Thursday, August 16, 2012

Train: Take Two. Onward to Chengdu.

Round two on the train brings a markedly new experience.

Two monks sit in the row ahead of us. One is a regular-looking monk (if there is such a thing). The other looks like the monk equivalent of Ghandalf. He's got a tall stick with some cool beads and other nicknacks hanging from it. And, the hat and extra shawl he is wearing suggest that he might have some different kind of status than any monk I've seen before. He's playing games on his cell phone, which is kind of cool, but also messing with my head and my ideas of what monks do to amuse themselves.

As my blackberry disappeared in Xi'an, I have no such way to amuse myself. So, I amuse myself by watching Ghandalf until my eyes become heavy and I fall asleep (upright, in my hard seat).

I awake to the sound of some shouting. An argument has broken out between a few passengers on the other end of the carriage. Other passengers indiscreetly watch as the conflict escalates. Soon, the entire carriage is watching; many standing on their seats to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, others crowding into the aisle for a better vantage point, none willing to intervene in the matter.

Insults are exchanged and the crowd laughs and smiles as they take in the entertainment. Before long, the dispute turns physical. There are now somewhere around five train employees at the site of the conflict, yet the conflict somehow continues for a while longer.

I don't know how long this journey is actually supposed to take. That doesn't matter much, since I have no way to tell the time. My only strategy is to try to sleep my way through the time.


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