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Published: June 22nd 2015
With a much needed respite, I book a few days off to go and visit an area of China that I spent much of my seven years living in. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. An important city for central China. A transportation center and educational Hub of central China. Many wonders lay here for example one of the four great towers of china, yellow crane tower is here. But given the time I might go back for my 9th or is it my 10th visit to the tower. Honestly, I have lost count of how many times I have seen this tower.
After work on the Saturday I went straight back home to bring Dogbert, my dog to the pet shop to look after him while I am away. Then we had went to have dinner and returned to the hotel to grab some last minute items before leaving for the Jinhua west train station. There we entered the station going through the normal procedure of entering. Being on the inside I was assaulted with the normal sights and sounds of people. People of all shapes and sizes going to and fro all going off to parts unknown in
China for their own reasons. The place always smells the same no matter what station I am in. The smell of sweat, fear, anticipation, and of longing and of the unknown. The smell of adventure. Like most of my departures it is at night, for me the best time for departing anyplace. People, coming and going. I find one of the best places to be is a station, whether it’s a train, bus or other kinds of stations you can to see people. It brings out my imagination and wonder thinking about where the people are going and what they are planning on doing once they get to their destination. For some you can see the fear or the joy in their eyes. For some traveling by train is a calming experience others not so much. While in the waiting area I figured I would search out one of the few shops that would be open at this time of night that might sell a notebook for me to do some writing. From time to time I prefer to feel the pen and paper in my hand with the words flowing through them onto the page below. That alone is
in my opinion is a calming effect. Not too many people these days still practice the art or proper handwriting skills. Most of it being done on the computer to be more efficient. So I finally found a place that sold a notebook and proceeded back to the gate away to wait the moment where Mike and I could board the train. I must admit this is a new experience for me. Traveling with someone else. For now I should stop and get some sleep I know there is a long day that waits for me in the morning. One of the things I enjoy about traveling at night is when you look, or at least try to look outside it is dark, almost pitch black. It gives the impression that time has stood still inside the train. All you see is your reflection staring back at you on the train. I know Mike has a different view from the one I hold about night travels but I find it a good time for reflection and thought. A time to help those like us whose minds never quite stop thinking string the words together bout not only what we want
to say but how we wish to say it. As everyone knows words strung together helps paint a better picture when a picture isn't available. It is true that most of my prewriting routine does involve a pen and paper. I do take great pride in that. Mainly because sometimes an idea r particular sentence hits me at different times of day or night, sometimes it comes to me even in class when I am with my students.
Morning has arrived seeing the countryside from the train once more never does get old when traveling here in China. The beautiful landscape, the rolling hills of green, the flat farmland stretching out from the train to meet those same majestic hills in the distance. Who would have thought that midst the urban landscapes of the city one could find such serene and peaceful area here. Not I when I first arrived in this county over 7 years ago. Even today things like this surprise me. That such beauty still exists; one just has to find these quiet out of the way places. That we sometimes get caught up in everyday life that we forget about the little things that make
life a little more bearable. There is still several more hours before our arrival at the Wuchang station in Wuhan.
Many of my thoughts about the city has a whole has changed somewhat since my last time living there. The last time I was there was back in December when I went to see some old friends also a chance for a brief respite of the monotony of everyday day life. Sometimes we all need the change some place for use to recharge or batteries to continue. There is a layer of mist that covered the area especially around the hills in the distance, a brief rain shower.
We have passed the hills and have gotten into the flat areas of the farms now. Heading into a city area soon it stills always a certain joy and wonder to my mind that I have the chance, the opportunity to see such a diverse place. Even the diversity can be seen in the city area among its buildings. You'll see the older buildings that seem to be falling down beside the brand new taller high-rises. But I guess I am going off, in a different direction huh. I guess
that is the mind of the traveler always thinking about all sorts of stuff.
It’s about 8:30 in the morning now, I took a brief nap after doing some writing we are to arrive in Wuhan Wuchang station in about an hour so that's something. After waking up I had noticed that Mike was also waking up at this time as well. So after having a smoke I decided to see what time we were going to arrive at the Wuchang station. After asking a few of the staff I was a bit confused. So walking down the aisle found someone that spoke some English and she helped me find the proper time. The person that worked for the train said we would arrive around 9:30.
Being back here is a good thing even it is for a few days. The view from the trains of the countryside is and has always been a marvelous site. With time running down on our arrival I am looking forward to being home.
So we finally arrived at the station and disembarked, after leaving the area we had went to have some breakfast. McDonald's we went. After ordering breakfast Mike
had went to the restroom. While I found the table and waited for his return an endearing elderly person came in through the side entrance and started asking people for spare change. After she had left by a mere moments I saw Mike off in the distance at the other end of the restaurant raising my hand for him to notice. He came forth and we consumed our breakfast with earnest. Once finished we had left and starting leaving through the tunnel of the east exit. The east exit had always been there for as long as I can remember. Some would consider it a tunnel while others would not. I am the latter, but that is neither here nor there. Moving right along. We hang a right and head towards the city bus terminal on the east side of the train station. We slowly made our way towards the stop that I had pointed out to Mike as being the one we needed to be on to get to our destination. Both of us still having our McDonald's coffee in hand. The swill of coffee frowned upon by both Mike and myself, but a delightful feeling after a 12
hour train ride in China.
Upon arriving at the desired station to wait for the bus that was already there, we decided to wait giving us time to have our morning smoke (first in Wuhan) and allowing Mike to take some photos of the area. After a while we were approached by a taxi driver who asked where we were going and wanted a lot more money than it should have been but we decided just to wait for the bus. Which at this point had already left, so we waited patiently for the following one. Which we got one and paid our fare and waited in our seats. By this time Mike had finished his steaming pile of McDonald's coffee and I was still nursing what little I had left to extract what caffeine I could get to keep me awake.
As the bus was moving the headache was beginning and we were unaware of it at this time, but soon it would come blatantly obviously soon enough. So I with my coffee watching the sites around the train station moving by. Winding the streets with its normal way like a babbling brook careening its way down
the mountain side showing off the naturalistic views, but this being through the city landscape of building and construction. Getting itself on its main strip the bus was reduced to a crawl like its motorized neighbors. A normal short trip with the construction going on took at least an hour or more to get to our destination. For the first half an hour to forty five minutes on the bus we were moving slowly. I was constantly looking out the window on the bus trying to get my bearings of where I was. Eventually, a small group of university students had gotten on the bus, this being after we had moved forward in the bus to sit closer to the front and the bus driver to keep an eye out for our stop. So back to the university students, they were pleased to be able to speak to some foreigners. We mentioned that we were from Canada. We also mentioned that in Canada there are two official languages, English and French. One of the students mentioned that her friend, the one sitting by Mike was learning French in school aside from English. I was delighted and said that Mike is
fluent in French so they started talk for a good while in his native language. We were both treated to two different snacks because of the coming festival Dragon Boat Festival coming upon this coming weekend. So for about another 30 minutes to 45 minutes went on with us talking to the students. We finally made it to our destination.
At our destination, The Grand Ocean Mall, from the moment we stepped off the bus I had noticed a vast change to the front of the mall. First and most importantly that the bus stop was in front of the mall instead of being on the side of it. The water fountain that was there and I remembered fondly was now gone that whole area was smaller to make way for widening the street to help with traffic, it made sense. There were more over pass walk ways to help the pedestrians make their way from one way to the other without hindering traffic. On the left hand side, where the stairs leading upwards and of course down to the main street on top of that was a glass ball which at night was lighted up in a myriad
of colors that changed as time went forth. On the side of these stairs was cascading water and again at night the lights beneath the cascade of water went on, bring forth a spectacle of lights that danced across the water that shone forth in distorted waves of multicolored lights which delighted the people that walked around. We went forth to replenish our caffeine fix with some real coffee at Starbucks. I know to my Canadian friends normally back in Canada I would not venture into one of this unholy abomination, but being here so far from home these become more of an oasis of those at home. That and I wanted to use my Starbucks reward card in Wuhan. After which, we went shopping. By we, I mean mostly I did the shopping. We ended up meeting an old friend while there, Mike, myself, and my old friend walked around Guangu shopping area, seeing a fair amount of it. Spanish Street and the Italian Street. As the afternoon wore on turning into evening, we became aware that it was time to eat; we had walked into Pizza Hut for dinner. After dinner we had decided that it was getting
late and my friend had to get to work in the morning rather early so we bid farewell to her and she went on her way to the subway. As for Mike and myself we had went to the hotel we had checked into earlier with the help of our friend. The 7 Days Inn that was close to the Grand Ocean Mall. After a brief rest, we had decided to go exploring around seeing what wonders lay around us at night. So we started our evening journey by walking to the right of our hotel and just walked where ever we felt like. I was still in awe at the great speed that which the city was being transformed from the city I had remembered it to be. That city was still there but things were changing, small things. The potential was being realized, I was to see that the city was growing into itself with pride.
