October 8, 2010

Broken relationship in Beijing

On our first day in Beijing, we were the cause of a broken relationship. I will tell you the story as I show you some photos for Scenic Sunday.

Hutong guesthouse © Evelyn Howard 2010

We stayed in a guesthouse in a hutong in Beijing for 2 weeks. Hutongs consists of traditional Chinese courtyard residences. The above photo shows the courtyard of the guesthouse.

It was dark when we arrived at the hutong from the airport. But the streets were small and not well signposted. We had trouble finding the guesthouse. We enlisted the help of a passerby, a young Chinese lady who was on her way home after work. She spoke some English. She was a sweet lady in her mid-twenties. She seemed to pleased to be able to practise her English.

Although she lived in the hutong, we still took about an hour to find the guesthouse.

Hutong guesthouse © Evelyn Howard 2010

The furniture in the courtyard was traditional but not very ergonomic, nor comfortable...but it was a nice space and I spent many hours here drawing.

The next morning, I was having a quiet time sketching in the courtyard. To my surprise, the proprietor told me there was someone looking for me at the front door. I was surprised as I did not know anyone in Beijing, and I had not told anyone where I was staying.

Bicycle in Hutong guesthouse © Evelyn Howard 2010

An old bicycle in front of one of the rooms. The rooms were around the courtyard.

I went to check who my caller might be. It was the young lady from the night before. She looked distressed, and she had a Chinese man with her, , whom she introduced as her boyfriend. Then, she corrected herself. He was her ex-boyfriend.

I thought they were an odd couple. She was like a bird – gentle, sweet and slender. He was like a barrel – rotund and short. He was bespectacled and  wore a glum expression. I guessed that he was probably about 5 years older than her.

Lantern and kites © Evelyn Howard 2010

Looking up – lots of kites and and a few lanterns decorate the ceiling 

I had no idea why they had come, and what they wanted. It didn’t look like they were going to invite us to coffee…

She explained that her boyfriend was suspicious when he could not locate her the night before. She told him that she was with us, but he did not believe her. Following this incident, he became her ex-boyfriend.

Hutong guesthouse © Evelyn Howard 2010

A fishpond looks down onto the basement level

 So Mr Ex-boyfriend wanted to meet us to verify her story. Which I thought was pointless, since they had already broken off their relationship. And what a trivial matter to sweat about… But I kept all of that to myself.

Hutong © Evelyn Howard 2010

Now that we have seen inside the guesthouse, let us go outside and look around the hutong.

I tried my best to tell him that she was with us, with my very limited Mandarin. He did not say anything. She told me that he could understand English, so I repeated myself in English.

Bicycles in China © Evelyn Howard 2010

There were lots of bicycles and tricycles.

Still he did not respond. It was like water off a duck's back. I had explained in 2 languages as best as I could. I had no more to say.

Cupboards in hutong © Evelyn Howard 2010

These cupboards lined a part of the hutong. I guess they are owned by people of  the hutong to store their personal belongings.

Mr ex-boyfriend decided to speak after a while. He spoke in Mandarin, and I had to turn to the lady for some translation. He said that he was led to believe she was helping 2 older travellers. He was surprised that we were not in our eighties.

Beijing hutong alleyway © Evelyn Howard 2010

A narrow passageway leading to more homes.

Huh? What? Eighty year olds? The lady said she did not say we were old, but he insisted that she did.

Beijing hutong house © Evelyn Howard 2010

Interesting doorway – lots of character with broken bricks and tiles piled up…

I was getting tired, and I didn’t care who was telling the truth. It was not my problem, but theirs to sort out. Obviously, they were not suited for each other. He was a control freak. She deserved better.

Tricycle in Beijing © Evelyn Howard 2010

These 3 wheeler bikes were a common sight in Beijing.

The ordeal had gone on for about 20 minutes. Then he decided to make his exit and spoke in perfect English. I was gobsmacked. Was he hoping we would expose some secrets, if we were convinced that he could not understand English?

Beijing foodstall © Evelyn Howard 2010

A stall selling skewered food on sticks, which seemed to be quite popular.

He said he understood all we said, but he couldn’t understand why she lied to him. He stormed off, then turned around and ordered her to follow. She did so obediently.

We never saw them again. I hope she has found someone nicer to be with.

Beijing Hutong House © Evelyn Howard 2010
Where it happened… the entrance of the guesthouse

Scenic Sunday


Louis la Vache said...

What a sad story, Evelyn.
«Louis» hopes the young woman has the courage to escape from that control freak. «Louis'» observation is that this is all too often not the case - women who find themselves in 'relationships' with control freaks seldom escape - of, if they do, find themselves with another control freak. Very sad.

Nice series of images illustrating your story.

Evelyn said...

@ Louis: I know what you mean. Some people get attracted to a certain kind of people, over and over. But sometimes, they break free when something triggers a realisation...

origa-me said...

Hi, just came on over from your gardening blog!
Love the photos, especially the one of the alleyway with the solar panel next to those old,old houses, a real anachronism.
On the couple ditto what Louis said.

Jingle said...

fine tale.
people do crazy things, hope that this experience does not bother you.
Happy Blogging!

cyclopseven said...

Relationship is freaking fragile. Different place, different people, different languages and different beliefs, but the same funny human characters!! The pictures speaks a lot, at least something about Hutong. The wooden swing looks antic.

Kala said...

That story is unbelievable! Great photos as usual though :)

Kaori said...

Wow, that's quite a story...I hope she finds someone better, too. But I love your photos! Especially the courtyard. How pretty :-)

Judith said...

a very interesting post and delightful photos - Judith (Precious Moments)

lisaschaos said...

What an experience! I guess not all the jerks are in the US. What a lovely place to stay! That fishpond is truly unique!

Sadami said...

Dear Evelyn,
...I hope the lady will find her own life and a good man who shares values with her. Your photos and sketch are so nice!!
Cheers, Sadami

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