Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Xian to Shanghai

I woke up and headed down to the hostel restaurant for breakfast. For four bucks I got eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, hashbrown. It was good, it was cheap, and it was near a plug socket where I could hook up my laptop and check my email.

In only one day away from the web I had a substantial amount of messages to deal with. Most of these were from the Aussies and Kiwi that I'd be meeting up with in a months time. Getting that set up seemed a high priority.

E-mail taken care of, I packed my gear, and checked out of the hostel. Still – I would sit in that booth by the electrical socket for the next great number of hours. The guy from yesterday came by, and we chatted for a long while – and someone he knew dropped by after that. He had a laptop, and I was able to pick up the Usual Suspects from him. It's high time I watch that. I grabbed Boondock Saints too (again, I need to see that I'm told.) Lastly I picked up Ip man. Apparently this is wonderful and all should watch it. Who am I to argue with that?

Anchorman may have also made its way to my datastick.

At some point I realized that I needed an ice cream. One of the ice cream bars with raisins in them. This may sound odd, but it's quite a good fit. It's basically a frozen bar of yogurt covered raisins, and it's wonderful! I want more. And for one yuan? Yesterday they cost two. Which means I was screwed yesterday. Still – this left me with an extra to buy that frozen corn thing I'd seen in the freezer since getting to China.

I wondered what it was – was it just frozen corn?

No. It was not, I discovered. It was far stranger, and far more terrible. It was cream corn flavoured ice cream, surrounded by ice cream cone, imprinted with corn patterns. It was so terrible that I couldn't bring myself to finish it. I finish many things for the simple reason that I feel I must.

While the drunk guys outside the hostel playing checkers with hockey pucks may have liked it or the small newborn kitties that roam the hostel grounds, I knew that it was far too awful to subject anyone to. And so it was dropped in the garbage (you can tell it's for garbage and not recycling as the three recycle arrows have decided they're no longer friends, and refuse to face one another.

I pointed out to the guy across from me that there is no way his camera could take two hundred pictures, as he claimed it did. He just bought a film based camera. He showed me the film – 200 it read. I pointed out that was the iso, and that it only took 36 shots. But he'd taken so many, he said. And to prove it he opened the back. I may have screamed in terror at that. But no, it was fine – because the film hadn't been threaded through. So while the film wasn't ruined no shots had been taken.

I threaded it for him, and then took off to take the 603 bus to the train station. On my way out I saw a sad little book exchange. Three English books were on it – Richard Branson's Business Techniques, Sophie's World (read it in Italy), and a book from the Wheel of Time series. Book Four of Eleven, I think it said. Ugh. I hate fantasy. Sure I dug LotR but that was different, wasn't it? Still – 1000 pages. And I was running low on books. And this cryptic Jewish self-help book I've been reading isn't all that magical. So who was I to turn my nose up at anything?

The dude whose camera was now working offered me a novel called Vlad (historical fiction about the “real Dracula”) in exchange for How to Lose Friends and Alienate people. Then, leaving, I grabbed the business book too. You never know.

So with four new texts for the reading, I am secure in my ability to not go insane from lack of reading any time soon. And it was getting quite close too.

One hard stop on the bus, leading me to stomp on some poor guys foot, and I was at the train station. This one did have a soft seat waiting room, and beside the seat was a plug socket. And it was because of that that I was able to type up today and yesterday's post. Heck I could probably predict the future – I boarded the train, and read more of the terrible self help fiction book before finally giving up and falling asleep – but why predict? Who knows. Maybe something AMAZING will happen.

So for now, I pause.

I really need to write that Great Wall entry. It's the only missing link left.

But the Talking Heads album is about to end, and I'm not in the writing mood any more, so best to just take a wee break. That's what Professor Parker would order.

