Have you ever wondered what a 40 hour train ride from Lhasa to Beijing on a hard seat is like? No? Well here’s a play-by-play of the experience anyway.
14:00 A billboard on the way to the train station says “An open Tibet of China welcomes you.” Okay so then why am I having to be escorted to the train station as a foreigner?
14:37 You know that scene in Mean Girls when Cady walks into the gym and literally everyone stares at her as she walks by? That’s literally what happened to me when I walked into the waiting area for the train.
14:50 So there was a sign (with an English translation) at the ticket office saying I needed to fill a health card out before boarding. The actual health cards? Only in Chinese.
14:55 Queuing for boarding? Nah. It’s just the Hunger Games on steroids. I'm ready to fight anyone who gets in my way.
15:02 I think this attendant’s sole job is to push people out of the way from the staircase.
15:08 This entire car is blue and orange inside. #raybucknell
15:10 There’s a seemingly nice couple sitting across from me. Of course they don’t speak any English. Maybe Google translate will come in handy. (It didn't, it just confused them).
15: 15 If you think getting carryon luggage on airplanes is difficult, you ain't seen nothing.
15:20 Calvin was right, I’m going to turn Chinese on this train since apparently no one speaks English and I’m going to be forced to learn Mandarin in the next 40 hours.
15:25 Luggage space has all been taken, so now the hallway in front of the toilet is additional storage space. It’s like a jungle gym to go pee.
15:30 SOMEONE IS SPEAKING ENGLISH WHERE ARE YOU
15:45 Richard is my new favourite person. He’s translating for me and attempting to teach me Mandarin. Also, I think he’s totes gay.
16:00 After showing the attendant my passport, Richard asks to look at it. Everyone around him just pops up like characters in an animated movie to look over his shoulder at the fascinating United States passport.
16:30 Aw Richard is sharing his noodles with me. And he says I look like Angelina Jolie. This kid.
16:45 People are coming into my car, staring at me while talking in Chinese to those around me, getting a picture of me (or with me), then leaving. I guess I’m the entertainment on this train?
17:00 Conversation (as translated by Richard) with the man sitting across from me, Li.
Li: Your hair looks like a boy.
Me: Yeah, it’s easier that way.
Li: Fangbian toufa – convenient hair
Me: *attempts to repeat but fails*
Richard: It’s the same thing we call instant noodles.
Me: Do you want to eat my hair?
Li: You act and sound like a boy.
Me: In the United States we call that a tomboy *I wasn’t about to get into the whole trans conversation with these folks*
Richard: I think that’s a good thing.
Me: Me too!
Richard: It gives kids more freedom.
Me: *grins from ear to ear at finding a new friend who gets it as the conversation continues*
17:30 While talking about race and gender, Richard mentions his boyfriend. My gaydar is on point.
17:40 Damn you person for interrupting our conversation to get a selfie with me.
18:00 The man across the aisle just gave me more sunflower seeds than I could possibly consume in a reasonable amount of time and a beer.
19:00 Idk who is actually supposed to be sitting next to me cause every 10ish minutes a new person sits down, uses Richard to translate something, and gets a selfie with me.
19:23 WHO THE FUCK IS THIS CREEPY DRUNK GUY WHO WON’T STOP TALKING TO ME WHILE I WAIT FOR THE TOILET
19:35 Now he’s following me back to my seat. RICHARD HALP
19:40 Damn Richard is asleep. Please leave dude.
19:45 Still here. I’m going to pretend to go to sleep so he’ll leave.
20:00 Thank god it worked.
20:46 Everyone seems very intrigued by my instant oatmeal. I tried to explain to Richard what it is, but he didn’t get it.
22:12 All’s fair in love and sleep.
23:51 Why the fuck is the heat on during the day but not at night?
8:20 The guy who gave me the beer and sun flower seeds is now giving me vodka. The sun is barely up. But what the hell, what else am I going to on the train for the next 24 hours?
8:47 He also tried to give me a pickle the size of my head. I hate pickles so I tried to say no. He doesn’t like that word. So I now have a pickle that looks more like a dildo than food.
9:39 The women sitting near me told Richard I look like a model.
10:13 Why don't these people lock the toilet door when they are using it??
11:20 I want a tally of how many westerns have done the full 40 hours of this train in a hard seat. I bet I'm one of like 10. Or the only one. Who knows.
12:34 I have no idea what kind of meat I was just given, but it’s delicious.
14:00 A bunch of people got on the train after the last stop. What does this mean? More people who want to take selfies with me. I lost count at least a dozen ago.
15:04 Why am I craving Planet Smoothie right now?
15:48 Someone just gave me an egg.
16:27 In the past 10 minutes since the last stop, I have also been given chicken, an ear of corn, bread, and mixed nuts.
17:32 Richard and I just had a heart to heart about being openly LGBT in China vs. America. Must. Not. Cry.
18:15 Favourite game to play on the train? Try to decide if the haziness outside is pollution or fog.
23:00 I'm obviously trying to go to sleep, stop trying to give me more food. But sure I'll take another beer.
5:34 An attendant just woke me up by basically punching me in the shoulder so I could show him my ticket. It’s the same attendant who I’ve shown my ticket to at least a dozen times by now. I’m the only white person. Is it really hard to remember that I’m on this thing until the end?
6:40 More free food from random strangers who won’t take no for an answer. And another shot of vodka because I guess these folks just like getting drunk early in the morning?
7:25 Less than an hour to arrival. Time to start saying goodbye to my new friends.
8:21 THANK GOD WE’RE HERE