On the train again

IMG_7807Waking to the sounds of “Safety Dance” I jumped out of bed ready as ever. Quickly packing I realized that perhaps I was even up a little too early, by a coincidence I knew that Apple just had released a sweet ultra-portable called Macbook Air, so I took the extra minutes to surf some geek porn.

After checking out I walked to the bus station and realized I still was a good 20 minutes early. After about 18 minutes the first living soul not sitting in a cab honking at me showed up and bravely tried to start a conversation. I showed my ticket, he said something and I smiled. He said something again, I said english, he said something, I smiled and then he pointed at the bus-stop and nodded.

When bus 89 arrived I realized that this was a top of the line bus with air condition (as in open windows) and those 3.4 € seemed not completely worth the fresh morning breeze of Lhasa. The conversation guy was very friendly and made sure I got to the right coach, filled in my health declaration and so on. The conversation was however still limited to me smiling but we both seemed happy with this arrangement. I thought that being extremely early would increase my odds of placing luggage before other people. Little did I know that this was exactly the thought of the rest of the passengers as well. So no luck in using the shared compartment there.

It eased my mind to see that the guy opposite me (and arriving after me) had some sort of construction in the ceiling reducing his already rather slim occupy-able space with approximately 25%. Throw in an obese chinese mother with a glaring disorder and two screaming kids and you have a lovely 48 hours ahead. I praised my preparation skills for downloading a snes-emulator and Secret of Mana to pass time with when not reading. There is also the little things as realizing that drinking with a straw is far easier than lowering your head between your knees and tilting the bottle the maximum 10-15° upwards before it hits the ceiling in order to be able to drink.

As the regular mantras are called out from the train personnel a guy now also hands out plastic oxygen tubes to put into your nostrils. I gladly accepted these, would make a good addition to my bathroom accessories. I decided to watch the documentary about this railway that I got from Kong at Spinn Cafe. I knew this railway was teh shit but It raised my impressions even further watching and now and then lifting my eyes to confirm the narrated story with what I could see outside the windows.

The challenges and how they were overcome when building this railway are simply astonishing. The main concept is that due to the permafrost the ground is rock-hard in winter and when summer comes the up till 50% ice that ground consists melts. This causes the surface to become soft, and certainly deformed under pressure such as railway tracks. The solution? Cool the earth so it never thaws. Where not possible, build bridges over land having concrete pythons deeply inserted in the ground and having the ground raise and fall like ebb and flow during the seasons. The labor was some 200 000 workers for a planned six years, but beat the plan by one year and with zero deaths due to altitude sickness, SARS or the plague (these three were the main concerns regarding the workers health).

At dinner I tried the restaurant on the train and ordered some rice and chicken plus vegetables. I got the food but it was not as warm as one could except. Now the usual swede (including me) would mutter about this but inform the waiter that everything was fine. Just fine, thank you! In the light of discussing this with Yang I instead decided that when in China, do as the chinese. So I called upon the waiters attention and explained that my food was cold. After a brief misunderstanding she excused herself and came back with a warm dish and sincerely apologized for the mistake. I didn’t feel as awkward as I thought I would and perhaps will I take with me this strange custom back to Sweden.

I decided to play some Secret of Mana after dinner which proved to be the perfect way to domesticate the previously mentioned noisy children. They simply stood behind me and looked over my shoulder in silent awe. I think this proves how good I am handling children. After some time the power outlet died though (same thing happened before so this time I didn’t suspect my charger of being assassinated by the evil chinese outlets with their unfriendly sparks) and I figured I’d go to sleep early.