Oh what the hell is this?! A little girl is being held, no pants, above a spread out news paper over the floor. Two Chinese women hold her on one side, and another holds her sitting on my bed. I did not pay the soft seat premium for this. I throw my bag onto my bed so that there's no room for the lady to sit back down on my side once I move. I also throw it there because I can't can't put it under the bed as that would mean rolling over the little girls paper training area.

Now that I'm here they put a plastic bag under her as well, and feed her juice. What the bloody hell is going on here? Is it supposed to be a clear stream. Well I can't look anywhere but at my computer screen, but there is no battery power to really keep this up for long. On top of that – what the hell is going on here?!

Look, cultural whatever and all that. I'm down with kids peeing in streets – fine – but in a train? In my train car?! Held over some bloody spread out news paper?! No – this is not o.k. Well I guess she just doesn't have to go. Great. This may be a long trip.

And now I'm in a room down the hall. The woman who was sitting on my bed must have ran around trying to find someone who spoke English and finally found one. He asked me if I'd trade places. I did not want to. I had my sweet lower bunk and that was great. But, after being asked again - “she has a child.” (look I'm not a terrible person, but so what? I have my seat. I bought it yesterday. Surely she could have bought it a day earlier and got the whole room to herself.) I finally gave in. Whatever. No sense being hated for twelve hours. I'm now on the top bunk, not the super sweet sofa bottom bunk that I bought.

Did I do a straight across trade? No. I did insist on the twenty one yen difference. Fair is fair after all. And now I'm in a room with loud Chinese men, who probably snore, and who seem to insist on closing the door, trapping all the heat in and allowing no flow through.

I miss my bottom bunk. And all my gear doesn't fit in the shelf, as I got here late not expecting to be in this room. But fine, very well, mother and daughter together (not the baby – oh no – it's some eleven year old. I wouldn't want her with these creepy old men either, but still...)

And why insist on the 21 yen? Because I was originally offered a trade for a hard sleeper, or something – all I'm saying is I'm not trading my 500Y ticket for a 340Y ticket. That's not smart.

And in case anything does go down I still have my original to hold on to.

Ugh. Good-bye lovely lower seat, hello top bunk again. Whatever. That's almost a McDonald's meal when I get to Shanghai. And really, I'd have taken a hard sleeper if I could. It's just irksome is all.

So who woulda guessed it? Stuff did happen. And from that point on, all I had to do was sleep amongst three Snorflogs, and one female train employee who kept coming in to snuggle with one of them. Weird.

Oh – it's also of note that I finished “The Traveller's Gift.” The terrible book where self help and god become fiction. The author had the audacity to put words into Anne Frank's mouth but didn't stop there. Nope he knows what Archangel Gabriel thinks too. It was just awful. I am thankful for having it. I needed something to read. And I feel I spared my Beijing host from the pain of going through it.

Here's what really bothered me though – he tips off people about things when he's travelling in the past. Lets folks know who wins the civil war and what not. But not once does he say, “By the way Mr. Lincoln, you probably don't wanna go to the theatre anymore.” And Anne? he couldn't have tipped her off? Honestly? Couldn't have said – hey, maybe this day coming up soon, you wanna risk being out on the streets?

All the moral brainwashing, and heavy handed cliches compare nothing to these flaws. Ohh except for where he says that Anne is the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, next to his own daughter. The thing is, Anne was not attractive. Just because she was killed in the holocaust does not make you beautiful or a hero. Yes she was brave, but brave due to circumstances. Do you know how many people died during the holocaust? Are they all heroes? No. A good number were criminals. A number of them became thieves and rapists once they entered the camps. It doesn't make you a hero.

Look – you could call her an influential person, and you'd get no argument from me – but... ugh. Never mind. I probably come off sounding antisemitic now, not that I've said anything to that effect, but... just let it pass. Do yourself a favour, don't read this book. And never mind that some of the self help sections struck a cord and area being considered by me. God I hate that it worked.

Anyway – I'm reading a book on Richard Branson's business style now, so off I go.

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