Friday, October 7, 2011

Sleeper to Beijing

6 October 2011, near Shanhaiguan, Qinglong, China

It's dawn. I am on the sleeper from Anshan, Liaoning, China to Beijing. Rivulets of sweat stream down the windows and across the floor. A night times worth of perspiration. A person above me is stirring and little bits of movement rise in sound from around the room. Train personnel sweep through the cabin opening the curtains. A green countryside unfolds, blurred by the sweat condensed on the glass. I am excited to be going to Beijing.

The loud speaker begins it's Mandarin rhythm, a female voice droning on about something unintelligible, to me at least. I am the only Caucasian I have seen for many days on my trip. Bodies begin to unfurl themselves from unbleached white sheets, and gradually it develops in to a cacaphony of unquietness, destroying the peace of my sleep.

There is tea being made. A young woman deftly unfolds down the ladder from somewhere in the sky to artfully find her shoes crammed under the bed below me, without ever touching the floor. The food vendor starts a melodic slow mantra and rolls his cart into the car. My companion stirs. The train is awake.

This could easily be the Nineteenth century, except that the train is very modern. One white guy on a train with 20 coaches of Asia; uniformed train people ply the hall with there goods; their servitude. It could be 100 years ago except the sounds in the room are the smart phones, nooks, kindles, Ipads, PC's of a new generation of China. The sounds of technology enchanting the present. Corn and rice fields arise out of the blurry landscape. The smells of breakfasts being eaten fill the coach. Beijing is in the distance.

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