But it wasn't.
I took pictures of some spring cherry blossoms and some shops and alleyways and the North Korean consulate and the Russian consulate next door to it. Good. Now I'll have more scenic photos to e-mail back home. And then I took a photo of the American consulate. And then all hell broke loose.
"Halt!" a rent-a-soldier type in a green uniform screamed at me in Chinese. I tried to ignore him and keep walking but by then I was surrounded by five or six more green rent-a-soldiers, all yelling, pointing at my camera and pointing at me. OMG. This can't be happening!
I'm screwed. I'm screwed. I'm screwed.
"English? Does anybody here speak English?" I blubbered. "I'm an American and this is MY consulate," I cried, trying to sound brave -- but it came out more like a whine as I took turns pointing at the consulate and pointing at me. Then the soldiers all went into a huddle to discuss strategy and while they weren't looking, I seriously actually considered swallowing my camera's memory card, but as quickly and surreptitiously as James Bond I managed to pocket the card instead. Hey, I gots photos of my grandchild on this card! My mission? To protect baby Mena's image at all costs!
Then the Shenyang police arrived. I wonder if Chinese jails have orange jumpsuits. Orange isn't a good color for me....
Then the head rent-a-soldier borrowed a policeman's cell phone and called up someone at the consulate. "What should we do with this grandmother ring leader terrorist criminal?" I think he said in Chinese.
"Send her to Guantanamo," must have been the reply. But cooler heads prevailed and the police officer in charge took a more realistic view of things apparently. I guess he knew what real criminals looked like and, frankly, I didn't fit the profile -- not many job opportunities for senior-citizen crooks.
"Where is your passport?" he asked.
Anyway, the nice police officer put me on the phone to someone at the consulate with a Chinese accent but at least he spoke English. "Are you a professional journalist?" he grilled me.
"Nope. I honestly can't say that I am. At least nobody's ever paid me so far..." But then it was my turn to ask questions. "Is it illegal to take photos of the consulate?" I asked. "Do I need a lawyer? What are they charging me with? What's your name?"