I drove to the US Embassy today. Young Harold needed his final rabies vaccine, so I had to take him to the embassy health unit. That might not sound like much to write about, but for a foreigner like me, driving in the center of Beijing is more than a little intimidating. Even though we lived here for before, for three years, I have never driven downtown. In fact, I was so intimidated by the crazy driving in Beijing, I hired a driver from 2006-09. Now, though, the cost of a diver is prohibitively higher, and today I found myself on the road with 1000s of other drivers, making my way through the crazy roads and busy expressway. I borrowed a friend’s GPS, so I felt less than completely panicked about finding the embassy itself. I remained pretty worried about finding the right entrance, and getting into the well guarded gates, though.
Thanks to the GPS, and guidance from Horatio and several friends, I made it with barely a bump along the way.
Before I left our house, I told Xiao Lu that I was a bit scared because it was my first time driving the car to the embassy. She reassured me, told me to not be nervous (at least that’s what I think she said,) and implored me to go “slow.” She said it in Mandarin AND English. The only other word I ever heard her say in English is the command, “sit,” to Westley, the Three Legged Wonder Dog. So, I figured it must be important advice. She was right. By driving slowly, I could watch my surroundings and drive defensively against all the chaos around me.
I feel as if I’ve conquered another fear, and while I remain cautious, I’m ready to get out there again and get myself wherever I need to go. I just hope I don’t ever get stuck in one of the infamous Chinese traffic jams like this one: