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?'
'Why?'
'So I can show someone. Ask them if this is the right place.'
She shakes her head. 'Don't talk to anyone.'
'Why?'
'Tell no one where you're going.'
'Why?'
'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.

4 Comments:

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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