Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taking Leave of Chongqing.

Chongqing train station. My large suitcase is fed into the x-ray machine and I go through the turn-style into the waiting room that says 'soft sleeper'. The seats are sumptuous, mimicking black leather. There is a TV screen with some Chinese talent show murmuring away to one side.

Joanne says she will wait with me and I feel a panicky realisation that very soon I shall be on a train in the middle of the vast and alien country of China.
'In a while they'll announce your journey. The door will open at the end."
'Are there stairs down to the platform?' I ask, remembering the steep flight at Hangzhou.
Joanne doesn't know.
'Can you write 'Yizhou' in Chinese characters for me?'
'So I can show someone. Ask them if this is the right place.'
She shakes her head. 'Don't talk to anyone.'
'Tell no one where you're going.'
'People make trouble.'

The plan I had is falling to pieces. I was going to rely on strangers. I was going to show whoever turned out was in my carriage my piece of paper with the Chinese characters, and they would tell me when to get off. Now I see myself being carried away across half of China. Hostile China. China where the local gangs are in cahoots with the police and people disappear.

I must look scared because Joanne suddenly changes her mind about leaving me in the waiting room.
'I stay,' she says. 'I tell the guard. I make sure she know you get off at Yizhou.'
'Thank you,' I say. I am more grateful that she could possibly know.


OpenID Debra Hamel said...

Wow. This is very scary, and you've written it so well.

Wed Feb 17, 02:18:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Debra! That's very kind.

Wed Feb 17, 02:58:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

How alarming! What happened next? Obviously you made it safely across the vastness of China.

Fri Feb 19, 09:19:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, I answer in my next post... thanks for visiting, Anne!

Fri Feb 19, 02:05:00 pm  

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