Friday, May 26, 2017

The great surprise

This past weekend I set out on quite a journey. I left Beijing about 8 pm on Friday night and took the train overnight to Baotou. Usually when I travel by train I travel hard sleeper (硬卧) but this trip I decided to travel soft sleeper (软卧).
My compartment.  I had to bottom right bed.
 In the hard sleeper there are six berths to a section (three high on each side) and the section is open to the train car. In soft sleeper there are only four berths to a section (two high on each side) and the section is closed off. I decided to travel soft sleeper because the ticket wasn't very expensive, only CNY 263 or about USD 38) and my trip was only for the weekend and I needed to be able to survive work on Monday.
I arrived in Baotou about 7:15 in the morning and took the bus to the Baotou Medical College where my friends L and T both work and live. I showed up at L and T's front door at about 8:15 in the morning. T knew I was coming, but it was a birthday surprise for L. When I knocked on the door T had L stand in front of it with her eyes closed.
The soft sleeper car. You can see that each
compartment has a door and can close.
Then he opened the door and told her she could open her eyes. L was glad to see me, but not super surprised. She had learned that she was having her birthday party that day (it was supposed to be a surprise, but surprise parties are SO hard to keep a surprise) and T had to tell her and the kids to get dressed by 8 am on a Saturday morning. She didn't know it was me and thought it might be a couple of American friends who live in Baotou, but she told me she did have an idea it might be me.
Nonetheless, we had a fabulous time. T had pre-ordered this amazing feast at a local Hong Kong - style restaurant and was able to order New York style cheesecake (now I don't think it really tasted like New York style, but it was definitely cheesecake. A BIG improvement from what we could find back when I lived in Baotou).
After lunch we went back to T and L's along with a couple of other friends and the 5 of us plus T and L's two kids played Killer Bunnies and then had more cake. This time it was a chocolate cake I had brought from Beijing.
There is a coffee shop located within my school and each teacher gets a food allowance each month that is tied to our ID card. In the cafeteria breakfast is 5 yuan, lunch is 20 and dinner is 10. Thus, for every work day in a month we receive 35 yuan. I almost never eat dinner at school. Sometimes I don't eat breakfast and/or lunch. I was also out of school for two weeks because of my surgery. As a result I have a lot of
The wash area
money left on my card and at the end of the year we will lose any money left on there. Thus, I ordered a cake from the coffee shop and carried it all the way from Beijing to Baotou on the train. The cake was chocolate with a chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache on the top (it was the same cake M had gotten me for my birthday). It came with happy birthday candles (that actually spelled happy birthday this time) and an ice pack to keep it cold. It was 96 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course) in Beijing that day. The train was air conditioned, but not in the least bit surprising the ice pack completely melted before I made it to Baotou. The mousse also melted a bit and as a result the cake shifted, but when I got to T and L's we put it in the fridge and by the time we finished all our other celebrating the cake had re-solidified quite nicely.
On Sunday I got to see several of my Chinese friends living in Baotou before flying back to Beijing. It was really weird though, because I not only had dinner with L's (a different L) family, but then L #2 and I went to X's house and stayed until 9:30 pm. My flight didn't leave Baotou until 11:55 pm and arrived in Beijing a little after 1 in the morning. By the time I fought my way out of the airport (through the crowds) and wound my way to a taxi in the taxi stand and got home it was 10 minutes to 2 in the morning. I was shocked to see people outside my apartment complex eating barbecue. (basically in the pop up on the street type of restaurant/ street food.)
The western style toilet. Hard sleepers and hard seat
 (the only kind of seat on this type of train) do not have 
western style toilets. I actually do not prefer the western
 toilets because the bathrooms in China
 (and even more so on Chinese trains) can 
get really grimy and gross and there's nothing 
with which to clean the toilet seat.

On Monday, I was of course tired, but very happy because I had had such an awesome weekend and it was so much fun to reconnect with good friends (I got to see a total of 6 of my good friends while in Baotou for a total of about 40 hours).
A squatty potty

The fields of Inner Mongolia
Approaching Baotou
I made it to Baotou! Unfortunately, I had forgotten
my contact lens case. When I discovered this in route, I
ended up putting both lenses together in one corner of a plastic
bag (along with solution of course) and the buying a new
case in Baotou.
The two cheesecakes T bought. There was still an entire cake
uncut when I left their house on Sunday.
It shifted and cracked in transit from Beijing, but tasted great. 
The two cheesecakes T bought. There was still an entire cake
uncut when I left their house on Sunday.
This is at nearly 2 in the morning on a
Sunday night/Monday morning

The Baotou airport at 11 pm. I cheated a bit with this photo though.
I intentionally didn't show my gate. There actually is a good size
crowd there.

No comments:

Post a Comment