Posted by: Brian | May 31, 2009

Notes from a Sleeper Train, Shanghai > Kunming

A town is celebrating something with fireworks, though what it’s for I don’t know.

A haze of smog hangs over a coal-mining town.

The dining car serves food that is not only edible, but tastier than the food at my university’s cafeteria.

A man loudly and obliviously chatters away  as the rest of the sleeper car tries to do just that – sleep.

A  beautiful woman speaks to no-one, instead sitting alone and gazing out the window as towns roll past.

Jazz plays softly over the intercom system, a welcome change from the screeching traditional Chinese singing that was on earlier. I still can’t get used to that stuff.

Without an form of entertainment other than an iPod and my laptop, both of which are rapidly being drained of their batteries, we sleep often and for as long as possible. Other alternatives include trying to figure out which people in our car speak putonghua (Mandarin), and staring out the window.

A gang of children stampede past in the narrow walkway, shouting to each other as they rush to the back of the train.

A group of sketchy men sit across from my bed and stare and me and my friend. I sleep with my pack locked and under my pillow.

Our car has very unreliable air conditioning, and has begun to smell bad, so we periodically walk the length of the train, stopping in other cars for as long as possible before being herded back to our beds. The train’s crew is very determined to keep everyone in their own car. Economic segregation? Over-zealous employees with a sense of empowerment? We can’t decide which is more likely.

We pass through stop after stop in a seemingly-illogical fashion. Stopping at some, flying through others, and occasionally reversing course, we make out way across China.

After 42 hours, we roll into Kunming. All I want is a hot shower.

My dorm only has cold water at this time of day.


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