Monday, November 10, 2008

Part 1: Weinan to Beijing to Yangzhou

By Ruth

After a long day of classes I watched the English department girls win the basketball championship, then rushed back to grab my things to catch our 12 hour overnight train to Beijing. Kevin, Christina, and I were all going to Beijing. Christina was visiting a friend and we were stopping by “on the way” to Yangzhou. It’s actually about eight hours out of the way, but we needed to the embassy for Kevin to get more passport pages. We decided to combine it with a trip to visit my past students rather than making two separate trips. It did make for a long weekend, though.

Train travel isn’t too bad so long as you have a sleeper, but the bed seemed to be harder and smaller than I remembered. Unfortunately the movement of trains makes me a little dizzy. Fortunately, being dizzy makes me feel tired, so I was able to sleep okay until the woman on the bunk below me started yelling on her cell phone at about 6am. Apparently the early cell phones had very bad connections so people had to yell to be heard. Now they connect just fine, but people still yell. And I do mean yell.

Our train was supposed to arrive at 6:45am which would have given us enough time to get across town for our 9am embassy appointment. Unfortunately, at 8:30am, we were still on the train. We called the embassy and they didn’t seem too concerned. They just started this whole appointment system, and they must realize you can’t expect too much from that in China. When our train finally arrived, we grabbed a bus to the nearest subway which was the most crowded subway I have ever been on. You haven't seen crowded until you've been to China. Or maybe India. But believe me - malls at Christmastime look practically deserted compared to a Beijing subway. We had to ram ourselves into a car that was so full the door wouldn’t even close on the first try. In China there are no personal space issues, though, so the three people around me didn’t mind the full body contact in the 2ft space we were sharing. The advantage of having literally no room to move was that you couldn’t fall over when the train shifted speeds.

We arrived at the embassy about an hour late, but the appointment didn’t take long. Soon we were off on our way to IKEA, which was supposedly close by. Half an hour later, though, we were still in a taxi driving back and forth down the same road and looping around in frustration. The map from the IKEA website was surprisingly bad and the taxi driver kept thinking we wanted to be on a different road. We were frustrated and he was frustrated and it just wasn’t working out. Finally his face lit up as he thought of a plan, “Maybe you want to buy some stuff!” He took us to a big shopping mall area. It wasn’t where we wanted to go, but this was clearly the end of the line for us. He deposited us on the sidewalk and sped away.

We did eventually get to the IKEA, which was not that far away. I adore IKEA, despite or because of its massiveness. We were starting to wilt pretty quickly though, so we headed back to the far other side of town to shower and rest at our organization’s guesthouse. Two taxis, two subway lines, and an hour and a half later we were happily washing away the travel dirt. We collapsed on the couch for a short nap, then headed back across town once again (and by “town,” I mean the city of 17 million people), this time to our favorite Mexican restaurant in China: Pete’s TexMex. In addition to some of the only Mexican food in China, they have the best milkshakes I have ever had in my entire life. Topping my list-of-all-time-favorites good. Then off to the train station for our 10 hour overnight train to Yangzhou.

The Yangzhou train is pretty nice since it is newer and smoother and goes straight between cities with no stops. The bedding even gives the illusion of being clean, except for the random black hairs which remind me I’m definitely not the first person to be sleeping here since the last wash. Between the nicer train and our greater exhaustion, we slept better than the first night. Even the guy snoring underneath me couldn’t keep me awake for long. At 6am the curtains were opened and the lights went on and the night was officially over. We groggily munched our Pete’s cinnamon rolls as we rolled closer to Yangzhou.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Hey, if it makes you feel any better, a large number of subways in India definitely do not have doors at all so that extra people can hang on the outside... after being in India, though, I'm still pretty impressed by the China train. They were definitely significantly more spacious and lacking in rats. All in all though, I don't particularly mind traveling by train. I think it's pretty nice sometimes, actually.