Sunday, January 6, 2013

Snow in Xin Yang/Lights Out

I'm taking the sleeper train up to Beijing; there are rows of bunk
beds, three high. I have the top bunk, unfortunately; the biggest
downside, to me, is that I can't see out the window from way up there.
Well, that and the acrobatics required to actually reach said bunk.
And the fact that you're too close to the ceiling to sit up once you
do get up there. Anyways, it's really not that bad.

Fortunately, there are pull-down benches along the opposite wall, so I
sat there, writing and playing games on my kindle until about nine,
when I decided to lay down and read for a while. I walked around a
bit before settling in; we stopped at a station while I was standing
near a window between the cars. That was the last point of the night
that I saw a sign and knew exactly where we were (well, knew the name,
anyhow, I don't actually know where the town is, so it's not really
useful knowledge or anything...): Xin Yang. And there was already
snow on the ground, four hours north of Wuhan.

At ten on the dot, the lights went out. And everyone immediately
hushed and went to sleep.

Chinese people take lights out seriously. On the sleeper trains I
took in Europe, there was a light switch and the six occupants of a
compartment had to come to an agreement on when to turn the light off.
And just because the lights were off didn't mean everyone was going
to sleep. People would keep talking or going in and out or whatever
they felt like doing. Not so here--people take the sleeper cars to
sleep. Not a sound--if it wasn't for the occasional person who had to
walk down the aisle to the bathroom, you wouldn't know you were on a
train car with sixty-six people plus a few random children. It just
surprises me a bit; a break in the normal screamed phone conversations
and grandmothers hollering at grandchildren. Lights out is serious.

I wish lights on weren't so serious, though. Six is a little early to
my liking.

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