Yesterday my friend Brett and I went on a stroll around the neighborhood, as we are wont to do. Choosing directions almost at random, we soon found our way pretty deep into a maze of small neighborhood streets. We walked past what looked to be a retirement home and a number of buildings with signs labeling them part of some Wuhan college or other. At length we came across a market, and Brett bought a beer. This contained what should have been our first warning: the large bottle of beer cost an impossibly low 1.9 yuan. For reference, the same size would normally sell for 2.5 or 3 at the lowest. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but it was enough that we both remarked on how freakishly cheap it was.
Walking out of the market we turned to keep walking, but within a minute or so a man wearing a military uniform came up and saluted us. I gave a half-salute back because hey, why not, right? He greeted us in Chinese, and then after a short pause, sheepishly asked us where we’re from.
“I’m American, and he’s Australian.”
“Oh, then… I hate to trouble you, but you’re in a restricted military zone, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Very sorry!”
We told him it was no trouble, and as we turned around he asked us how we got into the military zone.
“We just walked in from Tiger Spring Street. You guys know you haven’t put any guards there, right?”
He gets on his walkie talkie:
“Yep, they came in from Tiger Spring Street. Right, the unmarked part where we don’t have any guards. Ok.”
He trailed us until we came to a random gate, helpfully pointing the way whenever we looked back. As we walked through the gate he enthusiastically waved goodbye. I don’t know what I pictured happening when they catch foreigners on a military base, but it certainly wasn’t an apologetic, studiously polite escort back to the gate from someone who seemed like he would have rather just grabbed a 1.9 yuan beer himself and talked about the NBA or something.