Over the course of the last 27 hours, I rode my fourth (and final) overnight train of my Chinese travels, and I can safely say that I won’t miss the experience.
During the past two weeks, I haven’t really minded the long train rides. The combination of my compulsive planning and my ability to speak the language meant that we’ve always had beds, even if they were ‘hard beds (triple-stacked bunk beds without compartment doors - this is as opposed to ‘soft beds,’ which are regular bunk beds with closing compartment doors), and everything has always seemed reasonably clean. Even our ride to Chengdu, in which we shared a compartment with a little boy who discovered I understand Chinese and then spent the whole ride telling me my hair was too long and too yellow, wasn’t too bad.
This ride was different, though. We had hard beds, with my sister and I each in middle bunks. Promptly after the train started moving, a woman nursing her baby, a real infant, switched beds with the man under Aliza, beginning our long train ride of baby excrement.
Now, anyone who’s never been to China might not believe it, but lots of kids in China don’t use bathrooms. Instead, they have slits in their pants, and squat in the street when they have to go. This mother clearly had decided to apply the same disgusting non-logic to her baby, and the infant was not wearing a diaper.
As a result, the ride was a constant cycle: the mother would breast feed for a minute or two, and then dangle the baby over the trash in the hopes that it would pee. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. Usually, if it did, it would miss entirely and go on the floor. Clearly the mother did not want the kid to go on her or on the bed, and I just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t put a diaper on it. Diapers are not new, nor are they western, inventions - why not use them? I was horrified as I dodged a veritable pool or urine every time I wanted to get into bed.
That, combined with the man under me coughing up mucus at an alarming rate, did not result in a very clean compartment, and we vacated to nearby beds as soon as we could.
It’s a fitting goodbye to China, I suppose - the trains had been going far too well to suit normal Chinese fashion.
In any case, tomorrow I’m off to Vietnam!