1 October 2010. Beijing.
The night before our last day in Beijing, we bought power food for our non-stop 12 hour train ride to Xi’an. Since we got tickets without the seats, which meant we would be standing the entire trip, we armed ourselves with tiny stools. Those done away with, we lounged the hours away in Beijing until it was time to depart for Xi’an.
Our trip was at 9.30 in the evening, but we went to the station quite early owing to the fact that China was on its national holiday and every Chinese thought it cute to go around their country too. We had to be at the station when our trip was called, otherwise our slots will be given to passengers who were waiting for just that – fellow passengers who do not show up for their trip. Chance passengers we call them here in the Philippines. We whiled away the time by feasting on Kentucky Fried Chickens, and at around 9.30, we were on our way to Xi’an.
The train was crowded like crazy. Even the tiniest of space was filled with a warm-blooded human being, it was pretty difficult to find enough room for us to set up our stools. After much hustling, we settled ourselves as comfortably as we could, considering that we had to stand every once in a while to give way to passengers who were going to use the toilet or were availing the train’s hot water provisions.
Comfort eluded me the entire 12 hours that I was on that train. I would snooze for a good five minutes to be awakened by the shouts of the trolley girl, or by passengers walking back and forth. I was thinking what would have happened if I played dead to the world, if it would concern the passengers and they just go back to their seats, and not disturb those poor souls on the aisle. No such thing – they’d just shove me aside. Next to hunger, calls of nature can turn a person murderous.
It went on for 12 whole hours, until we finally arrived in Xi’an. I had a bout of anemia that morning, and I threw a tantrum. The crowd outside the train station did not help alleviate my discomfort. The company did everything they could in their human power to amuse me, but all I wanted was to sleep. A cab ride to the hotel was a very welcome respite, and the group tolerated a few more minutes at the hotel’s front desk before settling comfortably on the beds and snoozing the day away.
Sleep, how I missed thee.