It was a dark and stormy night. The old couple were weary from their many escapades and neither needed, nor wanted, any further adventures. They had spent the previous two days in the big city. They had supped at Starbucks (not an establishment known for its Friday evening cuisine) prior to attending a Rock and Roll concert, which they thoroughly enjoyed, but which left them late to bed.
On the morrow, they had traveled to the Shanghai Spinning Materials Market, where the woman had delivered to her her new blouses, jeans and jacket. The former provided the old woman with much pleasure, but the latter creased her face in such disappointment that the tailor agreed to remake the jacket entirely. The old man had new trousers delivered to him, but such had been the state of their meager fare, that they were too large around the waist and had to be adjusted.
After a simple lunch of dumplings and potatoes, served by street vendors, they plodded off to the market where the old man had earlier procured 2 pairs of the newly developed spectacles – one for reading the few tomes they had acquired inside and one for reading outside in the bright sun. Alas, the darker ones hurt the old man’s eyes, made him dizzy and he could not see anything clearly. The vendor laughed and said, “No, only for reading up to 30 cms away”. Lo, when the old man looked through them again, they did not hurt or make him ill – as long as he “focused” on written words only 30 cms away.
By this time fatigue was setting in on the old couple and so they made their way back to their inn where they rested and drank some red and white spirits in anticipation of a fine meal that evening. They supped with other travelers and heard all about their journey to that most majestic of spots, Mount Everest base camp. They were thoroughly intrigued and fascinated by the tales and they look forward to viewing the images captured by the leader of the troupe, known as John the Climber.
Although the inn’s bed are luxurious, the old couple slept poorly, particularly the old woman. This was portentous as the following day would be a long, wet, cold one. They started off with a trip to the market, to buy special milk to help the old woman digest her meager breakfasts better. Then they returned to the Shanghai Spinning Materials Market where the old woman had to purchase a beautiful new coat to keep her warm and two more blouses to brighten her days. This all cost her $150 – more of her hard earned money going to a good cause.
From there they were off to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens where they visited the “House of Crap” in order to purchase some supplies to celebrate the upcoming festival. They bought images of the famous giver of gifts known as “Santa”, they bought long strings of bright sparkly candle-like items and assorted other colourful trinkets to amuse the local children in their village.
Now it was back to the inn to get their packs and begin the trek home. Although it was cold, wet and windy there was a horse powered vehicle available to take them part way. From where the kindly gentleman dropped them, they managed to catch a train and the old man, seeing how tired his beloved wife was, purchased tickets which gave them large comfortable seats on the train. In no time, it seemed they arrived at their destination – in much less time than normal the old man thought. They gathered all their belongings – much more than they had taken to the city, and got off the train and began looking for some kind of horse powered vehicle to take them to their humble hut.
However, the place looked strange and unfamiliar. The first two or three vehicles they approached just shook their heads no and soon all the vehicles had left, leaving the old couple felling lost and bemused. The old man and old woman, standing in the dark and stormy night, looked at each other questioningly and then a kindly stranger came up and asked what the problem was. Sadly, they couldn’t understand his foreign tongue and so they went into the train station where they found a man who could speak a little of their language.
This man said that the old couple were in a village called Jiashan and not in Jiaxing. In their muddled, tired state the old couple had gotten off the train too early. The man said that there were no more trains going to Jiaxing that night. The old man was sad and fearful as he knew his beloved wife was very tired. They looked out the window and saw the kindly stranger outside, talking to his friend. The old couple went back outside and tried to talk to them. After a few minutes, the old man pulled three gold coins from his pouch and the kindly stranger agreed to take them to Jiaxing in his private vehicle. The old couple were very relieved.
One hour later the old couple arrived back at their abode. They unpacked their belongings, had some more red and white spirits and watched Survivor, knowing how it feels to be lost in a foreign land.