First off – for all those readers who are not South African – let me elaborate on the title a little.
“Bergies in Beijing” – So, what is a “Bergie”?
The term “bergie” is used to describe a homeless person in Cape Town, South Africa. The word originates from the Afrikaans word, “berg”, meaning “mountain”. At first the word referred to the homeless people who sheltered in the forests of the slopes of Table Mountain. Nowadays, they are more commonly found in the city where shelter and food are more readily available.
After being refused entrance to a hotel in Beijing, and realising that without showing my passport, we would not be allowed into any hotel, motel, or hostel. There was basically not much hope for us!
We went to a Starbucks nearby to take advantage of the A/C, internet, and a comfy place to sit while we searched the internet for options. It soon became evident, from information posted by other travellers, that our situation was pretty bleak. Without a passport, we were doomed. Hotels were not allowed, by law, to let me stay. Furthermore, they were required to call the cops and inform them that I was traveling without a passport/ visa.
Not to mention that we attracted more attention this way.
It was obvious that we either had no place to go, or we had not yet reached our final destination.
A few blocks away we found an awesome three story building, the first two floors were bar-restaurants combined, and the third was completely used as a bar, with loud dance music coming from it. Located in the heart of San Li Tun Bar Street area, there was a fantastic vibe here, so we found a table and settled in.
The view from our table
We joked about where we might look for refuge after 3am. Perhaps a 24 hour McDonald’s or KFC?? Despite what the rest of the night held for us, for the next few hours, we were surrounded by people, having a good time, and we were grateful for the place to relax and enjoy the night.
Not knowing where we were heading, we took off walking. Five minutes later we came across a couple groups of foreigners drinking beers on the sidewalk (FYI – drinking in public areas is completely acceptable here). I looked over at some people and felt drawn to talk and approach three guys sitting alone. They looked friendly. We asked them if they knew where most of the hostels were located in the area. Unfortunately, they were staying somewhere far away, but they kindly offered to use the GPS on their phones to find out where the nearest accommodation was. We told them about my passport situation and before we knew it, they were walking around with us, trying to help find a place that would accept my photocopied passport.
|Street Map of the Area|
We wandered the streets looking for hotels. It was late at that point, and we were growing weary. We took note of where we found 24 hour fast food joints, and reconciled ourselves with the fact that we may have to return to one of them later.
Justin went inside alone and to ask how much a room was. Like a prisoner on the loose, I hid in the shadows next to the building. I can’t lie – I was pretty nervous. Despite the time, it was still hot and humid, so my backpack was starting to chafe my shoulders. I was sweating and needing to lay down somewhere. Just then the clouds began to open, and our situation went from BLAH to down right crappy! Justin returned from inside to inform me that a room was about $150. He said that there were not many people in the reception area, and I would probably be able to sneak into the elevators without being spotted. The problem is that if I was stopped, and questioned… What would I say? These hotels always have cameras, so it would be hard to know if I was seen or not. Justin would already be inside and the room fee would be paid. Even worse, hotels are now legally allowed to come to the rooms of foreigners if they know of any of them staying there without having signed in (by showing their passports). We stood under a tree nearby trying to decide what to do. It seemed like a lot of money for situation that was so uncertain.
My heart was racing, and I just couldn’t handle the stress of trying to sneak in, and then trying to sleep knowing that at any second someone could come knocking on our door asking for identification. If you can’t show them your passport, they call the cops.
I kept telling myself to MAN UP! “Just do it”, I tried to convince myself, but in all honesty, I had a bad feeling about it. You know that feeling in your gut that shouts, “NO, don’t do it!” Yup, I felt that so strongly that sleeping outside made more sense than going against that gut feeling!!
And that this guy wasn’t a psycho-axe murder.
The three of us stayed up until 4am talking about our world travels, life and U.S. politics. He was a self-proclaimed “hippie” and it was interesting how we pretty much had the same opinions on most topics! Great guy ~ We really appreciated his kind heart!!
I was so thankful!!!
God had provided us a place to sleep,
and an escape from the torrential downpour outside.
I fell asleep with a grateful heart.