One of the cool things about our hostel in Xi’an was that the walls were covered in notes and drawings from the people who had stayed there. As we were leaving, we felt it was necessary to leave notes of our own:
Of course, it’s all true.
One of the differences between China and the US is that while we base child discounts on age, they base them on height. Which in itself is pretty funny, since Asians are notoriously small people. It’s also pretty funny when Caitlin tries to be under the height limit:
Our train ride was the longest so far, totaling 27 hours. We had a difficult time getting tickets, so we ended up with a bottom and middle berth. This proved to be an interesting experience, since several of the guys around us were friends, and the rest quickly became so, resulting in constant card games, which turned into gambling, which led to illegal smoking and selling of train tickets.
It actually surprised me quite a bit how friendly people are on trains. Within the first ten seconds of us being in our bed area, someone already struck up a conversation with Caitlin. It was the usual conversation about how yes, I look Chinese but don’t speak the language, and she is white but does. It was a conversation that was repeated for every newcomer, but thankfully our early friends knew we had already had the conversation so many times, they answered a lot of the questions for us.
Once the train started rolling, our new friends wanted breakfast, so they convinced us to come along. They even paid for us and insisted that we didn’t need to return the favor. I think this was the first sign they thought Caitlin was cute.
It became kind of a theme, at least for me. Since I didn’t understand any of the conversations except the few things that Caitlin translated for me, I was left for hours, looking at the scenery, interpreting facial expressions and gestures.
There were a lot of guesses about us, many of them unreasonable. They seemed to think I look 15, and they didn’t quite know what ethnicity I was. One guessed I was Mexican, another said that Caitlin and I could be siblings. We think that was just a desperate hope that she was available.
By the time they were to get off the train, they were so friendly and hilarious, they made us all exchange contact information and wanted pictures with us. The trains are cramped, so we did our best:
Also, I’m not sure if that’s the usual peace sign or bunny ears.
This guy wanted a picture just with Caitlin so that he could show his wife. I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that.
Once that large group left, we had plenty of conversations with the others around us. One man had limited English, but he was excited to have the chance to practice, so we got by when Caitlin was still sleeping. He mentioned he was in the military, but I was still surprised when I woke up and saw this man:
Turns out he was in the navy, and they’re really envious of the beautiful uniforms the USA gets to wear. Also, Caitlin apparently likes the backlight.
Despite being such a long train ride, it was really fun. When you’re stuck in an enclosed space for that long, some interesting conversations are bound to happen.