Getting back that afternoon was a different matter. I left CRI confidently, took the subway to Muxidi, but couldn’t remember which exit to use. Taking a chance, I looked for the bus. When it arrived, I asked the conductor in the one Chinese word I had been told would get me out of trouble — ‘Yoyibinguan’, which means Friendship Hotel.
The conductor beckoned me aboard, but ten minutes into the journey, I had a feeling I was going the wrong way. The skyline wasn’t slightly familiar. At each stop, a recorded voice was obviously naming the stations in Chinese, followed by five English words, ‘get off the bus now.’
I started feeling anxious but stayed on, thinking the Friendship Hotel would appear soon. After almost 40 minutes I feared the worst. This time, everyone got off the bus. It was journey’s end. I realised my tones must have been wrong and the conductor thought I had said the name of another hotel which was near the final stop.
I hailed a taxi, and when I said ‘Yoyibinguan’, I could tell from his reaction he knew where to take me. After all that travel from Babaoshan to Muxidi and now to this now unknown (to me) locality, I wondered where I was.
I soon found out. Less than one minute into the journey, the taxi passed a familiar landmark. It was the CRI building. I was back