There was a time not too long ago that I took a 41-hour train from Kunming, Yunnan Province to Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China. I was in hard seat class, which is short on arm rests but long on humanity (600 words).
There’s lots of thoughts I have about the experience. Here are a few of them, crammed into a single, obnoxiously long run-on sentence originally sent to my friend Christine. Pictures follow.
I boarded the train no problem in Kunming, and was greeted by a largely empty carriage in hard seat, where I met a Muslim Chinese girl named Maggie who spoke English well and told me that I should hurry and try to upgrade to sleeper as her mother was currently doing, which motivated me to walk through a few of the carriages and confusedly put my name and ticket number on a list before returning to my carriage, naively thinking that the train staff would come and get me if a bed came up for me, which they did not, but Maggie and her mom got a bed and that was the end of my English conversations for the duration of the ride, even though Maggie had invited me to sleep on her bed during the day, it was too much of a struggle to make my way through the sea of humanity to go to the toilet in my own carriage let alone make it all the way to her sleeper car, so I spent the vast majority of my time sitting, especially as I had managed to snag a window seat even though I had been assigned a middle seat, in fact I sat so much that by the time I pushed my way off the train in Lanzhou I had very swollen feet, they were quite ugly and quite swollen and I figured this would probably go away in a few days time but I was concerned nonetheless, but I was able to better take it in stride because I had slept well the second night on the train largely due to taking my first ever sleeping pill, which I was also a bit concerned about because my active imagination didn’t have much of a contingency plan should I have some sort of rare adverse reaction to the medication on a crowded dirty train in China but I took it anyways and I’m very glad I did, it gave me several hours of reprieve from the people sitting around me and laying underneath me, who were all very nice and shared their sunflower seeds and other food with me, but largely just stared which is fine but gets tiresome after several hours, I will say the respite from all this was the cute little girl who sat beside me, exceedingly patient and with big smiles, she yanked out a loose tooth at the tail end of the trip and I was cringing as she fondled her mouth and tooth with really dirty hands, which was one of many cringes I had about the hygiene of the trip in general, the thing is I had many many wetwipes and hand sanitizer which I used religiously but I didn’t offer them to my benchmates because I was worried I would perhaps offend them, as I figured they were not newbies on the train and if they felt they needed ways to clean their hands besides the sinks which were inaccessible due to people and luggage anyways, they would have brought it, so I just quietly used them and of course was stared at during this, probably the only time that the attention was fully not on me was when someone dropped their baby on the floor a few benches down the car from me.