This blog post is inspired by myself and James’ day out to the Forbidden City (travel tips just before the story begins), but more specifically by a critter we found there. This little fellow was what can only be called a DRAGONTURTLE, big ol’ shell with a badass head and tail poking out either end. Our obsession with him became so great that we made a Facebook profile for him (our given first name to the creature being ‘Brian’) and put my good self in a relationship with him (James being a Facebookless wonder):
Now Brian is a rather grim figure, far too clingy for my liking, but you gotta love him (and his best friend Cam El, fake boyfriend of my other travel companion Kiva who I have mentioned in other blogs… wow I’m seriously oversharing in this post!!). However, the Dragonturtle of this story is very well sought after, specifically by Lilo, one of the protagonists of my favourite childhood Disney film Lilo and Stitch. The story bases itself moreso on Stitch! The Movie and the TV series which proceeded from it… did I hear anyone say COUSIN?
Before we jump right into it, here are some wee tips about a day in the Forbidden City:
- Do Tienanmen Square on the same day! They’re about a 15 minute walk from each other pretty much in a straight line. Start your day early though, depending on the time of year tickets sell FAST and there is a limit to how many they allow in. We arrived at the Forbidden City around 2pm once we had finished up at Tienanmen.
- After yer walk around the vast Forbidden City, head into Jingshan Park and climb its hill in order to get a full view of the spectacle.
- BEWARE of
1) Tourguides who come up to you claiming tickets are sold out so you must buy spare ones from them.
2) Tucktuck drivers who get all up in your face about driving you. James and I were offered a drive for 3 koi (which is absolutely nothing, so we stood there for a long time clarifying that this was the price he meant), and they took us through a walled hutong on the way to our destination. It was cute and scenic until they pulled up in an alleyway and demanded 300 koi, fishing out a laminated menu of their newfound price. More men came out of nowhere and pressured us into giving the money, and when I walked off one of them shoved me and cornered James. We ended up giving them 10 euro, less than 300 koi but still a pain in the neck.
I hope you enjoy!
“Moses!” Mertle called for their instructor as soon as hula class had adjourned, “Just so you know, there’s not much point in coming next week… Elena, Teresa, Yuki and I won’t be around.”
“And why is that?” Moses inquired, much to Lilo’s relief. She had wanted to ask that herself of course, but Mertle did not seem to like it when Lilo questioned her.
“We’re going to Los Angeles” Mertle replied, earning an impressed nod from Moses, “My Grandpa has a house over there, we’ve been planning it for months.”
“I never heard you guys talk about Los Angeles…” Lilo piped up, surprised.
“Well of course we didn’t want you hearing about it” Mertle spat, “LA is where movies come from. The world doesn’t want to see a Weirdlo accidentally wander onto their screens. Or her ugly koala for that matter…”
“Mertle…” Moses warned as he packed up, and Stitch emerged from behind him to protest: “Hey! We’re CUTE!”
Mertle lowered her voice and leaned towards Lilo, beckoning for her three stooges to gather around too. “Besides” she said, “You’re head’s always in space, Freaklo. Sure you may know this island, but what do you know of the rest of the world? It’s called Earth by the way, E-A-R-T-H.”
Her squad giggled. “Yeeeeeeeah.”
“I know what our planet is called” Lilo insisted, “Actually my friend Pleatley is an expert on it. I bet he can tell you guys all about Los Angeles, I can go ask him what bugs are there if you’d like…”
“GROSS!” declared Mertle, sticking her tongue out, her friends mimicking accordingly, “See this is what I mean! You know nothing about the world, about why people travel. Have you even been on an airplane?”
Lilo rattled her brain for a moment. “I… I’ve been on lots of spaceships!”
There was a pause before a fit of giggles from her fellow hula dancers. “Oh I’m sure you have” Mertle purred, “We’ll tell the real world you said hello, and maybe show you our photos when we get back, if you ask nicely. It would be educational for you.” She raised her voice so that Moses could hear her bid a fond farewell to Lilo and Stitch, and the four girls then hurried out the door in eager anticipation of their holiday.
“Come onnnnnn” Lilo moaned down the phone, “You go all over the world, can’t you just take me with you on one of your mission?”
“Lilo what is it with the need to impress this girl?” Cobra Bubbles inquired, “Haven’t you already had several epiphanies connected to her inadequacy as a companion? Why do you keep reverting back to attempting to please her after realising she isn’t worth your time?”
