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Published: September 29th 2011
We managed to persuade Jim to abandon the pleasures of the subway in time to board the train from Beijing to Chongqing. The masses in China travel by train and tickets are not available online or through a central system. Therefore we needed Jacob with his connections to score us "soft sleeper" tickets which are the equivalent of first class in this classless society. We walked by the standard waiting room at the train station, jammed with people sprawled over huge bags and packages held together with string and tape, to find the special waiting room for people with tickets like us. This is communism at its best.
Our train compartment had four berths, not especially soft but not too hard either, a place for luggage, and a little table complete with a cloth carnation in a vase. We settled in and quickly met the three children (all under 4) traveling with their parents overflowing the compartment next door. The children's English vocabulary of about four words was a good match for our competency in Chinese. We compensated for lack of words by repeating them endlessly throughout the journey every time one of them popped a head into our room.
Hello, Ni hao, Hello, Ni hao. . . .
We left smoggy Beijing and remained in smog throughout the day until the evening, when we left the plains and rolled into rain in the mountains. The rain continued until our destination, but we saw corn drying on tarps along roads all through the north and then rice paddies and vegetables terraced on any available space between mountain gorges as we headed south.
Lynn and Jacob met us with smiles and hugs at the station and we quickly filled two taxis to head to their apartment. The exuberance of seeing them helped us not to notice the taxi driver's near misses with other traffic quite so much. Jacob was full of excitement and talked full speed and non-stop, reminding us that last year when we visited him here he lost his voice by talking so much. At his apartment he presented each of us with special tea cups and proceeded to give us a tasting of many kinds of teas and instructions in how to prepare them. We saw the wedding clothes, which are amazing and beautiful, and you will see in photos in a few days. Lynn cooked
not one, but two fabulous meals before we all headed to bed exhausted and happy.
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