy Who Shoved Me” doesn’t start until tomorrow, but it’s (mostly) set in China, which is (coincidentally) where I am right now. My partner and I are visiting my brother-in-law who is living in Beijing because of its thriving music scene.

I’m blogging in detail at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com and I try to make it entertaining. Beijing is bitterly cold, but it snowed last night. We visited the Temple of Heaven today, which is inside an enormous park-like area.

To put the scale a little into perspective – the building at the end of this avenue is not a building, but just one of many gates between different areas within the “park”.

Here’s some roof detail (from a mere storeroom) – and no, I don’t know what the wire is for:

Some ceiling detail (from the Vault of Heaven – another store room):

Beijing is very polluted it’s true, and the weather is almost always hideous – but it’s a beautiful city, and strangely peaceful.

Daylight Day 82: Preview of the next tale

The Mums enjoyed tying the Dads to the treehouse roof a little too much. Pi and I weren’t EMO, but we certainly felt wrong inside.

*

The three of us stormed Parliament House. I might have accidentally broken the Prime Minister’s nose (a little). Awkward!

——————————————————-

It’s that special time – the time in a twitter tale when I give out a free sample of the next story. This time, the next story is, “The Spy Who Shoved Me”.

Here’s day 1 (which actually takes place on 3 Jan – there’s a two-day gap):

The name’s Bind. Jimmy Bind. On mission to China. I can tell the flight attendant wants me diced on a tiny tray. Time for some airline food.

*

He comes at me with a poison toothpick. I click my pen and squirt gas in his eye. He reels and hits the Wong twins. Two Wongs make it right.

*

The Wongs knock the flight attendant out cold. I unclick my pen and accidentally poison myself. When I wake up, we’re in Beijing. Smooth.