Friday, September 5, 2008

In transit

We boarded our train leaving from Guilin and headed to Kunming, our next destination in our summer travels. We had an 18 hour train ride in front of us and Jon and I were pretty pooped from our running around in Guilin and trying to fit everything in during such a short stay. We were both looking forward to getting on the train and just taking a nap.

Our cabin mates had a completely different idea on how we were going to spend the afternoon traveling together. Because we were in a soft sleeper compartment it means that there are four beds (two bottoms and two tops) and it is actually pretty spacious and comfortable. The cars are always air conditioned and there is even a door on each compartment.

I settled into my bottom bed, pulled out a book and hoped to doze off. In the bed across from me there was a woman and her son who appeared to be about 10 years old. On the top bed was a girl who we assumes was traveling with them. The boy decided that instead of letting me have my peace and quiet he was just going to jump around and shout. He also just kept staring at me and saying "hello." As you know, this is totally common in China and typical of almost every trip I make. The big difference was, that was all the boy would say to me and then he would just stare at me the rest of the time.

Eventually I decided to pull out my mp3 player, put on some tunes and hope that those would drown out his fidgeting and lull me to sleep. No such luck. He decided to start running around and would climb into the top bed and then jump down, crashing into my bed on almost every occasion. Half the time he got too scared to come down and would just scream until his mom came and pulled him down.

When I thought all hope was lost the little boy finally decided to go play in the hallway. Every sleeper car has a hallway that runs along the outside of the doors and there are also seats that fold into the wall in the hallway so you can sit outside if the people in your car are sleeping or you need a change of scenery. The little boy from our compartment found another little boy in the car and they started to play together in the hall. I figured this was perfect because it would finally be quiet in our compartment and I'd be able to fall asleep.

As soon as he ran into the hall to play I quickly slid the door shut and rolled over to catch some Zs. His mother promptly opened the door and left it opened. I rolled over, smiled at her, told her I was very tired (in Chinese) and slid the door shut again. She said something to me very fast in Chinese, gestured to her son and slid the door open.

Fine, I get it. Your kid is outside playing and you want to keep an eye on him. But GO OUTSIDE and watch him. Common courtesy tells me that if someone is trying to sleep and I have a rambunctious 10 year old running around then maybe I should go out in the hall, sit in a chair and watch him for a little bit. This was not the case with our new friends. I finally gave up the fight, sat up, drank some water and continued to read.

Early that evening, around 6, our compartment mates decide it's time to go to bed. Unlike when we wanted to sleep earlier, we were not given a choice in this matter. They started to get ready for bed and then it was time for everyone to be quiet. I was sitting in my bed reading and I look over at the bed across from me to see the boy jumping up and down. Completely naked. To me, this is completely inappropriate given his age and his proximity to people they've never met before. But alas, they did not find this to be a problem. So the boy continued to bounce around naked and Jon and I continued to shove our noses deep into our books.

Eventually the little terror fell asleep and, after staring at me read for a little while, his mother decided to turn in as well and snuggled up to her naked son. I looked out the window and realized there was an absolutely beautiful sunset taking place and the mountains around us only made the view that much more breathtaking. Unfortunately, on the trains the windows are generally locked and if you try to open them the people working on the train come around and yell at you and shut them again.

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I went to the bathroom, where they le you open the windows, locked the door, straddled the squattie pottie, plugged my nose and spent the next twenty minutes taking photos out the window. This was quite the challenge since the window didn't really like to stay open and the toilet smelled awful so I kept using my hand to plug my nose, and besides the train was moving pretty fast so I had to hold on tight to my camera. All in all though I'd say it was worth it.

After my photo excursion I listened to some tunes and read for quite some time before finally calling it a night. Somewhere around 4 a.m. I was abruptly woken up when my delightful compartment mate decided to sit on me. I wish I was joking. Apparently we were closing in on their stop and, because they didn't want us to ever sleep, she decided that she should sit on my bed while she put her shoes on and situated all of her things. I made loud grunting noises, rolled over and tried to wait patiently for them to leave. Once they finally did I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and finally fell asleep peacefully. By the time I woke up we were pretty close to arriving in Kunming so I took the rest of the morning to just read and relax before the train pulled into the station.

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