Thursday, March 17, 2011

The train

It was early when we arrived at the train station. The first shock was no parking. No problem, our driver just drove the Honda Accord into this little spot between the buses next to the cement entrance. Which was about 8 inches high with no steps. And it was raining. He help us get our bags up to the door so we could wait under the overhang for the station to open.

This was the first thing I saw. This man. In his olive green plaid sport jacket, half on-half off, over his purple quilted pajamas with his red socks. Now I am used to red socks at Christmas in New Orleans worn with Gucci loafers. This was not the same look.

Inside the station we sat down to wait and a lovely Chinese family sat down near us. The toddler was adorable. Until he decided to sit next me and really looked at me. And screamed. And ran. His eyes were huge. Bugged out in astonishment. I don't think he thought I was pretty.

We finally boarded the train and found our first class was the one with cubicles that seated 6 people. The seats did not recline. There was much ado and I sat where I was told. I sat next to the man with the plastic bag full of clams and dirt. 20 minutes later we were in Ning Bo and new people joined us. Mr. Hall Monitor wanted my seat. I said no way dude and showed my ticket. He pointed to seat directly across from me. With a fat Chinese guy sitting in it. Then the games began, he re-arranged the entire cube and kicked 2 people out.

Lesson learned, Chinese buy standing room only tickets and then sit where they want. If you are a "lou way" (sp) or foriegn white person they just stare at you like you are stupid if you tell them to move. It takes a Chinese hall monitor to fix this shit.

Then at the next stop we got ma and pa Kettle joining our merry cube. First problem is that etiquette in China accepts that people find it perfectly okay to crawl over your head, your lap, your feet or whatever is in their way to get where they are going. Which is when I get to teach them a new English word. As it is usually of the cursing variety I do think I help them with the ESL exams.

First ma Kettle decides to eat an orange. Now this makes me cringe. Oranges are messy, sticky fruit and I believe they should be eaten in a garage with the door closed. Nope, ma Kettles peels her orange and throws all the rinds in a pile on the communal table between us. Then she picks open each little section and eats the inside and spits the membrane on the pile of rinds. The entire time she is babbling and pa Kettle is reading the paper and ignoring her. Then she pulls out some ointment and starts rubbing it on her various body parts. Then she does some Chinese weird shit rubbing herself. Then she puts some cosmetic eye patches (the kind that are for facials) on and goes to sleep. I am now exhausted just watching this shit.

But there is an encore. Shortly before we get to Shanghai it is time to eat noodles. Ramen noodles in some paper tub. Pa Kettles prepares them, you open a bunch a weird packets and dump them in the tub while ma Kettle puts the forks together.  Then pa Kettle gets to learn a new English word as he tries to get out of the window seat with the 2 tubs to go get hot water. Then I got to learn a new thing. The ramen noodles will not cook unless you hold your hand over the lid. It must be like a little human micro-wave. I cannot describe the slurping or the smells that followed.

A good thing did happen. The Kettles learned enough English words that they did not try to get out of cube before I did.

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