My 27th birthday

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October 14th 2011
Published: October 18th 2011
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October 14th I woke up on the floor of a hard seat coupe in a train heading to North Korea. Wet sprays stinted in my face disturbed me and I heard the old man laugh hard as it happened time after time. Down the corridor I saw the young English speaking Chinese woman washing her mother with a cloth. It was water from this cloth that had awoken me and gave the old man a humerous start to the day.

This surreal scene is made even more surreal in my universe because it is my birthday and, just to clear that out of the way, this day means something to me. I am not one of those "Well it's just another day of the year" people, or the "You only get one day older" people. October 14 is magical for me for the reason that I am a spoiled only-child and birthdays in my family were always treated with the highest amounts of presents and cake.

I would prefer to have be in Denmark between family and loved ones, but this year I am in China on a dirty floor in a train.

I was not going to North Korea, even though it would have been an awesome way to celebrate a birthday. As far as I could tell, it was only a large group of Finnish people, who would sit across the border. As for most people on this train, I was getting out in Dandong, famous for being the Chinese border city to North Korea.

Nancy is not ready to pick me up, when I arrive at 0730. I had handpicked Nancy from the list of Dandong couchsurfers, because something had drawn me to her profile. In her profile she only mentions that she is a housewife with an interest of painting. Her philosophy is that you have to be honest to yourself and your dreams, so I take it that she is experienced in that field.

I have always had good experiences with couchsurfers from the whole world based on the fact that I nover have any expectations to the people. I had tremendous expectations to Nancy. I ot a vibe saying that we could talk like a teacher and a student. At this point of my travel I needed someone to talk to about my deepest thoughts and emotions and that would be her, I told myself. At this time I was reading 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elisabeth Gilbert, a woman who, like I, travels the world to find something in herself. Elisabeth Gilbert has a guru. I also wanted a guru. Could Nancy be my guru?

Nancy arrives in a taxi and we drive to her place. I ask to take a shower, but Nancy wants me to wait. We are going to the spa later, after the birthday lunch. I would have loved to shower as I had spent the night on a train floor, but I played along on Nancy's chord. A magnificent buffet lunch in a western style restaurant is waiting. Usually the (Chinese) buffets in Europe are so-so, but in the reverse arrangement, it is delicious. There are so much to choose from that I do not go back for the fourth plate of favorites. The conversation is flowing fine between me, Nancy and her friend Judy. And since it was my birthday, I get a cake to take home. Not bad.

A word on Judy. Like most Chinese people it is very difficult to guess her age. I guessed 28. Later I found out she is 41.

We went to the spa in the afternoon, cruising on Nancy's electrical scooter through Dandong. Nancy promised me the price would only amount to four euro. The spa was luxurious. They showed HBO movies and it was allowed to smoke inside. I got a scrub-down from one of the many waiting massagers there. He even lifted my balls to get really down there. Talk about getting something for ya money.
Afterwards I got a massage. A guy came to get me to sign something. Apparently I had agreed to be rubbed in something very expensive as 10 euro was added to the bill. I didn't care. It was my birthday anyway.

Back in the apartment we discuss if we should go to the cinema, which sounds like a totally great idea, if the movie will not be synchronized. It would be just that and Nancy had made an agreement with the manager there, so it did not leave me much choice but to tag along, even though I was not happy at all to see a hollywood movie with Chinese voices. Imagine a hard-core Polish gangster answering his phone with a 'Nie Hao'. Luckily I had seen the movie before, so I could follow the action. Otherwise I would probably have been furious to spend my birthday like that.

Before bedtime, we ate the cake and played Ma'jian, which is a very popular Chinese game played with tiles with different symbols on them. The game is played more or less like rhummy.


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