One of the things that Mike had noticed that was mainly different between places here in China and back home is the over abundance of parks that permeated aspects of life here in China. We do have parks back home but
not to same scale. Walking down the streets there are trees lining the sidewalks bushes and vines on the other side, the parks and nature itself was built right into the city. I had to agree.
We eventually were lead back to the mall but to the other side of the mall on Spanish Street where across the street there was this one spot, which was more like a giant parking lot it was late up with lights and tents, tables and chairs. We decided to go in and have a beer. We had gotten a liter and a half of beer for about 45 Yuan and sat there just talking and remembering times back home where Mike had been telling me stories of the coming and goings of people that we both knew back home. I also regaled about certain adventures that I had here in China that didn't make the blog entry. After a while our beer had run out and decided it was time to leave and slowly make our way back to the hotel. So we went back the way we came, although there was some discussion on whether we had went the proper way
on our return. It was agreed that the way we went was the proper one.
Instead of taking the same route home we turned right on the main intersection and crossed the street. We spotted a small shop that was still open and went in to ask directions to make sure we were going the right way. The shop keeper was kind enough to help with the directions which are common among the people here. That most Chinese were very kind to help with directions if one was lost. We had also purchased a couple more cans of beer. I know normally we were unable to open the cans in public without being stopped by the police. But we had opened one and slowly drank it finding our way back. We made it to the next major intersection where we stood there discussing if which way we had came the first time around. And agreed that we had to cross the street to get the other side of the street to return to our hotel. With this walk ended our first day in Wuhan. Day 2
With the start of day 2, I wanted to show Mike
the area where I spent 2 years living and teaching here in Wuhan. So we got a taxi and off we went. The scenery hadn't changed all that much on the way Jiangxia district. Jiangxia District is more of the suburban setting. Quieter, more peaceful. We arrived during the lunch hour, so being that as it may, we had lunch at one of the restaurants on the side streets that neared the school. It was nice to be back there even if it was for a brief visit. A few things have changed but that I suppose is the march of time. The food was as great as I remembered it. After looking around the school for a bit seeing a few old faces, we took the bus down across the lake, which I would assume would probably be Tangxun Lake that we drove by as were going back into town. On the way we stopped, in the Garden City gardens to have an early dinner at the Jeep Bar. To my own admissions it wasn't as good as it was when I was there last. This time around the French Onion Soup was not on the menu. I was
actually looking forward to having it. While we were there we ran across two other foreigners that stopped by to eat. Both of these ladies and their friend whom we met later on were all basically from Central Ontario, our old stomping grounds. After they left to go home shortly thereafter we got up to leave. A quick note, hanging behind the bar was one thing I would have never expected to be here in China. Well, this far from the major coastal cities. A Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey. Me being a Vancouver Canucks fan and Mike being a Montreal Canadians fan. We were both a bit riffed at this made a few jokes.
So off we went, it wasn't until we were until the major intersection that I realized I had forgot my smokes on the table, it was too late to return for them, we carried on. Walking towards the mall area on foot. Walking over the bridge that showed the train tracks. Continuing on crossing the street making it easier for us when we got to the mall. Most of the area from the bridge onwards was like how I remembered it. The feel of it
all, the look of everything, it did indeed feel like home, like where I was meant to be. That the only reason for me being off in the different cities was to prepare myself with better knowledge to improve not just in teaching techniques but in interpersonal skills. But to what is at hand. Our walk towards the Grand Ocean Mall. We got part way down when we decided to talk a taxi to our final destination. We ended up back at Starbucks having a cup of coffee. We were discussing something precisely what I cannot remember. After some time we slowly started to make our way back to the hotel. Leaving Starbucks and heading towards the footpath that lead over the traffic of both streets and back to our hotel. On the second bridge we found a man that telling people that Jesus loves them, I couldn't help but smile at this. We ended up back at the hotel which we decided to rest for a brief while, and then we went out exploring at night.
