Number 3? in the Foreigners as Rock Stars in Asia series (FARSIA)
We’re on a 24 hour overnight train from Beijing to Xining. Distance wise, it’s a bit less than going from Winnipeg to Vancouver.It’s the last overnight journey Jody and I will take together on this trip. We’re in the “hard sleeper” class, which is actually quite comfortable but crowded. There are no walls separating the corridor with the bays of 3 tier high bunk beds. Our beds are on the bottom, meaning they double as seats for the other 4 people in the compartment, and/or their friends.
We are surrounded by Chinese people. Before we even left Beijing West station someone asked us how long we’d been in China. But his wording is confusing, we figure out what he’s asking by writing down the question. Further attempts of small talk were futile, since our temporary travelling companions knew very little English, and our knowledge or Mandarin is limited to the words “Hello, thank you, no, west, Yuan (the currency used in China,)” and names of cities. One of the men is curious about Jody’s zip-off cargo pants. The girl across from us starts to count in English. I help her a bit. Then I take my list of handy words and phrases I’d ripped out of Lonely Planet. I try to count to 10, but the only numbers I really know are 1, 5 and 10. The crowd of Chinese people around us laugh. Someone starts singing the alphabet but gets lost around G. I help them, They smile. I start to feel less like a Rock Star and more like an zoo inhabitant.
For a bit they leave us alone. Then the girl trying to count wants pictures of us. We pose for pictures with her, with the guys travelling with her. I start to feel like a Rock Star again. A bit later counting girl tries to get us to sing. After a few minutes of thinking I start singing Row Row Row Your Boat and she is delighted. I try to teach it to her. She gets the first line after a few tries but can’t pronounce the word “gently” and the rest of the line is more vowel sounds then anything. The second part was pretty good, by this point she’s forgotten the first bit. But it’s all good.
Jody opens his laptop and shows people our pictures of elephants. A small crowd gathers around. Soon half the carriage is looking. They tell us the Chinese word for elephant (I think it’s Tasio or Tasia). We show them some picture of cats (Mo, pronounced like “no” but with more of a falling tone). Counting girl asks us if we have kids. We answer “no, cats” and they laugh. Another girl wants a picture with us. I start to feel like Santa Claus. We sing Row Row Row Your Boat again and the Chinese people applaud.
Later on, they notice Jody’s shirt (a bunny mounting a duck from behind) and have a laugh at the caption “WRONG” underneath. We show them more pictures of cats. They smile.
Sometimes, it’s fun to pretend you’re a rock star.
Categories: Robin's Travel blog