Although it sounded like a good idea at the time, I was having second thoughts about leaving for Luoyang that very night after returning to Beijing from the Great Wall. However, getting out of the noisy, polluted, overcrowded city, no matter how fascinating, was not a bad plan, either. The lines for everything were already getting to me, and going to a less congested place couldn’t be a bad thing! But my first mission on getting back to Beijing was to finally find an ATM that would accept my debit card! All of the banks in the area where David lives did not. There are Citibanks in Beijing, but never came across one in that area of the city. So it was with great delight when we hit a shopping mall and I saw a Bank of China. I felt like I was in Vegas! Put the card in, then all the information, pushed the button, said a prayer and BAM! out cranked 30 beautiful 100-yuan bills! I let out a mighty, “Woohooo!” with an accompanying arm crank much to the amusement of the Chinese within hearing range! Couldn’t resist it! It’s a gambling culture, they get it!
I purchased all my train tickets on line before I left the US. This ended up being a good idea, as the lines at the ticket windows were predictably long! When we got to the Beijing West Train Station, David went off to pick up our tickets and all my ongoing ones as I stood guard over the bags. That done, we headed for Gate 4 to board the train. Well, it was delayed and the waiting area was wall-to-wall people sitting everywhere a space was available. When the announcement was made that the train was ready for boarding, there was a mad dash for the door! I’ve never seen such pandemonium! And this fed the frenzy even more! People were climbing over chairs and luggage to get ahead. I just went into my “happy place” and moved forward! Down the stairs we went, people rushing for their assigned cars and seats. There is this near neurotic craziness that grips people there for fear that they won’t make it on the train, even though there was plenty of time. It was an interesting thing to watch, but I did not see anyone hurt in the process– other than the big toe of my left foot, that is!
We got to our assigned car which was a “hard” sleeper. That means you’re in a three-sided cubical with five other people in three-tiered bunk beds like in Vietnam. The beds are hard, but not totally uncomfortable. I was so tired at this point, it could’ve been the floor and I would have been happy! The train took off with three of the beds unoccupied. I no sooner fell asleep when the train stopped again and three elderly men got on with what turned out to be a suitcase of food. They plopped the case on the small table, opened it and proceeded to feast and talk for the next hour! Then when they finally got to sleep, they all snored so loudly that I had to put on my headphones and play some very soothing music to help drown out the frog pond I suddenly found myself in!
The next morning I awoke to one of the men sitting on the edge of his bunk staring at me. I managed a “Ni how” (“Morning”). The train was stopped for over an hour at a small town to await another train to pass. I wish I could have gotten off and wandered, but just my luck the train would have left! When we started up again, I got to see some of the beautiful mountain-framed countryside. Lots of corn here and farms- a welcomed change from Beijing!
The train finally chugged into Luoyang three hours late and we took a taxi to the long-anticipated meeting with David’s family.