With night fallen and the natural light that illuminated our day time long since set, the artificial lighting from many forms light
up the night sky. Lights from the street lamps to the neon signs that dawned many a business to the lights on the overpass walkways helped us see where we walked. We ended up walking past the subway (metro) station and down the side of the street looking at everything that was surrounding us. We briefly stepped across the street to get some water to quench our thirst. We proceeded about 3 blocks before turning left down a side street, why you ask, just because we wanted to see what was down this street and no other reason than that.
So off we went exploring some dark unknown side street of a major Chinese city. What could go wrong right? Well, sadly, nothing did go wrong. We walked down the street for about a half a mile before deciding to turn back and head back to the hotel. Day 3
The following morning was a busy day, waking up early and getting into a taxi to go to the Donghu New Technical Development Zone. I must admit this area of the city was quiet and looked like it would provide ample area to explore if I had
more time to explore this area of the city. After which I had an agreement with an old friend that I would meet them along with Mike would then have dinner together. With that we boarded the bus knowing that the last stop on the route was the one we needed to go to. Seeing the route from the top of a double Decker bus was truly a relaxing time. Once we had gotten to our destination we had gotten off and walked to the other side of the street. We walked towards the place where we were to meet my friend’s brother. Well, her brother was to bring us to her and her husband’s place were then we would have dinner. After some confusion and a kind officer helping out we eventually found our ride and off we went. Going around the roundabout and heading off through East Lake. As we went through East Lake of course there was some construction going on but the site was still amazing to behold. As we twisted and turned through the remarkable beauty of the area, of course Mike dozed off briefly. After I would naturally assume was about an hour of
driving we finally arrived at a university. Manuel, Linnas brother spoke to us during our drive to her home. We walked up to the 6th floor to reach her home. Upon reaching the top, looking up the steps to see her poking her head out into the hallway to great us. We caught up on what happened to us, shared some stories from "back in the day". She mentioned that her husband is a teacher at the school and that we had to wait until he finished his work time then we would be able to go and meet him and go have dinner. After a short while, we went out walking down the street to meet and greet her husband.
A charming fellow, with a smile and a laugh easily ready to come forth from him. He briefly showed us around his teaching area, and explained what each piece of equipment does. I must admit that the technical part of what he was saying was above my understanding, but he was overjoyed to show off what he did. Once finished the short tour we walked out o the main strip of the campus and went for dinner. The
dinner was a wonderful blend of local dishes and dishes from Inner Mongolia. Inner Mongolia is where Linna and her family are from. There was this one soup that we were informed that is her favorite. With a final act of kindness her brother was kind enough to drop Mike and I off at the Wuchang train station for our departing train. We thanked them for their kindness in dropping us off and wished them a speedy return to their family. We shook each other’s hand and off they went returning home. We stood outside for several minutes having a smoke before entering the station and returning to Jinhua. My thoughts we "I'm glad I got to return home." Even though I was not able to show Mike some of the places I wanted to show him. I still think he truly enjoyed the city and the view of the city he did get to see.
We went into the train station and found where we were supposed to wait for the train. Placing our luggage down and sitting down Mike had disappeared towards the restroom. While he was away, the train started to board, upon his return we
quickly made our way to our train and boarded finding our place on the train and waited for the departure to bring us safely home. We found our spot on the train placing our stuff where we wanted it too. We took out our last two cans of beer and cheered a successful completion of the trip. We did some idle chitchat, while polishing off not only the can of snow beer we had but two more cans before deciding to go to the food cart to continue our 'discussion' several hours and several beers including a lager later we decided it was best to return to our cabin and try to rest.
The following morning we woke up and prepared for our eventual departure and return to the monotony of everyday living. Well at least for me it is. As we exited the station the sun was shining but something was a bit off. As we made our way towards the taxi stand it occurred to me that they had removed the trees from the station the greenery had been removed! But anyways, moving right along. We are near the end of the trip. We got into a
taxi and return to the temporary residence of Mike, where I after a brief time checking my email returned to my place and took a nap. Ending our short lived adventure in Wuhan.
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