Okay, so I brought a USB plug to the Internet cafe but it was the wrong one!!! Photos will have to wait.
So news about China...the train trip to Changsha. What a ride. If you have ever seen a movie where people are packed into trains, sleeping in the aisles and having yelling matches, then you have witnessed the truth - minus the chickens and geese. People were sleeping in the aisles and bathrooms and standing. I tried to upgrade my ticket from "soft-seat" (the name does not exactly describe the seat) but when I was lucky enough to find a Chinese guy who studies English and would translate for me, the train attendant informed him that there were so many people who had "registered" before me that my chances were slim.
Later, at the proding from a very nice older lady, a plant biologist at Guangxi University, he went back to inquire again anyway and she said that because he was her translator and she liked him she would sell him a sleeper. (i.e. sell me and sleeper, since he was asking on my behalf.) Poor guy, I wanted to buy him one in gratitude, but I did not have enough money! I offered to buy him dinner...he said no...breakfast...he said he would come back to our car in the morning and see us and maybe.
The Plant Biologist and I were so amazed we got a sleeper before the hundreds of people in line. This was one of those examples of a "be really nice to the foreigner" incidents that contrasts wildly with "laugh at the foreigner's Chinese and rip her off with the price of things" incidents.
I much prefer the former. All that to say, combined with the two electricity engineers from Xinjiang who joined our sleeper car half-way through, I had a total of five new friends who all came to the train exit to see me off, waving goodbye. I did not regret taking the train, BUT I wasn't goin to chance sleeping on a bench for the ride home so I bought a plane ticket back to Beijing.
To quote one Chinese man on the train, "for foreigners sleep is the most important thing!". You got that right, sir, because I am one BITCHY foreigner if I DON'T get my sleep. You know what I mean?
Changsha is modern (thank you god) and clean (thank you Beezus) and so I was pleasantly surprised. The usual hutong slums still exist, but the pollution is minimal compared to Bei-smog city-jing! I got off the plane on my way back to Beijing and they droped us off on the tarmack (spell) because some people were late for a connection plane. They bused us to the airport all packed in sardine-style, or should I say Chinese-style, and I had an attack of hyperventilation from the heat and pollution combined.
People were super nice, suddenly a fan appears, and a space is cleared around me and I'm offered water etc. Really nice people here make up for the more ignorant folk. They are even nicer than Canadians...lightning strike me down! But again, Canadians are generally, with the small exception of "lifer" public transit drivers, all nice people. Chinese just have this crazy contrast of Super nice and super con-man!
That's okay though, I've learned how to get the prices I want and what restaurants to avoid...though I did pay way too much for a capuccino in Changsha...but it was a CAPUCCINO in CHINA!!! I was CRAVING a cappuccino soooooooooooooooooo bad!!!
My pics will have to be in the next post. I will also try to unlock that comments setting so people can leave comments.
I think about you all, every day and the only thing that staves off the homesickness is the Sichuan food. I've all but pulled up my bags and pillow at the local Sichuan resto and become a live-in dishwasher the food is so good...but it does have some unpleasant side-effects...
(by the way, people do live where they work here sometimes...very weird).
I will return with photos!
Michele, August 11, 2006