One of Mr. Chen’s many offers was to join him on his daily hike up a nearby mountain. I eagerly accepted, only to find out later that his daily hikes take place at 6am.
I got up at 515 and we set out by 530. Surprisingly enough, there were several retirees already there when we arrived, and Mr. Chen seemed to know every single one of them. Later I found out that roughly the same group makes the climb every day, rain or shine, and they all eat a light breakfast and drink tea at the top.
Near the summit I met Xiao Huang, the amazing mountain-climbing dog. He makes the climb every day with members of the group, and I’m sure he gets some breakfast out of it as well. When we left, I noticed that Xiao Huang was keeping a solemn guard over the exit, watching the cars pull out one by one. I can only assume he waits for them to pull in every morning as well.
The group was very kind to me and we all had a nice, albeit blustery cup of tea in the fog. One of the retirees dared me to pick up his backpack. I did; it felt like it was loaded with bricks, and I doubt I could have carried it up to the top. Afterwards someone told me he was 80 years old.
A near 32-year absence from the mountain climbing scene meant my legs were sour beyond words. It was so bad that I had to go to sleep early and pass up an offer to attend a Yemeni-style dance lesson with Mr. Chen’s family. That probably would have been awesome.