Sep 192011
Jude causing a minor sensation outside of the Forbidden City.

Jude causing a minor sensation outside of the Forbidden City

We made our first serious blunder of the trip.

Jude likes to travel with a coterie.  Those closest to him—his “Guys,” as he calls them—are Elmo, Big Bird, and a monkey Jude dubbed “Woof Woof” when he was younger still and thought that all animals said “Woof Woof.”

Sadly, the “Guys” are far behind us now, having been left behind in Hong Kong in our rush to pack up and get to Hong Kong International Airport for our morning flight to Beijing.  “Where’s Elmo, Daddy?” Jude asked (and continues to ask).  “Where’s Woof Woof?”  We told him that they were with Rahul, and that they were safe.

We knew these answers could only get us so far.  He loves his guys.  (Fortunately, though not of any present help, we have two more Woof Woofs at home, having stocked up on eBay fearing the day that one of them was lost.)  An immediate stop gap was located at the airport, a small panda wearing a lime green kimono.  Another reinforcement was a small model TWA airplane.  Though not snuggly, the airplane was a big hit immediately, and flew through the airspace over Jude’s head, somewhat incongruously making the sound “meow!”

The less said about the panda the better.  Jude smelled a rat, and hurled him out of his tent, shouting “Out! Out!”  Without the Guys, and with the panda summarily rejected, getting Jude to sleep on our first night in Beijing was a serious challenge, helped a little (and only a little) by a very small stuffed Elmo doll we have, “Baby Elmo.”  Seeing Baby Elmo, of course, begged the question: “Where’s Big Elmo, Daddy?”  It was clear that more serious measures would have to be taken, and quickly.

The next morning after some sightseeing (more on that, below) I headed out alone to replace the Guys.  The best I could do was to come up with a Mickey Mouse doll.  Fortunately, our recent trip to Hong Kong Disneyland appears to have paid big dividends.  Although Jude cannot tolerate Mickey Mouse in the flesh (fur?) he loved the doll at first sight (recognizing him from the Park), squeezed him lovingly, and finally asked, “Where’s Minnie, Daddy?  Minnie Mouse, too.”  Bizarrely, coming out of the toy store on Wang Fujing Avenue, and holding Mickey in my arms (I wasn’t given a bag), I was solicited by a prostitute.  “We go have beer.  You make new friend.”  Seriously, prostitute, if you’re reading this, who solicits a guy holding a Mickey Mouse doll?

The Great Wall of China

My favorite parts of our 36 hours in Beijing were our trip (straight from the airport) to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and the terrific Peking Duck we ate with Bliss’ old friend Sumita who lives in Beijing.  The Great Wall was how I always pictured it to be, extending for miles and miles, until we couldn’t see it any longer because of the mist, and high up in the mountains.  Taking the chairlift up to the Wall also provided stunning views.  Unfortunately, the toboggan down the mountain was closed by the time we were ready to leave (quite late in the day).  The Wall was much emptier than I expected.  Considering that there are 1B+ people in China, we were pleasantly surprised to find only a handful of them (and a couple of foreigners as well) exploring our section of the Wall.

I can’t say that I was very taken with the small section of Central Beijing that we saw (basically, walking from our hotel to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and back, and errands back tracking over that same path).  The avenues are very broad and characteristic, in my mind, of a communist capital, with large militaristic-looking and foreboding buildings.  Many people were rude, pushy, and spat where they pleased.  Especially with Jude on my back, I grew tired of being cut off by aggressive walkers, throwing elbows and trying to get ahead.  Crossing roads also posed a particular challenge as red lights are apparently discretionary, and bicycles, mopeds, and, a couple of times, taxis, went on the sidewalks very close to us.  All in all, and from my (admittedly) very limited experience, I do not consider Beijing a relaxing place to travel with a two-year-old.

A duck and the chef

There is also something ominous and peculiar about seeing cult-of-personality iconography, like the Mao mural on Tiananmen Gate, in this day and age.  That coupled with the fact that we couldn’t get on Facebook, The New York Times website, or even our blog (because of government censorship), made me feel that we were a very long way from home.  Still, I am glad to have seen Beijing, and again, the duck was sensational.  Bliss also had enjoyed Beijing much more in a childless visit she took with her friend Chrysanthe in 2007.




  7 Responses to “Beijing: a Tale of Loveys Lost”

  1. Oh no!!! I am so sorry to hear about Woof Woof and friends. Poor Jude.

  2. We left Darrin’s Woof Woof in Southern Portugal when he was 4. We were able to persuade him that it was in a suitcase that we werent opening in Lisbon and then he forgot about it by the time we got home several days later. Many years (5 or 6) later we told him the story of losing it, and he actually got teary. I felt terrible and wished I hadn’t brought it up. The traumas of traveling!

  3. Zahara read this when she was over at my place w Natane today and was surprised that a toy store in China didn’t have toy character dolls from Sesame Street – her very favourite video as a young child was “Big Bird in China”. Jude has many months to find a replacement though maybe one of his grand-parents could go on e-bay, find another woof-woof and send it over?!!!

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Jennifer. As I mentioned in the post, though, we’ve already got two more Woof Woofs, bought on eBay. So all the grandparents would have to do would be to send one of those over. Fortunately, Jude is moving on in a big way, and asks about Woof Woof only maybe once per day. I’m picturing a happy reunion when they meet again in January.

  4. I remember when my sister left “hippo” in Scotland and cried for days. Thanks for keeping us all updated on the blog 🙂

  5. Patrick, I assume you know the story about when Sophie threw my adored monkey over a cliff in Orkney, shouting out ‘see monkey fly?’….

    ….40 years later, I still haven’t forgiven her!

    • No! I cannot let this go unchecked! As you well know, Paul, it was a freak gust of wind that carried him over.
      Really sorry about woof woof et al btw

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