Since trecking along the Great Wall of China (as the song says, 'Goodness, gracious, Great Wall of China'... or something like that) on Thursday, I've been feeling rather sick. Thankfully, it's all above the neck and none of it involves digestion, since I'm not keen on the squat toilets, but nose, ears, throat and head have all been receiving a fair bit of punishment. Glumly I've spent a couple of days wandering aimlessly through the hostel I'm staying at, sleeping, reading, eating, typing and shitting, sometimes several of them at once. If it's any guide, I managed to knock off the entire The Da Vinci Code in less than 2 days - not something I'm proud of, but then again... who would have guessed Robert Langdon was really a woman?
Nothing really interesting of note from the past couple of days, although yesterday there was a slightly odd experience. In preparation for my great North Korean adventure (departing Tuesday!) I've been told to stock up on a carton of cigarettes as a thank-you to our malnourished (and, clearly, nicotine-deprived) hosts. As someone who has never in my life bought a packet of cigarettes, I wandered into the Smokes Store close to the hostel, and browsed aimlessly for a while. Given I knew little about the product and didn't speak any Chinese, it was going to be a tricky transaction. Finally, I settled on a large carton of Marlboros (I considered the Lights, but I figured that would probably be considered an insult. They're desperate, but not that desperate...). As I headed toward the counter, I involuntarily let go of the largest, wheeziest, most painful cough in my several days of sickness, and then plonked the carton on the desk. Giving me the glare that says 'Do you really need these?', the shop assistant eyed me for a while before continuing the transaction. Done like a true smoker!