Friday, 13 September 2013

Coming to Kunming

Leo was extremely efficient at making sure we were safely settled on the train.  I only had one anxious moment.  As I came through the station security, the official waved me over. Whilst waving her magic wand in one hand, she used the other to feel all over my body.  All the time she was saying, 'Where you from?  I really, really like you.'  I'm still not sure if she was checking for contraband or if she just took a shine to me!!

Safely installed in our compartment we were joined at first by a Chinese gentleman. He smiled and took swiftly to his upper bunk.  A few minutes later, a charming Chinese lady arrived, laden with boxes and bags.  The under seat space had no room, thanks to a large metal ramp, placed there by train officials. Move that if you dare.

Hubby and the gentleman leaped to her aid.  From that moment we all became very pally, yet we could barely speak more than a few words of each other's language.  You could have knocked me down with a feather when she said her name was Eileen.  My dear friend back in the Highlands is called the same.  It must be something in the name.  When she saw my swollen hand (thank you midges.  Nothing to worry about folks.  I have my antihistamine) , she gave me a pot of ointment.  It may be ointment or it may be something to keep the midges at bay.  Who knows?  I used it anyway.

So, we shared photos and food.  The gentleman's hobby was photography.  He had some exquisite images of wildlife, people and places.  Eileen teaches computing at a college.  At last Dave has learned how to type Chinese characters but we think he needs a special programme.  

Time to settle for bed.  Also on our train were several hundred army recruits.  Trust us to choose the week they joined. They had priority over boarding the train and using the facilities.  Some of them wore large red flowers, as big as a dining plate.  That showed they were special recruits and it was a great honour to be chosen.

Now I am not blaming the army, but some of the people using our toilet had a very bad aim.  No western style tonight.  My poor slippers were not happy and neither was I.  They were consigned to the bin before we left.

I have a question and a request for the gentlemen of this nation.  Why do you find it necessary to clear your throats and  spit in such a noisy manner?  I fear it is not healthy and not good practice.  As for my request, please do not do this within half a mile of my presence. Y stomach still feels it is sailing the Seven Seas, thanks to the noisy actions of a young man who shared my bathroom this morning.  The sinks were side by side, I hasten to add, and I was discreet.

But onto more pleasant things.  It was a beautiful journey.  We travelled past flooded rivers, plains and mountains.  We saw harvesting where men stood around a large bowl, taking turns to thrash their bundle of corn.  Others stacked the stalks in various guises.  Some like angels, others like gers.  

Donkeys and oxen walked along small paths carrying the harvest.  A wizened d lady sat in a doorway, surrounded by twenty hens, pecking by her feet.

As we approached Kunming, everywhere showed signs of a community in the midst of change.  New rail and road links were being forged.  New buildings reaching up to the sky whilst workers scrabbled in the rubble for complete bricks to use.

We slowed to a halt.  The Army were lined up.  We made a hasty retreat as we would have to wait at the stairs if they got there first.  A minor panic.  For the first time, we could not see our guide.  We looked around.  No sign.  Then as if by magic, he was by our side.  One more night in China.  Tonight we were given a lovely room.  The bonus was no silk screen between the bed and the shower.  Just see what I saw!'

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