The smog lifted and I saw a rare blue sky as I rode the little bicycle around Beijing my last morning.
I named the bike xie xie, which is thank you, one of the few Chinese phrases I can say unselfconsciously now.
It was cold and windy but the ladies were dancing in Jingshan park.
It costs 2 yuan to enter the park and I couldn’t take Xie Xie in, but I spent an hour walking, watching the dancing ladies and backward walking men, and climbing the little hill to look at the Forbidden City and the stretch of Beijing to the mountains that is usually impossible to see.
I pedalled through the wind to Tiannanmen Square, where xie xie was also most unwelcome. There is a strict security check to get into the square, but I must have looked sufficiently harmless because when I couldn’t produce my passport or indeed any ID except a credit card the guard waved me in anyway.
Windswept, huge, flanked by multiple fences and scary totalitarian buildings. And soldiers and police and Mao. No one is going to gather here unbidden any time soon.
I rode around and around in the freezing sun. Wandering hutongs and knowing this life won’t be here in 5 years. This moment.