Tuesday, September 26, 2006

trains in china

i love travelling by train.
in china, it's probably the best way to travel. busses hit a lot of traffic, planes are quicker but more expensive, and nowadays, all of a sudden it's not politically correct to have a little chinese dude pull you around on a rickshaw.
i love looking out at the countryside, i love the rocking back and forth to put you to sleep, i love riding on rails. i guess i'm an old fashioned sucker for train love.
train travel is a great way to meet interesting locals as well. out here in china, finding someone on a train who speaks english is a rare find. in fact, i've only met a few who speak about 20 words of chinglish. on one ride, while struggling through language barriers with 2 young mechanical engineers from xi'an, i broke the barrier by introducing them to the easiest game of cards i could think of, that being the game 'spit' (spit by the way is a whole subject in itself in china. i'll save that for a future blog. it's a real doozy). as many of you know, it's a fast paced, riveting game. i'd explain it to you if you don't know it, but i'm afraid i might rupture my spleen from explaining all the fast paced excitement. anyway, i played for a while, then let them play against each other. they had the greatest time shouting, yelling in chinese, and taunting each other. this was one of the highlights of my chinese journey. i felt like i left something behind that they picked up on, and i was left with great memories of 2 nice guys (who i couldn't understand) who tried their best at making me feel welcome....you had to be there....
anyway, on my last 32 hour journey, i was taken under the wing by an older chinese couple. they spoke 15 words of english, and understood about 5 of my words. i didn't try to introduce ebonics, that might have confused them further. however, they spoke a different dialect along with this other guy, and i swear to god, they kept saying the 'n' word. i think they use it the way we say 'ummm, ummm, ummm' when we're thinking of what to say....they kept saying 'nigganigganigga...blah blah blah, nigganigganigga...blah blah blah'. the first two times, i looked over with my jaw dropped. the last few times, we busted out some wu-tang shaolin sword style at each other (shout out to 'dependable skeleton' and the whole o.s.c. click, still nasty and sick in 2-thousand-sick). but they kept offering me fruit, they made sure i got off the train at the right stop (they literally got out of their seats and waited with me at the exit), and they kept asking me if i was ok. i know i say this all the time, but they were some of the most generally nice people i've met in my travels.
in general, it's a very communal feeling on the train. i've been taking hard-sleepers which consists of 6 beds in a berth (3 bunks on top of one another). everyone shares food with one another, buys food to share, and takes a general interest in who you are. especially being a foreigner, i was treated like a rock star (or maybe they recognize me as maxi rodriguez, the dashing, debonair, helluva badass detective). they kept asking me 'you art, you art'. i think they meant artist after they looked at my sketch book. or maybe, i was some dude named art in a past buddhist life. they loved hearing about places i've travelled (at least i think they did. but then again, they probably had no idea what i was saying).
but there are a few bad things to the communal layout. my last two rides, i've had the bottom bunk. this is the preferred bunk because you can put your bags underneath your bed, it has the most headroom for sitting, and because of this, all the chinese insist on sitting on your bed next to you. so sometimes if you want to lie down, someone's in your footsie space. on my last train ride, i had an annoying guy who kept invading my personal space (you know, that unspoken forcefield 6 inches around your body where no person is ever, ever allowed to penetrate except for pro-creation). he would keep hitting me and yelling 'engrish, engrish!' whenever he read something in english in a magazine or when an english song came on, on his mp3 player. he didn't understand english, so i would just laugh and smile and go 'ha ha ha, i don't give a shit, ha ha ha' with a big smile on my face. he would then laugh with me and hit me and keep saying 'engrish, engrish!'. anytime i was lying down, homeboy would try to sit at the foot of the bed. for future notice, unless your gonna give me a foot massage, don't do this. the best is when i was playing solitaire and he would tell me what to do each time. in fact he'd lean over me violating the forcefield with his nasty smokers breath, and would pick the cards to be played. i guess homeboy didn't get the memo as to what the game 'solitaire' means. he must of thought that the game was called 'duets' or 'groupcard game' or 'annoy-the-person-next-to-you-trying-to-get-through-this-32-hour-deathride'. but aside from homeboy, the ride wasn't that bad.....well no, actually, the worst part was all the second hand smoke you inhale, especially when trying to sleep in a train car without any windows open. there are even signs that indicate no smoking. but the chinese smoke anyway, and worst of all, they don't smoke pelotas. at least those smokes are smooth and silky.....ohhh, and then there's the spitting. i'll save that for another day. i know you're thinking this is me trying to be gross or trying to shock you or i'm running out of things to say or i'm trying whatever, but it's a real cultural mainstay out here. as an outside observer (and occasional participator), it's quite a shock. but i'll save the national pastime for another day.
today is about trains, and it's still my favorite way to see the countryside and to view all the chinese billboards that say Dónde está Ché Pelotas?'


At 2:35 PM, Blogger Teny said...

Great post ... "spit", love that game.


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