The original plan was to walk for a few weeks, then stop and return to Germany. After all, I still had university classes to go to and two books to write.
So, after being on the road for about 500 km, I was ready to call it quits. But I really wasn’t prepared to have someone else call it quits for me. And this is precisely what happened.
Of course it was mostly my own fault.
I was on a 30-day tourist visa. The visa was about to run out, and I needed an extension, which I was supposed to be able to obtain in any Chinese city. So once I arrived in the city of Kuytun, I asked the people at the local public security bureau (PSB) for a visa extension. They said no, they couldn’t do it.
And this is when I felt the rage within me.
Long story short, I yelled at them. They told me to leave. I did so, and on the way out, I snapped a photo of their PSB building. They told me to delete it. I mockingly asked them if they thought I was a spy.
Now it was their turn to get mad.
I had made some friends in the area. They walked with me for a while. Once I had calmed down, I thought it was stupid to get mad at those poor government officials. I went back to apologize. But it was too late.
When I arrived in the next town, a police car flagged me down and told me to go straight to the next PSB. I told them I’d go to a hotel to register there. They said okay.
Then they showed up at the hotel. And not just in one car. They were too many. They searched my room and all my belongings.
In the end, they noticed that I had a GPS. I wasn’t allowed to have one, they told me, no foreigner was. They took my GPS, my laptop and my passport away.
They were going to examine my things. And me.
I was trapped in the hotel. For how long, I asked them. They said for however long it would take. Could I go out and get some food, I asked them. They said sure. That’s when I realized that I would be monitored anyway.
Every day in the morning, a plainclothes policeman would show up at my door. I only knew that his surname was Wang. He turned out to be a pretty reasonable guy. He would ask me questions. What did my parents do? Why was I in this part of the country? What did I think of Taiwan? Or Tibet? I answered everything, but I was worried sick.
After a few days, we were on friendly terms. Mr. Wang invited me to lunch in a noodle place, and he mentioned his daughter, who played the piano, and who was hoping to maybe go abroad to study some day. I said that was a great idea.
One day, a lady from the government arrived. She seemed to be pretty high up in the pecking order, and she was dead serious. She told me that I had made a grave mistake (carrying that GPS around), but that they would let me go this time.
I got handed back my stuff, said thank you, handed them each a pastry, and then I left.
Looking back, succumbing to the rage had been a terribly stupid thing. But being emotional sometimes was a part of me.
There had been an episode during the second or third day of my confinement in the hotel, when I asked a friend to come pick up the Caboose and take her to his place for storage. When he loaded her onto his truck, I couldn’t help but cry.
Mr. Wang, the plainclothes guy, seemed confused: “Why are you touching that handcart and crying?” he wanted to know.
“I know I am going to miss her,” I said.
That was probably the moment when he realized that I was indeed not a spy, but simply just a fool.
The blog entry of that day: The Longest Way – Police And Thieves