The occupants of the Lilo and Stitch writing room began to sweat and prodded Lilo into hanging up on her all-too-observant agent friend.
Disappointed, but not surprised, Lilo knew she must turn to Plan B: The Experiment Who Got Away.
“Jummmba” Pleatley murmured, widening his eye longingly with a quiver of the lip for good measure. Jumba narrowed his four eyes in response and then returned his gaze to a rerun of Real Housewives of the Pacific. “626 and I are very dedicated to this show at this moment, I do not have time to be taking you and Little Girl to see another variation of what you are capable of seeing out the window.”
“But Jumbaaaa” Pleatley whined, unwilling to let go of the idea of travel since she overheard Lilo’s pleas to Cobra Bubbles, “It may be all the same to you, but not to us. We want to explore, to live…” Jumba’s eyes did not budge from the television set. “I know more about life than the two of you put together.” He indicated to his fluffy blue couch-companion, “I create it. Don’t you tell me that what I’m doing right now is of less worth than-”
“But that’s just it Jumba!” Lilo thrilled, flipping open his laptop and indicating to the pixellated dragon-headed figure on-screen, “There’s an experiment that made its way abroad! See? We need to go to…”
Pleatley popped his head over the screen, adjusting his long neck so that his eye could view the location: “CHINA! OHHHHH YES! Cheongsams and kimonos here I come!!”
“I think kimonos are Japanese…” Lilo mused. “See?” Jumba declared, “You don’t need to go somewhere to learn about a place, and oftentimes people who do go end up learning a whole lot less. Go on a journey of the mind, little girl, don’t waste your time on trifles such as this.” He took a second glance at the screen and sighed. “And besides, China doesn’t need protection from 605. Sure he falls in my little Doomsday Experiments category, but he only expressed his nihilistic viewpoints verbally. I have night quite reached an adequate level of Mandarin to impart this wisdom unto him…”
“But it’s not just about if the outside world is in danger” Lilo pointed out, already listing the possible homes for this new cousin, while simultaneously hoping there was enough film in her camera to show Mertle all the wonderful things she would get up to in Beijing, “It’s about finding a One True Place for every one of Stitch’s cousins.” Stitch gave Jumba a nudge for good measure.
A sigh was triggered from this gentle double-elbowed prod. “Fine” Jumba conceded, “Just don’t expect Experiment 605 to conform to that kind of Bullcrab philosophy…” He chuckled heartily: “Oh how I love your names for Earth aliens! I’ve heard Nani mentions Bullcrabs several times, never fails to tickle my udders!” Lilo and Stitch were well aware of 605’s melancholic nature… or perhaps not melancholic… sort of… numbed. Even to the point where he would not accept a name from them, not even and exciting one like ‘Warpstron’. Lilo was sure she could find a way to make his life meaningful while she was in the process of doing the same thing for herself.
I stand perfectly still each time the little girl, the blue creature I remember as one of my fellow experiments, and their elegantly dressed companion (who unconvincingly attempts to conceal their one eye behind a pair of human sunglasses) walk by. It doesn’t take me long to realise they are at least partly here for a holiday.
I am indifferent.
I did not choose to come to China, but my form, which humans can only see as a turtle with dragonesque features, is well respected by this country. I embody two of their celestial animals, the turtle representing stability, longevity and protection, the dragon representing courage, auspiciousness and good luck.
Despite my apparent significance, I am again indifferent.
I also seem to please tourists who do not share or know of these beliefs. They smile, they laugh, they turn their backs on me and hold their phones high above their heads, aimed in my direction. Dragonturtle they call me, and they marvel at my apparent ‘badass’ness.
My indifference cannot be measured.
And then the girl and her companions return after a long walk through the monstrous walled city, from the Garden of Supreme Harmony to the Hall of Imperial Peace and back down again to see me. She gazes up at my form, seeming to realise something she has been searching for on her trip. I mean something to her, or so she thinks. I am merely a vessel upon which human beings and any other alien race can place meaning, and I will carry on long after their little lives have ended, whether I like it or not.
I do not sway towards either feeling. Once again, I express to you my indifference.
Lilo smiled at Stitch’s cousin, deciding it was best not to disturb him in the midst of all his admirers who loved him so dearly. “He’s happy” she declared, “And so am I. I don’t need to show off my travels to people like Mertle, when I have people like you to travel with.” She squeezed Stitch and Pleakley’s hands as tears filled her eyes: “Thank you Experiment 605”.