October 1 is the National Holiday in China, which is the introduction of the Communist Party in China and the founding of The People’s Republic of China. In honor of this holiday all schools and government workers had a week off. The college cancelled classes Thursday afternoon and Friday so that students could have a head start on travelling because this holiday is one of the busiest for travelling. The train stations and bus stations were packed with people heading home or out to the country to relax or into the city for fun. The trains themselves were full with many people standing and squished on the seats. I waited until Saturday morning to travel and I took a train because it was cheaper and I thought more convenient. Luckily, though, my ticket included a seat. I was hoping to leave Friday but the tickets were sold when I went to buy them, but some students were sweet enough to buy them for me and I paid them back and taught them chess.
My train was for 756 Saturday morning and it arrived in Chengdu at 1136. I then had another train at 1236 and I arrived at my final destination at 8 Saturday night. For those who did not do the math while reading, that’s 12 hours! 12 long and uncomfortable hours on a train. From Jiangyou to Chengdu was an okay and fairly quick ride. One person talked to me for a short time. She asked if I was from a particular region in China and I said no, that I am American. She was surprised to hear that I was American and asked me if I spoke Chinese. I said I only spoke a little and that’s where the conversation stopped.
From Chengdu to Yibin, however, the story is a little different. I was smushed in the corner with a woman across from me that kept putting her putrid shoeless feet on my seat so that the rotting smell that erupted from between her toes wafted up to my nose throughout the majority of the trip. Besides that there was a young girl of maybe three sitting behind me that was attempting to spit on me for half the ride. I desperately looked in my Chinese-English dictionary for the word spit so that I could tell the mother of this child what an awful brat she was being, but alas it could not be found and I dealt.
I’ll admit, the train was not all wretched. During half the ride to Yibin there were two university students from Chengdu sitting next to me that practiced their English with me and taught me some Chinese characters. Then during the second half (after these girls had gotten off) I heard “hello Katie” and it was a student from my college! It was actually one of Vivi’s students. She had bought me a drink and then sat with me the rest of the trip. Her English was rather poor and she was really shy, but she was very sweet and tried hard to communicate. Another great thing was that she told the smelly feet lady to put her nasty odorous feet back into her shoes (well…I’m sure she didn’t say it like that). When I got off the train I called my friend Leo to say I had gotten off the train only to hear him say “I hope you meant to say bus.” But no I was not smart enough to take the bus this time, so neither of us knew where I was. Just then this lovely student walks by with her brother and asks if I found my friend (who I was still on the phone with). I ended up handing the student my phone and the two of them talked in Chinese a bit and the student helped get me into a taxi and to the place I needed to be.
Yibin was great—well worth the miserable train ride to get there. Along with me, also came Katie, Richy, and Amy from Chongqing on their 3.5 hour bus ride. We spent the time catching up, relaxing, and visiting Leo’s site along with his site mate Chris and their new Chinese friend/student Alex who spoke phenomenal English for someone whose major was not English. It was a time of laughter, good conversations, and interesting discussions (especially with this Chinese student who had all of these interesting ideas about what America and Americans are like. I blame media). We saw a mountain, ate famous Yibin food called ran mian, saw where the Yangtze River formed (although this became a source of controversy throughout our trip with Alex and Richy claiming it wasn’t true), inhaled polluted air, and enjoyed a banquet with Leo and Chris’ waiban (in which he held back trying to get us foreigners drunk. He had been lectured in previous years by our former medical officer on not getting us pcvs drunk). Overall it was a pleasant trip and we were all sorry to say goodbye. The way back I took a bus straight from Yibin to Mianyang and another bus to Jiangyou. It took 6 hours. 6 hours! That’s half as long, but the price was twice as much. I think I will just use my money wisely and take the bus from now on because that is a bit ridiculous. Oh and I heard that many of you happy readers were worried about my passport. I guess I was a little vague in my last post because Kerry had returned the passport to me before I left so I had my passport during my travels. No worries!
During the remainder of the holiday I scrubbed and scrubbed my apartment, made my bathroom nicer, and bought a comforter for my bed so my apartment is so much nicer than it was before. I will wait until next month to do more to it and then I might post new pictures of my progress. So until my next China adventure unfolds…