Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back to Kunming

The day before my flight to Singapore, I took the 11:30 bus back to Kunming.  Now, it's a pretty straight shot on the interstate; the trip was scheduled to take four hours, five hours tops.  Seven hours later...
I never did quite understand what the problem was, whether is was road work or accidents or just crazy traffic as the Spring Festival, January 31st this year, was just five days away.  Whatever the cause, traffic was inching along on several parts of the interstate, and at one point came to such a complete stop that many people turned off their engines and several drivers hopped out to commiserate with each other.  I don't suppose it was any kind of accident, since traffic got bad in several different spots, but I never saw any evidence of road work, either.  

The trip was enlivened a bit by making friends.  When we stopped at a rest area about halfway through, I was standing around minding my own business when a group of children, who later told me that they were in the third grade, accosted me in narrow space between parked buses where I was hiding from cigarette smokers.  The four were traveling to Kunming with their mothers, for what purpose I never learned.  Anyhow, they were all learning English as school, and introduced themselves to me with their English names, or at least the two least shy did the introducing for themselves and for their shyer friends.  They were Tony, Linda (the two major talkers), Rachel, and Hebe.  (Hebe, by the way, I did not get until much later when she wrote it down--that's what I thought she said from the beginning but the name is so unusual that I thought surely she meant Abby until I saw that, indeed, she meant Hebe.) On learning that I was an American, they launched into song--they had learned a whole collection of songs in English both in class and for a recent program they'd put on.  The songs from the program were long stories, or self-introductions, really, "My name is Sally.  I am eight years old, and I am in the third grade.  I want to be a teacher when I grow up.  My English teacher's name is Amy and I like her very much.  My hobbies are drawing, playing chess, and my favorite of all, learning English! I have a mother, a father, and one sister..." And on and on, all put to music.  Linda remembered every word and carried it, and the others sang along the parts they remembered.  

At first I nodded politely and tried to look enthusiastic although I had previously been enjoying the quiet, but I got into it as they launched into other songs.  They sang a couple I didn't know, and then one I did--Bingo.  The old one that goes, "I had a dog and Bingo was his name-o, B! I! N! G! O!, B! I! N! G! O!" and so on, every time through clapping for another letter of the name until it's all clapping the last time through.  To their happiness, I sang along with them on that one.  

After we loaded back up in the bus, I decided to pass some more of the tediously long trip by drawing little pictures for them.  I pulled a few pages loose from a little notebook, and dug out my sharpie.  I drew one with a dancing mouse, one with a penguin waving flags, one with a rabbit hopping towards a castle, and one of a smiling crab in a beach scene.  I wrote little messages wishing them a happy spring festival on the back, and passed them out with t he help of Rachel, who passed by on her way back from throwing something in the trash can.  Their immediate response was the beg some paper from me, and they took the loose slips back to their seats to write back.  They were so enthusiastic (and probably bored, on such a long bus ride) that I got two back for each one I had drawn; some of them their own recreation of the same scene I had drawn, and some of their own composition.  Rachel drew a pictures of a bus with two people in it, labeled Rachel and Katy.  Hebe drew a smiling hill (yes, a big face on the side of the hill), with an apple tree on the peak and a procession of people and animals parading up the slopes.  I kept all the little drawing stuck in my notebook; I'll have to take a picture of them and post them soon.  

Finally, about sunset, we made it into Kunming.  I had another long and exhausting search first for a bank (I was out of cash to pay for a taxi), then finding a taxi that would use the meter, then taxi-ing around until I finally made it to the neighborhood of my hostel, the same one where I'd started my trip in Kunming.  After a long chat with some friendly Canadians, I finally got some sleep on my last night of the Chinese part of my trip.  Tomorrow, off to Singapore, my 28th country. 


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