Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day whatever recap: Rear Window, "why won't this series die" edition

I just want to be over done with Hubei posts so that I can return to my regular life. (Which is basically how I felt by the end of the Hubei vacation, too.) So let's just zoom through the rest of my time in that lovely province so that I can get back to my roots. I'm not quite sure what those "roots" are, but suffice it to say that I think we could all use a little less vacation talk, a little more quotidian whimsey, and a lot more Lady Gaga references. We live in China but we still! have! fun!

So, Hubei. For the last time.

We climbed a mountain. Wudang Shan is profoundly, primordially beautiful -- maybe it's just my Guangzhou nature withdrawal, but the wooded mountain jutting into the non-urban sky (foggy one day, sharp and clear the next) was as magnificent a thing as I have seen in a long time. Gus has an account with pictures.

But then we needed to run down the mountain (in some places, literally) in order to catch a bus down to the main town so we could catch our train. When we arrived at the base of the mountain, we had an hour before we were set to depart for Wuhan -- not very much time at all, given that we had to head to a different train station much farther away from the mountain than the one we'd arrived at. A bus driver offered us a ride there, and, this time, we decided that we should probably take it. Our problem was that a bus ride to our train station would normally take at least an hour, so we asked the driver it would be possible to get there faster than that. He thought for a moment and responded that if we were willing to pay him 100 RMB (approximately 5 times the normal fare), he'd go straight to the train station, with no stops, and we'd get there in 45 - 50 minutes. Not seeing any other options, we decided to go for it.

So, at first, I'm thinking, "this is some Amazing Race shit right here." We pay cash money, we get results!


Jon (l.) and Gus, at the bottom of Wudang Shan

(Note: for anyone not named Rachel Weed or Willie Myers, this is the famous big person/little person Amazing Race duo, Charla and Mirna. Though I prefer to think that Charla doesn't have a little body, but instead just has a proportionally larger heart. And a host of other congenital defects.)

So, how did the bus driver manage to get us there without making any other stops? Well, as soon as we made the deal, he headed over to the bus, poked his head inside, and told everyone to get out immediately unless they were going to the train station, because there were two foreigners who needed to use the bus. So Gus and I stood at the exit, saying "I'm so sorry"* over and over again to the people as they grumbled and packed up their things and got down off the bus. That wasn't our best moment of Cultural Ambassadorship.

*Actually, we didn't say that. We said "不好意思", which means, "I am embarrassed!" and which Chinese people say much more often than we do in English. It's my standard excuse me/sorry/whoops go-to phrase. FYI: even though I don't say "I am mortified!" that often in English, I'm usually thinking it. So now you know what my life is like.

We got back to the train. Train took 8.5 hours instead of expected 5.5 hours. No one else on train seemed bothered or confused by this fact.

Next day in Wuhan is mostly a blur. We went to see the Yangtze (yep, it's big!), and then we went to a museum, and then we got ready to go back home. Remember how I said that we booked bus tickets back, and that we thought it wouldn't be so bad? Turns out it actually was so bad. Gus and I were sitting in the very last row, with literally zero leg room (insofar as our knees were permanently pressed into the back of the row in front of us), for 14 hours. I spent most of it trying to sleep on a wad of dirty clothes from my bag, and when I wasn't sleeping, I was quietly sobbing. (Just kidding! You all know that I'm incapable of crying.)

And that was our trip to Hubei. Fun times, but I've been exhausted ever since we came back, so not, technically speaking, a vacation.