Saturday, October 10, 2009

That time I slept on the floor of a bus.

Yesterday morning we hiking around the mountain with the Buddhist prayer flags all over it, but not really on it because it felt a bit disrespectful. Got some good photos and saw a ton of prairie dogs and yaks. (Come to think of it, I think prairie dogs are the only small non-domesticated animals I've ever seen in China. Weird. No squirrels or equivalent.) Then we packed quickly in anticipated of the 2 PM bus.

We were rejected by the 2 PM bus. They said they would only take 4 of us, and thinking that there was a 3 or 4 o'clock one, we foolishly decided to pass on those seats. The restaurant owner who saved us by finding the hostel assured us there were others and agreed to call us when he saw a bus so we could just chill out.

So, we sat in his cafe drinking tea and eating na'an while having two of us stand sentry outside for HOURS! We went in 20 minute shifts and I'm pretty sure it hailed in all of my shifts. After waiting 4 hours, a sleeper bus came through. We hailed it down, and the lovely restaurant owner convinced him to take us on, despite the fact that they had only one open bed.

Jose took the bed and the rest of us pushed to the back with the intention of sitting on the aisle. A young Tibetan couple saw what was going on and, without hesitation, offered us one of their beds. These are not large beds. Charlie and Ben got in that and the Tibetan couple cozied together on just one of their 100 kuai beds. Gareth, Anna and I took to the floor. For the first few hours it was pretty awful; I couldn't lay down because Anna was behind me, so my back was dying, but more importantly I had to pee so badly so every position was absolutely awful. This bus wasn't stopping either - bathroom breaks by request only. We didn't discover this until waiting patiently for a break for about 2 hours. After the bathroom we rearranged and I was able to lie down. From then on, smooth sailing. Well, smooth as it can be to be lying on the cold, bumpy, miserable floor of a bus. All that aside, it was actually a rather pleasant ride. I taught the guys in the back how to play solitaire.

We finally pulled into lovely Xining around 11 and parted ways with the nice bed loaners. We went to out normal hostel, but after calling and door pounding, no one responded. So sad! So we called up the other HI hostel in town and headed over.

This one had a much better location (2 blocks from the snack street and 3 from the bars) but there was an awkward spread. There were 2 six person dorms, one had 3 people and one only had one person. 5 of us went to one room and Charlie went to the other. We never met the guy in our dorm - he woke up really early - but he did leave us a nice note wishing us good travels. It was so sweet!

Took a shower this morning - glorious! But cold, and the showers weren't very nice. Then we went to the Tibetan market for the morning. Everyone bought a ton of stuff. I stuck to my list, which was good, but I feel a bit guilty about not getting more gifts. I bought a Thanka painting of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, incense and a burner, a banner of the Om sutra and 2 bracelets like mine for the diamond family (if you guys are reading this, surprise ruined, but get excited for mail!). I also got to feel very clever because my Buddhist art history courses finally came in handy and I was able to interpret everyone's paintings.

We had lunch at a Muslim restaurant, and then just went to the hostel to hang out and play around on the internet for the afternoon. We hit up the snack street for train supplies - nuts, fruit, na'an - and then headed for the station. I feel awful for not remembering to tell the boys to keep their knives in their pockets, because they all went through the metal detector in their bags and were confiscated. [Side note to future train travelers in China - keep weapons in your pockets. They will not be detected there. They will find them if they're in your bags].

Last night on the train was uneventful. I agreed to the middle bunk and turns out it is also pretty claustrophobic. It did not help that Gareth found it productive to tell me claustrophobia stories and compare my bunk to a coffin.

Now we're just sitting around, settling in for out day on the train. Gross. Some people are studying, some are reading, and I'm thinking about going back to sleep, but it's so hot and stuffy my coffin will be uncomfortable. It's gonna be a long, hot, stuffy, thirsty and unattractive day.

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