After wrapping up a successful Summer Camp here in Changchun, four of us were sent to a small town called Songyuan to do it all over again
for a private school.
I was scheduled for two 2-day sessions, one in the middle of the camp, and the other at the end, for the performances
for the parents and to wrap things up. Unfortunately, there was severe
flooding when I was supposed to go up the first time, so that session
was canceled. All I had left was the tail end of the camp, to review
things and make sure the kids were ready to perform. I decided to go a
day early, so Sam and I could explore a new town together. But unlike
the three other teachers who took the 2.5 hour trip to the town, I
didn't have a Chinese teacher with me...
The school provided me with a ticket and the time that the train left, so the rest was up to me. Departure time was 1:40pm, so I grabbed
a cab and tried to give myself 30 mins to figure things out once I got
At 1:15 the cab dropped me off, but the station was so non-descript that I had no idea where it actually was. I asked around
and was eventually pointed in the right direction (it was around the
corner). The train is assigned a track once it arrives, so I had to
figure out how to read my ticket and then find the track - which was
going to be quite a challenge as there was a lot of platforms and the
station itself was more than one level.
I asked (tried to ask) the woman at the information desk and she wrote down a phrase in Pinying.
She pointed "That Way", so I took the scrap of paper and made my way up
the escalator. I was able to decipher the arrival/departure board, but
couldn't find where "PLATFORM 5" actually was in the building.
It was almost 1:30, and started to get a little nervous. I went back to
the information desk, and though I tried my best, she just responded
with pointing and eye rolling. I spun on my heel and found another
"official" looking person. This fellow had a small megaphone and was
nice enough to respond to my inquiries by speaking through it.
You know how foreigners have a foolish habit of speaking LOUDER and SLOWER
when they aren't understood? As if that would somehow cause someone who
doesn't speak the language to suddenly understand? Well apparently it
works sometimes - because as he mumbled into the megaphone, the loud
crackly speaker straining of constant use, I immediately understood
that PLATFORM 5 was OUTSIDE and to the LEFT.
I bolted out the door and made my way to the next "big" looking entrance. Still unable to
find PLATFORM 5, I desperately pulled out my phone, called the
secretary and handed the phone to a member of security - it was now
1:35. They seemed to have a lovely conversation about nothing, he
handed the phone back to me and the secretary told me she'd call me
back in a minute.
With only 5 minutes before my train was to leave, I bolted out the door and stared at the piece of paper the information
lady had given me. In all the scribbles, there was a number - 500. I
looked up and saw a sign that had 500 on it and an arrow pointing out
of the parking lot and to the left. I started making my way towards it,
when a scrawny old man started yelling at me, motioning me towards him.
He grabbed the ticket from my hand, his eyes widened and he glanced at
his watch. He half led/half dragged me to his little 3 wheeled
motorcycle and we took off down the road. My phone rang and as we
zigzagged through traffic and followed the center line, I answered. I
couldn't hear what she was saying as the wind rushed past my ears. I
put a finger in one ear and said "I'm in the middle of the street, and
I think I'm on my way to another terminal - I'll call you in 5 minutes!"
We took a sharp turn and bounced up onto the sidewalk. I jumped out and
with frantic gestures pointed me towards the entrance. Bolting passed
everyone waiting in line (have I mentioned I'm a light packer?) I found
my gate just as they were closing it.
I ran to the train and hopped onboard, with just enough time to find my seat before we started
moving. A quick call to the school to let them know everything was ok,
got myself comfortable and prepared for the inevitably boring ride
Lazily gazing out the window, I noticed the reflection of the old woman across from me. She was looking right at me. I turned my head
and noticed that everyone in the area was stealing little peeks at me.
A woman sitting on the opposite side of the isle was elbowing her young
son, coaxing him to approach me. He eventually made his way over with
some candy and offered me some. I know kids shouldn't take candy from
strangers, but I wasn't sure about the rule of strangers taking candy
from kids, so I graciously accepted one, fearing that if I didn't, I'd
scar him forever from attempting to create small talk during his adult
After a while, I was having broken conversations with 8 people, including someone who was sitting BEHIND me. Needless to say, I
had plenty to drink and eat throughout the trip, and time flew by.
Once we arrived at the station, everyone said their goodbyes and as I was
walking to the terminal exit, the mother of the young boy invited me to
have dinner with their family. Unfortunately Sam was waiting for me at
the school, so I had to decline.
I hopped in a cab and when I arrived at the school, I was greeted by a smiling Sam. She gave me a
quick tour of the school and the surrounding area before we took off in
search of food. Wandering through the streets and markets, we made a
point of looking at every restaurant storefront, humming and hawing,
eventually agreeing that we didn't want to eat Chinese. We came across
the most intriguing street food I've seen yet - boiled chicken fetuses
on a stick. Four on a stick for 3RMB. Unfortunately I wasn't in an
adventurous mood, so passed on the opportunity.
The sun was beginning to set, and with grumbling tummies we turned a corner and
were greeted with a big, happy KFC sign. As we ran inside and ordered
some chicken, thoughts of Kentucky Fried Chicken Fetuses made me
While we ate, I thought of my Dad. He's the kind of guy who will gnaw at a bone until it's picked clean. And I think that he'd
get a kick out of seeing the people not only gnawing at the bones, but
actually chewing and eating them too! Amazing!
With full tummies and greasy fingers we headed to our hotel to crash for the night. It was a
pretty nice room, except the oddly designed bathroom. It was basically
a smoked glass cube. So for Sam, who suffers such stage fright as it
is, was in for a real treat when it came time for my pre-sleepytime
evacuation, muah haha.
The bed was also up against one of these walls, so while I was showering, Sam was laying on the bed reading. A
quick knock on the glass to get her attention and while I tried to
stifle a giggle, she was greeted with me bent over, touching my toes
and pressing my ass against the glass - mere inches from her head.
I think I'll call that the "Elephant".
Let the big ears/trunk imagery float around in your head for bit. Your welcome!
As always, you can find previous posts, pictures and videos at www.themisadventurer.com